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What Is Career Counseling?

Mary-Lauren O’Crowley, NCC, LPC

Career counseling is a subset of professional mental health counseling that aims to help you navigate career choices. Whether you are attempting to enter the job market, changing careers, or at any stage in your career, a professional career counselor can offer valuable advice and various options. Job stress is associated with anxiety, depression, panic attacks, and other mental health issues. Career counseling can help you in coping with such stress.

Career Counseling: What Is It And How Does It Apply to Mental Health?

Who can benefit from career counseling?

If you are a high school senior, a college graduate, in the middle management level, or just considering a career change but uncertain how to proceed, career counseling is an excellent way to get started. Career counselors may be especially useful to the following individuals:

  • Students that are in the process of selecting a college major
  • Graduates who have just completed their undergraduate studies and are considering possible career paths
  • Anyone re-entering the employment after a period of absence, such as maternity leave or military duty
  • Anyone who is dissatisfied with their present job and want to switch

Counseling may assist you in the following areas:

  • Evaluating your interests, abilities, and skills
  • Identifying your interests, hobbies, and personality characteristics to assist you in finding the career that is a good fit for you
  • Helping with professional advancement or changing careers
  • Understanding the labor market
  • Choosing a degree of study or profession to pursue

Careers and mental health problems: 

Mental health illnesses can be caused by a variety of factors, including career advancement and identification challenges. Poor decision-making abilities, a reluctance to commit, unclear goals, low career self-efficacy, weak professional and personal development, and career stagnation are associated with a great deal of stress. Understanding the causes and context of these issues can aid in the development of unique career exploration approaches.

  Depression, panic attacks, social phobia, and a lack of self-efficacy can cause impediments in the workplace, such as an unwillingness to attend a networking event, undertake information surveys, or pursue careers that demand leadership or crucial decision-making. If not treated completely, these mental health problems may hurt your career development prospects.

What can a career counselor do to assist you?

Job counseling is necessary for everyone at some point in their lives. It assists in obtaining insight and therefore highlights your career options and different changes that you may make. Career counselors fulfill a variety of responsibilities, including:

  • It aids in accurately evaluating a person’s competence, personality, hobbies, and other characteristics.
  • It enables a person to access the career professional’s resources and expertise.
  • It assists in developing the confidence necessary to overcome obstacles in one’s life. It also guides many areas of one’s life, whether it be sustaining social connections, individual growth, or any other career issue.
  • It aids in the modification of aberrant behavioral patterns, particularly in young people. These behavior patterns may include procrastination, disregard for one’s psychological health, and poor self-esteem, among others. A career counselor assists in changing these behavioral patterns and encourages an individual to engage in more constructive things regardless of their age and profession.
  • It assists students in connecting with experts who have vast life experiences and opportunities to offer.

Instruments used to help assess career goals:

When you’re uncertain about your career path, professional planning tools may help you narrow your options. A career should be pleasurable and need a certain skill set, and it’s important to understand the work-related talents and abilities that may be applied to a certain job. Career planning tools may assist you in mapping out your career route by guiding you through the educational and experience criteria. Notable examples include:

1) SWOT: Your counselor may use a SWOT analysis to help you learn about yourself and find a career that matches your skills. A SWOT analysis will also reveal external influences on your job decision. 

  • S (Strengths): What talents do you have? What do you like? Where do you thrive?
  • W (Weakness): What areas do you struggle with? What do you fear? What do you hate?
  • O (Opportunities): Where do You work best? What motivates you?
  • T (Threats): Do You pose a threat to the company? Why would a business not employ you?

In-depth SWOT analysis may assist you in identifying your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to a prospective employer.

2) Job testing: Some private businesses provide career exams to evaluate your abilities and competencies.  Professional exams are often given to high schoolers to assist them in choosing a career trajectory before college. 

3) Self-assessment: Self-evaluations assume you understand yourself better than an exam. Your counselor may use self-assessments to help you to self-reflect to discover interests and abilities. A self-assessment may be done in various ways:

  • Writing: Describe your ideal workplace.  Imagine your dream job.
  • Shadowing: ask a friend or relatives to let you shadow them at their workplace. To choose the ideal career for you, think about what you enjoyed or disliked about their work setting and job responsibilities.
  • Self-assessment workbooks (or worksheets): The counselor may offer reflection questions. These may help you concentrate your thoughts and figure out what you want to do for a living.

4) Research: Your counselor can help you examine several professions to discover which ones you like. 

5) Personality tests: These help to identify essential personality traits and explain how those traits make you a good fit for various professions, relationships, or hobbies. The famous Myers-Briggs test determines your unique personality, which influences your professional path.

6) Career planning: It uses a career planning approach to determine what job you desire and how to get there. It is a step-by-step guide to identifying your hobbies, talents, and the perfect job. It will help you identify your academic and experience requirements for a certain job.

The bottom line: 

While most workers in the US spend one-third of their entire lives at workplaces, a 2014 study found that just 52.3 percent are satisfied with their work-life balance. Job stress can severely detract from your enjoyment in life and overall mental well-being. As a result, having a satisfying job is regarded as a critical component of mental health. Professional counseling assists individuals in changing, selecting, or exiting a career. Choosing a profession is among the most important choices a person makes—and beginning a new job may be stressful, much more so when economic hardships such as the continuing COVID-19 epidemic are involved.

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