Your career is a huge part of your life. It substantially affects your overall well-being, carrying over into other areas, including your relationships and mental health. Few people know exactly what they want out of their careers early on, and many still need to figure things out well into adulthood. But even the lucky few who do have a clear picture of the direction they want their careers to take and the exact achievements they’d like to earn along the way can still benefit from career guidance.
Whether formal or informal, career guidance is extremely helpful for anyone’s professional development. Just how can it contribute to your growth at work (and personally)? Let’s take a look.
Career guidance is any advice or support you receive that helps you gain the tools you need to navigate and be successful in your professional life, as well as find job satisfaction. Through it, you’ll be able to hone your interests, narrow down prospective career paths to find the right fit for you, understand the skills, knowledge and education you’ll need to have for your chosen profession and ultimately recognize what it takes to work and thrive in that field. It can also help you earn promotions and other accolades.
You can receive career guidance at any stage of your work life, not just in at the beginning. You may receive it formally, such as through a career counselor or established mentor, or informally, from a friend, family member, colleague, manager or acquaintance.
Career guidance can be especially helpful for students in high school or college because they’re often exploring their interests and trying to determine the right paths for them. Many colleges offer career services to help students narrow down potential career paths, figure out their strengths and learn how to apply their skills in the professional world. Students and others can also find career guidance through nonprofits and government-sponsored resources.
Many people use career counselors to help them figure out their next steps, whether they’re looking for their first job, considering making a career pivot or trying to advance in their current careers. There are many benefits to career counseling. For example:
If you’re just starting to consider what kinds of jobs interest you and wondering what you’re good at, career counseling is a good way to do just that. For example, your counselor might administer tests to evaluate your skills and strengths, as well as pinpoint the areas that interest you the most.
Even people who have been working for decades could benefit from this type of counseling since many are unhappy with their current roles, even if they seem to be excelling in their fields. Career counseling can help them identify a better, more fulfilling way to apply their work skills.
Perhaps you have a good idea of where your talents and interests lie, but you’re not sure how to apply them to the job market. A career counselor can inform you about opportunities for turning your passions into work, showing you the kinds of roles that will play to your strengths. She may even present you with ideas you never knew existed. After all, new opportunities come about every day, thanks to the ever-changing nature of most industries, and part of a career counselor’s job is to stay apprised of trends and news in their field.
No matter where you are in your career, there will be challenges. Maybe you feel stuck and don’t know how to climb the ranks at your current employer, or you’re having trouble navigating the office politics. Or perhaps you've just lost your job your company’s latest round of layoffs. No matter what, career counseling can help you figure out what to do in the face of professional obstacles. Not only will you learn what steps to take to overcome them and move forward, but you also might be able to understand how to predict them and figure out strategies for coping with them before they occur.
An important part of work is actually working toward something. Going into the office day after day without a sense of purpose can get dull quickly. But a career counselor will help you establish personal goals, so work isn’t just about meeting the expectations of your employer but actually represents a clear step in your own aspirations and contributes to your sense of purpose and fulfillment. You’ll also learn how to establish markers and milestones along the way to larger goals, so you’ll know when you’re on track.
If you’ve been applying to jobs for a while with no success, you’re probably wondering what you’re doing wrong. Sure, your parents and friends are telling you something will pop up sooner or later, but that’s not exactly actionable advice. A career counselor can offer an objective perspective. Plus, she’s a professional who can offer real insight into any mistakes you might be making and ways you can ramp up or improve your efforts. (Hint: it’s unlikely that it’s some innate flaw but more likely something you’re doing or not doing that’s the problem.)
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to choosing a career. Some people know what they want to do when they’re children, while others need to explore different interests and paths before they can decide. In general, selecting the right career for you involves reflecting on your skills and interests and considering how you might apply them to the job world. It also often benefits from guidance from others.
Keep in mind that your first role doesn’t dictate the entire course of your career, however. People change industries and roles all the time, no matter where they are in their lives. (Learn more about choosing a career path.)
Perhaps career counseling is your calling! As you can probably tell by now, a career counselor helps people identify the best careers for them and provides advice and support for helping people get the most out of their professional lives. It requires certain training and skills and can be very rewarding if you want to help people for a living.