3 reasons you shouldn’t write off career counseling

Career counseling is a pretty self-explanatory term. It’s counseling you receive when you need guidance on where to take your career and how to get where you want to go. The question is: Do you need career counseling to succeed?

For some people, the answer to that question is going to be a resounding yes. Successful people who’ve reached the top of the pyramid and don’t see anywhere to climb, as well as lower-income individuals looking to break into a field that matters to them and simultaneously pays the bills, are both prime candidates for career counseling.

And that’s the thing: no matter who you are, you might benefit from career counseling. It’s meant to be a service that’s uniquely tailored to you and your needs.

However, counseling is far from a necessity for everyone. Many, many people never formally employ career counseling services, and rely instead on independent counseling—e.g., asking friends and trusted mentors for career advice and then independently analyzing all available options. You’ve probably tried this route before. Did it get you where you wanted to be? If so, then you’re likely not a prime candidate for career counseling at the moment, since you’ve done the job yourself.

But if you’re stuck applying to dead-end jobs, trapped in a field you dislike, or otherwise feel held back in a way you don’t know how to fix, you might be in a situation where career counseling can transform your career.

What is career counseling?

Career counseling is a service offered by career counselors. These counselors are guys and gals who make it their job to help you find your ideal job—not always directly, but moreso in an indirect fashion that enables you to discover said job yourself. Ideally you’ll have a career counselor with experience and expertise in your field of choice so that you can look forward to focused advice that’s more valuable than the standard platitudinal suggestions most folks give regarding general career growth.

Reasons career counseling can transform your career

The answer to why career counseling can transform your career should be self-evident. Assuming you and your counselor click properly and they have a good feel for what you want from their services, counseling could not only sharpen your vision for your future, but go so far as to indirectly guide you to your dream job, whether or not you even knew what that dream job was before hiring said counselor. So which sorts of people have reasons to give career counseling a try? You might be a prime candidate, if:

1) You’re a student

Whether you’re in high school or college, the world of work awaits you when you graduate. It’s a lot of pressure to know that the sink-or-swim capitalist free-for-all is right around the corner, ending all of the protections school has afforded you thus far, like the right to be indecisive about future career goals.

That’s where career counseling comes into play. At the educational level, career counseling is often a free service offered to students who want it. That nonexistent price tag is a big benefit right off the bat since career counselors in the real world tend to be expensive. So even if the career counselors at your school aren’t the best, remember, they’re a source for free advice. And what’s so bad about a free data point? Even if you choose to ignore the advice they impart, it never hurts to hear it.

If you’re a student who doesn’t know what they want to do after graduating, but you’re armed with volunteer work, club activities, great grades, and all that other valuable resume-building content, then a career counselor might just be able to give you a push in the right direction by helping you identify goals you didn’t know you had.

2) You’re a skilled, directionless adult

This is a far more niche category, but if you fall into this group, you still have reason to believe career counseling can transform your career. If you have a killer resume, can get job interviews with relatively little frustration (emphasis on “relatively,” in today’s job market), and are all around a competent individual loaded with valuable skills, but just need help figuring out where to channel all that potential, career counselors might be able to help you. Remember, though, that many of them charge a hefty fee of hundreds of dollars per hour, so in the event that you’re genuinely unhappy with where you are now and are at your wit’s end regarding how to change your work trajectory, you’re going to be paying a pretty penny just to hear advice. But perhaps it’ll be the perfect advice that you won’t get anywhere else. Maybe it’ll help you learn something about yourself that you can use going forward.

3) You’re a corporate climber with more money than time

If money is no obstacle and you want a guiding hand in rocketing toward your next big move, career counselors can help you achieve your goal. This is the simplest example of when a career counselor might be best. They’ll help you separate the wheat from the chaff, prospect-wise, when you don’t have the time to do it yourself but can afford to throw big bucks around for straightforward, actionable advice.

Reasons career counseling cannot transform your career

Even though it has its benefits, do not be mistaken: career counseling isn’t for everyone. Heck, it isn’t for many people. If you’re trying to break into a field you’re underqualified for, unmotivated to change your career direction, or not already 95% of the way to your goal, career counselors won’t do much. They’re gurus at best and bad advice-givers at worst—they’re not magicians.

That last sentence is key: at worst, their advice can be useless and costly. Imagine paying two-hundred dollars an hour for three hours’ worth of the worst advice possible. A lot of people move into the “career counseling” business to make a quick buck off of individuals who are insecure about their future and goals, and since counseling in this particular sector doesn’t require any actual certifications, any random fellow can claim to be a counselor and try to milk you for money. And some of these counselors, even if qualified, are out of touch with current hiring practices and standards and will give you the old “dress nicely, shake hands” advice that was cute in 1982 but doesn’t hold the same weight today.

In short, if you go the career counselor route, vet the person extensively before you fling money at them and entrust them to assist you in plotting vital career moves. Make sure the advice they give is relevant, timely, and not something you can come up with independently via a few quick internet searches. And remember that if you have the skills to find a world-class career counselor, you might just have the skills to find your next dream job all by yourself.