Becoming a Career Counselor
Being a career counselor or coach requires equal parts motivation, active listening ability, intuition and empathy. For the right person, it's a career which gives you the privileged role of moral supporter, cheerleader, facilitator and even dream maker. It can be extremely rewarding to help a client discover their strengths and passions, but at other times frustrating as you empathetically struggle alongside them.
My own story of becoming a career counselor in Boston involves the same circuitous path I have seen in many of my clients. Throughout years of jobs that have been more and less satisfying, sprinkled with a couple of well placed career crises of the "What am I going to do with my life?" variety, I finally feel like I did it "right" the last time. It's with this knowledge and experience that I approach my role as career counselor.
The first step for me was introspection, a mental review of professional and academic experiences, followed by the making of a slightly comical, unrealistic jobs list. The career exploration process is different for each individual, but for me the "Aha!" moment came as a result of this list. What made it unrealistic is that it included jobs I didn't actually want, but which appealed to me for some indescribable reason. Flight attendant, for instance, made the list, despite the fact that I wasn't willing to submit to that kind of schedule.
My favorite "imaginary" job was that of pastor. While a possible job choice for some, I'm not an especially religious person and I'm pretty sure that's a prerequisite! But there was something about giving uplifting sermons and counseling members of the congregation one on one that spoke to me. Eventually the list helped me sum up my main career satisfaction factor as "motivation." I like to motivate others. After that, it was a matter of deciding in what context.
From this one word, motivation, I derived a new list of potential careers which reduced to: career counselor, corporate trainer and fitness trainer. Now, this is the point in the past where I had prematurely stopped my career exploration and started applying to jobs. It's very easy after doing all the work required to reach this moment to fall into the "grass is always greener on the other side" trap, a common pitfall I do my best to help clients avoid. It was exciting to think I could get my fitness training certification, get a job in corporate training or begin applying to university career counseling offices immediately. Eureka, I was done!
But this time I didn't stop there, and that made all the difference. I continued my research and introspection by conducting numerous informational interviews set up using linkedin.com. I read books, asked questions and volunteered to get a first hand taste of what these careers were actually like. It's easy to fall in love with a romantic vision of a job in your head without checking to see how that fits in with the reality.
And that's how I became a career counselor, a job which lets me use my own knowledge, experience and enthusiasm to help clients achieve the same goal, a career which brings them satisfaction and the life they want.