Students often view career counseling as a “one-stop” activity, instead of as a process. Students can also make the mistake of thinking that a career counselor can choose the “right” major/career for them. So you can imagine the frustration that is inevitable if you are thinking that your counselor will tell you which careers will be most satisfying or those you are best suited for. That’s not going to happen, and it shouldn’t happen. Since you are the one who knows the most about your interests, abilities and personal preferences, YOU need to be the one making this important decision.
Career counseling is similar to other forms of counseling. Your counselor will want to learn about you and your interests, your strengths (what makes you feel strong) and your values. Other areas of exploration might include your family’s beliefs and values, family expectations of how you are to make your living, and your own ideas about lifestyle, geographical location, or preferred work environments. In short, career counseling is complex and multi-faceted and to do it justice, you need to take some time and reflect on your life and your life goals.
You do need to spend time thinking about yourself. Typically, career counselors help students explore their interests, their skills and anything else that is relevant to choosing a career. Interests can include hobbies and other leisure activities, groups/clubs/organizations that you belong to or have belonged to in the past, current and past work experience, internships and volunteer experience.
Identifying your strengths might be more challenging, because you may not have had experience in doing this. It can be helpful to learn how to identify what you do well, what you do naturally, and what you LIKE to do. This isn’t something that most people do easily and it takes time to become familiar with your skills/strengths so that you can tell a potential employer about them. But it is key to being able to choose a satisfying, enjoyable career and interview well for a position. Check out the Become A Professional workshops offered by Career Services. These are specialized programs that are structured to help you identify your strengths and abilities and prepare for the workforce.
Knowing your values is important, too, but when you ask people about their values, they often find them difficult to express. One way to uncover your values is to examine your behavior, because that’s often where the rubber meets the road. One can say that they value friendship, but if they isolate themselves and ignore their relationships they are not living up to what they say is important to them.
Values are an important factor in choosing a career because they are considered to be “the emotional wages of work.” If you work in a career that allows you to express your values--for example, if you value helping people and you have a job as a social worker-- you probably don’t even give it a thought. But if you experience a disconnect between what is important to you and what is expected on the job, the consequences can range from mild discomfort to serious concern. For example, what would happen if you were asked to do something by your employer that you found unethical or personally reprehensible? It’s important to know beforehand what you value in your career and your life, so that you don’t find yourself in a situation where your values are compromised.
Choose to meet with a Career Counselor today.