Life isn’t only work. The time we spend working, however, takes up the third of our life–if not even a bigger part. We should do something we enjoy, we should find a meaningful purpose in our job. And of course our occupation should allow for a decent lifestyle. It’s not always as easy as it seems, however. Many people are uncertain about their future. Or they cannot match their expectations, personal traits, and skills with a particular job. That’s where career counselor enters the picture.

Regardless of whether you will work at school, college, or in a private practice, you will talk to the clients. You will use various aptitude tests and questionnaires, while trying to understand their expectations, wishes, and fears, and find the most fitting position for them. Or simply present a few options, some unconventional jobs your clients didn’t even know existed.

Let’s have a look at some questions you may face while interviewing for this interesting and rewarding position.

 

Why do you want to work as a career counselor?

I suggest you to touch two points in your answer. First one is the meaningful purpose of the job–what it gives you. Second one is what you want to give to the job and to your clients. Said in other words, your education, skills, and abilities that make from you a good candidate for the position.

The first part is quite easy. Each of us seeks some fulfillment in life, something that will make us worthy in our own eyes. You understand the crucial role good career choices play in our life, and how bad choices can ruin it. You will feel great personal satisfaction helping people to make the right career decisions.

Another alternative is telling them a story. Maybe a career counselor (or other counselor or couch) helped you (or someone you love) to make an important decision, something truly life-changing. The experience motivated you to pursue this career, as you hope to pay back the favor with your counseling work.

The second part is a bit tougher. You can talk about your degree from psychology or HR, but should not stop there. Say that you are an excellent listener, have a vast understanding of the employment market and hundreds of occupations one can have, can deal effectively with all kinds of people (in all kinds of conditions), and basically feel to be a perfect match for the job. Of course any previous counseling experience is a plus…

 

You meet a client for a first time. Explain how will you start the meeting.

There are various approaches to this issue, but I’d vouch for a simple questionnaire, or basically a couple of questions to understand where they are at the moment, and why they seek your help. Such as what job you have right now (if any), where you see yourself in five years time (not only in terms of work but also family life), what activities you enjoy doing, what you expect from these sessions, etc.

Put emphasis on asking questions, and on listening. Because that’s the only way to find out how you can help someone with your counseling.

If you have a standard aptitude test or something similar that you use with all clients, say that you’ll introduce yourself, try to build some trust, and then explain the test and ask them to complete it, and start from there.

It’s easy giving suggestions to someone who excels in many things. But what suggestions would you give to a failing student, or to someone who dropped out of school, and cannot pursue their dream occupation?

Say that you won’t give up on someone just because they dropped from school, or failed some exams. Looking at the list of world’s billionaires, you know that education does not determine whether you make a breakthrough on the employment market, or as an entrepreneur.

And everyone is good at something, and enjoys something. Say that you will try to give them some encouragement–if they need it, then do tests with them (like you’d do with any other client) and following the results try to find some viable options.

What I try to convey here is that a truly good carer counselor does not send a failing high school student to flip burgers to McDonald’s…. They will try to understand their personality, wishes, fears, abilities, and present various options. They won’t judge someone or condemn someone to manual labor just because they failed to graduate. That’s the attitude you should try to show in this interview.

 

A student is sent to your office by a school principal, but they refuse to talk. What will you do?

This may happen often, because problematic students often find it hard to trust authorities. Especially if they were betrayed by one in the past… Anyway, if they do not talk, or refuse to cooperate, you have only one option: to do the talking.

Say that you will clearly explain why they are in your office, and what you want to help them with. It’s also important stressing that the meeting is confidential–what happens in your office stays in your office, so they do not have to be worried.

What works well sometimes–though you need some courage to do that, is sharing some of your own problems with the student. Perhaps you also struggled with school or career choices in the past. Or you struggle with something right now… Sharing a sensitive piece of information shows them that you trust them, which can be very powerful for many students, and can help them open up a bit.

Anyway, ensure the hiring managers that you won’t give up. You will try to build trust with the student, and win them over.

 

Imagine that a client complaints of a complete burnout in their well-paid IT job. They have a lot of financial commitments, but cannot stand their job any longer. What options will you present to them?

Burnout is a serious issue and as a good counselor you should never suggest them to keep pushing on, just because they have a big mortgage to pay or kids to feed.

Say that you’d ask therm what exactly they hate about their job, what they cannot stand anymore. In many cases it is not the core of the job–in this case programming, but other things, such as useless daily meetings with managers, countless phone calls, working culture in the company, or even a particular person in the company, a boss they report to.

Once you identify what they hate, you may suggest them to change the place of work instead of the job. If that cannot solve their problem, however, and they dislike the core of their profession, you have to take another direction.

Doing some tests and questionnaires with them, you will try to understand what exactly their strengths and skills are, and match it with various occupations that can still provide for their expensive lifestyle.

Changing the lifestyle and getting a simple occupation (for example working at a farm, or somewhere else where they won’t have to look at a computer screen for 12 hours a day) is another option. As a good counselor you should explore it with them as well. Because your role isn’t to tell them exactly what they should do. Your role is to understand them as a person, and then give them some options, explaining pros and cons of each one.

 

A client decided that they want to change their career. How can you help them in the process?

You can help them in many ways, and your job certainly doesn’t end when they made their decision. Helping the to restructure their resume, to write new resume objective, to find some vacancies, are just some ideas.

You can even propose practicing the job interview with them, or helping them to identify skills they need to obtain or abilities they have to improve on to succeed in the new field.

Ensure the interviewers that you want to help your clients throughout the entire process of finding a calling, getting a job, or changing one. That’s what distinguishes an excellent counselor from an average one.

 

Some other questions you may face in your career counselor interview

  • What do you consider the toughest aspect of this job?
  • You may fail to achieve any progress with some of your clients. How do you plan to deal with such a disappointment?
  • Try to name ten jobs/occupations that you consider obscure but accessible to many people.
  • In your opinion, what are the best career choices for a lonely wolf?
  • What other counselors/professionals do you want to cooperate with while helping your clients?
  • How do you keep your knowledge of the trends on the employment market up to date?
  • Tell us about a time when you struggled to communicate something to someone. What did you eventually do to get your message over?

 

Conclusion, next steps

Interview for a job of a career counselor belongs to tricky interviews. Counseling jobs are popular among Psychology graduates, and also among people who have background in couching or other related fields of employment. You will typically compete with many other people for this job, which makes your situation more difficult.

What’s more, you will have to convince the hiring managers of right attitude to work, and of your readiness to deal with various situations and clients. Look at the questions once again. Read my hints, and try to prepare a short answer to each one. If you want to succeed and start working as a career counselor, you cannot afford underestimating your preparation for this interview…

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Matthew Chulaw
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