How to Choose a Career Counselor

Obviously, I am prejudiced.  I am a career counselor so I will not be offended if what I write it taken by you with a large grain of salt.  But this article is the result of complaints that I have received from clients about services that they used prior to coming to me.  And, for the record, I am the first to admit that I am not perfect, and I may not be the career counselor for you and, no doubt, clients of mine have spoken with other counselors after having met with me.  Such is life.

First complaint: PRICING.  I call this the “What? How? Why? Continuum.”  What does that mean?

When you go to most coaches or counselors (I really don’t know what the difference is!) they will tell you what to do and how to do it.  But they won’t tell you why you should do it.  I don’t mean, “To get a job you have to network.  Go to Chamber of Commerce events.  Be personable.  Get cards.  Follow-up because that’s the only way you are going to be able to get a job/change your career.”  What to do – network.  How to do it – go to Chamber of Commerce events.  Why – because most jobs are not advertised so you have to network.  That’s not the “why” to which I am referring.

What I mean is that they do not explain the science behind their advice.  For example, Why is it so important that you look good at a networking event?  Because when you communicate, how you look and how you sound are more important than what you actually are saying.  Body language and tone of voice trump words.

Put differently, counselors inform, they do not educate.  So what happens?  Every week you have to go back to them to get more advice.  They play psychologist.  They want to form a dependency relationship.  I don’t.  I don’t want you coming back to me.  If you are coming back to me that means you are not networking.  If you are not networking you are not job searching.  It also means I did not do my job during our 2-hour session.

So what do I do?  I meet with you  face-to-face and tell you what to do, how to do it, and why.  I also tell you what you need to hear, not what you necessarily want to hear.  (You are paying me to be your counselor, not your friend!)  Once you know the what, how and why, you don’t have to call me, although you can as often as you want, because I didn’t “counsel” or “coach” you, I “taught” you.  Maybe I’d be wealthy if I created a relationship of dependency with my clients, but I would not sleep as well at night.

Don’t pay a lot.  And if it takes a person more than 2 hours to answer your questions, and TEACH you what to do, they probably don’t know what they are doing…or they know exactly what they are doing and it’s not what you want!

Second complaint: ACADEMICS vs REAL WORLD

I am a Ph.D.  It’s in International Relations and has nothing directly to do with my work.  My point is, I can make and enjoy a good academic discussion.  They are fun and informative.  But if you are looking for a job you don’t need an academic discourse on the theory of job hunting, you need a job.  And if the career counselor you are using has never hired or fired anyone in their life, then everything they tell you is academic, not real-world based.  Some have never even had a “real” job!  So ask two questions:  Where have you worked?  and How many people have you hired and fired?  You’ll know what to do based on the answers…

Third complaint: RESUME WRITERS

If you don’t believe me I will not be insulted because the first time I heard of this I immediately did a Google search.  There is actually such a thing as a “Certified Resume Writer.”  They take a course, pass a test, and some company that isn’t accredited by anyone or anything of importance “certifies” them.  And, of course, it’s nonsense.

What do they do?  They have a template that they follow.  They ask their clients to supply them with information and then they just cut and paste and PRESTO! they have a “professional” resume.  They are usually only one-page in length “because no one reads more than one page.”  Nice opinion to have in academia, not relevant to the real world.

Why pay someone to “write” a resume when you are providing them with all the information they need?  I don’t write resumes for my clients; I edit them.  Find a resume that looks good to you.  Use it as a guide.  Fill in your information.  Now you have a resume.  If it is focused on you, it’s a bad resume.  If it’s focused on the employer, it’s a good resume.


This one is simple:  End the information overload.  You can spend the rest of your life reading about finding a job while not finding one!

The purpose of a cover letter is to get the recipient to look at your resume.  The purpose of the resume is to get the recipient to invite you for an interview.  The purpose of the interview is to get a job offer.  If you are not getting interviews, the problem is with your cover letter and/or resume (or it may be that you are applying for jobs that you want and not for jobs for which you are qualified – but that’s a different subject).  If you are getting interviews but no offers, you don’t know how to interview.  And it’s as simple as that.

So to summarize: Never hire a career counselor who can’t get the job done in a couple of hours (not including phone and e-mail follow-ups).  Never hire a career counselor who has never had a “real” job.  Never hire a career counselor who has never hired or fired anyone.  Don’t waste your money on resume writers.  And don’t spend your time researching job hunting.  If your are not getting good results from what you are doing, find someone who will honestly give you a critique.


Want to learn more?  Visit the Library page on my website where you will find hundreds of articles, videos and podcasts dealing with all aspects of a successful job search. Need personal attention?  My career counseling services are always available.