Career counselling, career guidance and career coaching are similar in nature to other types of counselling or coaching, e.g. marriage or psychological counselling.
What unites all types of professional counselling is the role of practitioners, who combine giving advice on their topic of expertise with counselling techniques that support clients in making complex decisions and facing difficult situations.
The focus of career counselling is generally on issues such as career exploration, career change, personal career development and other career related issues.
So, careers guidance is predominantly counselling; helping clients to explore career issues that affect them either immediately, or in planning for their future. What it isn't, or shouldn't be:
- Telling clients what to do - decisions have to be made by the client!
- Giving information - although quite often guidance happens after someone requests info, because the request is seldom straightforward
- Matching clients for a single job/ career area - there is no such thing. Most people can use different aspects of their personality, skills and interests to work in a number of different roles, both in paid and unpaid positions.
- Quick. It takes time to explore a client's options, and their thoughts and feelings about those options, let alone have time to help some clients come to an informed decision. In my experience, anything less than an hour is unlikely to involve much counselling or guidance. For clients facing particular challenges, or difficult decisions it may help to see them over a period of time for several sessions.
- Conducted at a distance, over a telephone, Skype or internet. A client is unlikely to be able to be open for counselling when there is no personal connection. In addition, much of a counsellor's insight into a client and their feelings is through non-verbal clues: facial expressions, pauses, silences, body language, etc. In addition, an element of trust has to established before a guidance counsellor can challenge incorrect beliefs, point out blind spots, and widen horizons. This can't be done at a distance in a meaningful way.
And yet, so often Careers Guidance is blamed for the lack of young people wanting to be engineers, or the imbalance between the available jobs in the economy and the career aspirations of young people. Why do politicians and others think that Careers Advisers should tell their clients what to do, and that their clients would obey?
The real root of the problem is lack of careers education and labour market information - not only by young people, but by their parents and inner social circle too. They rely on what they know, and what people around them know. This perpetuates families doing the same kinds of work, whether it is for example in the Construction Trades, or in Medicine, or in knowing how to manage the system as an unemployed person. It means that some families don't have the connections to know how to get graduate sons or daughters into graduate employment -particularly difficult in the current economic climate. As the word spreads that having a degree is no guarantee of a good job, their wider social circle gets put off going to university too. The public services try to widen people's knowledge of careers and labour market information through their excellent websites: www.careerswales.com and www.nationalcareersservice.direct.gov.uk but it is quite rare that people I interview have gone to the websites and done any research on their career interests before they see me.
I'm not sure if I have answered the question, "So what IS Careers Guidance & Coaching?" entirely. Maybe I've just been for a ramble around the question - it is a massive area to cover!
Does anyone have anything else to add, or to disagree with me about?