Career consultation is one of those strange services that could benefit almost everyone, but doesn’t help each person the same way.
You don’t have to work in any field that long before you start to notice patterns. One of my first jobs was as a salesperson at REI (an outdoors store) and within a few weeks I started to get a feel for what different kinds of people wanted. Some wanted a specific piece of gear, some wanted to share stories or pictures, and some wanted to learn. There were commonalities, but you couldn’t treat everyone the same. And this got me thinking about career consultation. Career consultation is one of those strange services that could benefit almost everyone, but doesn’t help each person the same way. You get different kinds of people, with some commonalities. So this is a list (though I’m sure it’s not comprehensive) of the kinds of situations I see most frequently:
- The Happy Camper: They’ve been working in their job for years and they love it. Perhaps they’ve had a history of success and have been promoted to leadership. But part of their secret is a strong desire to continually learn more about themselves. They approach consultation not because they want a new career, but because they’re curious about their vocational profile and never pass up an opportunity to learn more.
- The Early Careerist: They’ve just started in their career and are often just a few years (0r months) past their college graduation. They’ve been working in a job that fits their major, but they’ve noticed they don’t seem to enjoy it very much. At first they wrote it off to switching from the academic schedule, but now they’re sure: this isn’t a good fit. They come to consultation for two reasons: to find a career that fits them better, and to gain insight into why the first career didn’t work out.
- The (Overly) Broad Visionary: Finding something that fits isn’t a problem for the broad visionary. In fact, they can picture themselves in almost any career, and this has become the problem. With so many interests and possibilities, it’s hard to tell where to start. And when they consider that they may be working in this same job for years (and years), the stakes can feel overwhelming. They come to consultation for help focusing on a few best options, and gaining knowledge about the world of work.
- The Returning Parent: Parenthood changes everything, and it can certainly change your career. For some, coming back to a prior career after being at home with kids can feel stressful. For others, its a chance to try something new. Either way, this transition is a natural place to consider building some insight and developing a career plan that feels right.
- The Second Lapper: This is often a later version of the happy camper (see above). They’ve been successful in their career but now they’re ready for a change. They are interested in doing something different, but at the same time want a new career in which they can still apply much of the wisdom they’ve spent years collecting.
- The Work Hunter: They know the career they want and they are on to the next phase: finding the perfect position. The tasks and goals of the usual career decision process aren’t what they need anymore. They need the next step: cover letter/resume building, interview preparation, and job search strategy.
- The Startup Participant: This one doesn’t happen much, but still comes up from time to time so I thought I’d mention it. This person is starting a new business or startup and is looking for advisors/mentors. No doubt this is an important task, but as an individual career consultant this isn’t my primary work. Best of luck with your venture–
Like I said, it’s not comprehensive. But it gives you a sense of common problems that can be addressed in career consultation. I’m planning to keep this list going, so if I start to notice any other trends I’ll post them here.