3 Ways to Get the Most Out of Working With a Career Counselor
I might be biased, but career counselors are a pretty great resource for your job hunt. Whether you’re trying to figure out what to do next, want to take your resume from just-OK to killer, or could use some tips on interviewing at your dream company, they can add some organization, insight, and much-needed sanity to your search.
That said, don’t be lulled into thinking that you’ve made progress in your job search just because you’re meeting with someone about it. There is still much work to be done! To make sure you make the most of your time with a career counselor, here are a few things to keep in mind.
(Note: The private route works, but can be expensive, so don’t forget to check and see if your university offers career services for alumni—they often do.)
Come With Questions
While you don’t necessarily need a specific goal for meeting with a career counselor (although that doesn’t hurt), it is helpful to have a set of questions that you want answered. Your questions can be as specific as, “Should I include a summary of qualifications in my resume?” or as broad as, “How can I figure out what makes me happy?”
It’s likely your career counselor will ask you some preliminary questions about your background, interests, skills, values, and professional goals, but having your own questions also helps your career counselor understand where you are in your career exploration or job search process and what you are honing in on as important during this process. Aside from clarifying your needs to your career counselor, the process of coming up with questions makes you more thoughtful about what you’re hoping to get out of the meeting and contributes to a more efficient use of time for both of you.
For more specific meetings around interview prep or negotiating a job offer, it obviously makes sense to take notes, but taking notes during more general career exploration or career transition meetings is important, too. Some people may give you notes from the meeting, but ultimately these won’t capture any of the insights that you’re coming up with as your counselor makes observations of your interests or ties together your values and new career pursuits.
Note taking is especially important when outlining next steps. Many people don’t know this, but after meeting with your career counselor, you’re probably going to have some homework. You might be tasked with conducting some informational interviews, taking a career assessment, or creating a target list of companies. To keep track of your next steps, make sure to write them down!
Do Your Homework
On that note, aside from just writing down the things you should be doing, it’s also a very good idea to follow through on those to-dos. If the only progress you make in your job search is during your actual meetings, you’re spending your time ineffectively. Meeting with your career counselor should be helpful in outlining a plan or guiding you on what steps you should be taking next as you’re exploring careers or applying to jobs, but the bulk of the work—networking, company research, informational interviews—should be done outside of the meetings.
To make the most of your appointments, write down what next steps need to be completed before your next meeting, do them, and then come back with additional information to work with as your job search unfolds or your career goals are crystallized. Your career counselor will be around to make sure you’re going in the right direction and that you’re exploring all your options, but in the end, it’s still you who needs to be making the big decisions and getting your foot in the door of your dream companies.
Again, I’m a little biased, but in general it’s a great idea to keep yourself and your job search in check by meeting with a career counselor. You’ll want to make the most of it, so be thoughtful about what you want, be present, and follow through. In the end, it’s not too different from any other successful meeting—except this one might just help you land the job of your dreams.
Photo of people meeting courtesy of Shutterstock.
About The Author
Lily Zhang serves as a Career Development Specialist at MIT where she works with a range of students from undergraduates to PhDs on how to reach their career aspirations. When she's not indulging in a new book or video game, she's thinking about, talking about, or writing about careers. Follow her musings on Twitter @lzhng.