Business Columns & Blogs

How to find a good career adviser

Diane Stafford is a columnist for The Kansas City Star.
Diane Stafford is a columnist for The Kansas City Star.

“How do I find a career counselor?”

It’s a common question. And, as usual, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer.

That’s partly because the question often comes from parents or grandparents concerned about a younger family member. So to get that out of the way quickly: You don’t find one. Your adult child or grandchild does. You can merely suggest resources.

A good first step is for the would-be counseling client to reconnect with his or her former university, community college or high school counseling office. They employ counselors who likely could point graduates to resources, even if they can’t advise individually.

A second early step is to find out if nearby colleges, churches or libraries sponsor job clubs or job-loss support groups. These typically are managed by volunteer professionals who can provide at least initial direction.

Look also for affiliates of the federal or California labor departments. Some are public-private agencies that work on government contracts to provide job retraining in specific industries. But many also employ advisers who may be able to advise walk-ins.

Then, of course, use the internet. But beware of any service or individual who asks for your credit card number up front and promises a job. No legitimate career counselor will do that.

Search for members of the International Coach Federation, or for advisers who are accredited by the National Career Development Association. Look for local chapters of the federation, or of the Society for Human Resource Management. Active members know each other and can make recommendations.

It’s also good to find out when and where these organizations meet in your area. Go to a meeting, introduce yourself and say what you’re looking for. You’ll get business cards or follow-up conversations with qualified advisers.

Professional career coaches should be upfront about their fees. Some may have a price list indicating, for example, what they charge to administer a skills and interests assessment or do practice interviews. Others may charge a flat fee for a certain number of contacts over a certain length of time. Costs vary depending on your professional status and needs.

Understand their process and prices before you sign a contract. And, I repeat, don’t fork over thousands of dollars in advance. Believe me, it’s happened to many job hunters, sucked in by compliments and promises. That rarely ends well.

Interview two or three recommended counselors. Have they dealt with someone like you before? How will they advise you? Most important, look for the “click” factor. You want to feel like you’re hiring someone who has your best interests at heart.

Diane Stafford is a columnist for The Kansas City Star. stafford@kcstar.com, 816-234-4359, @kcstarstafford,kansascity.com/workplace

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