How Do Career Professionals Help?

via Emilie Ogez on Flickr
via Emilie Ogez on Flickr

I often assume people know the same things that I know. I assume that people know what I can do for them.

It’s easy to get caught up in a limiting perspective. After all, we live our entire lives experiencing the world through the same organs of sensation and perception – it would be absurd not to develop any habits, shortcuts, even assumptions that reduce the cognitive work necessary to make sense of the world around us.

In other words, we take things for granted. If we didn’t, life would be much more difficult, tedious, mentally taxing as we constantly analyze and assess our surroundings. Social psychologists like to use the word “heuristic” to describe this process of taking mental shortcuts. The bottom line is that the ability to take things for granted saves us a lot of time and mental effort, but can sometimes result in biases that may be unhelpful or harmful.

Whether or not you subscribe to the idea that reality is ultimately subjective and there is no universal truth, there’s value in acknowledging and acting on the premise that others see the world differently than you.

I’m reminded of my own such assumptions pretty frequently, and I’ve written about these reminders before (lessons from my psychology degree). The common theme in my experience seems to be an expectation that certain kinds of knowledge are universal, when they’re clearly not.

I know full well the value of talking to a career professional (if I didn’t I’d be in trouble). It’s knowledge that I take for granted, and every now and then I’m made aware of the fact that this isn’t common knowledge – in fact, most people probably have no idea what they can get from working with a career professional! A colleague recently wrote a great post on the value of seeing a career coach – I liked the post so much, I decided to create my own, only targeted to a post-secondary audience.

So, what can you get from talking to a career professional at your university? Here are just a few of my thoughts…

1. Reassurance

Panicking about your future? Worried about the fact you don’t have a detailed career plan? You must be running out of time, right? Wrong. There’s no need to panic, and career professionals know this. It’s okay to be uncertain. It’s never too late to change your path. Change is inevitable and worth embracing. It sounds really simple, but a little reassurance that things are okay can go a long way towards making you feel better about your career.

2. A New Mindset

In my experience, job seekers – particularly students or recent graduates – tend to have a very outcome-oriented mindset. They want to know what their career will be. They want to get the next job. They want to know what the next 5 or 10 years will look like.  For the most part, these are valid questions, but they’re so focused on end results that the actual process of achieving those results gets lost. Career professionals can help you to stay focused on the process in order to achieve results, even especially if you don’t know what those results might be.

3. An Action Plan

So, you’re no longer panicking, you’re focusing on the process, so what are you going to actually go out and do? All the careful thinking and planning in the world won’t help you if you don’t do anything about it. A good career professional will help you to realize the importance of taking action (even if you don’t know what direction that action should be in), and can help you to brainstorm what those actions might look like.

4. Self-Awareness

Career professionals for the most part believe there are two vital processes in career exploration. One is an awareness of external factors, i.e. the world of work. The other, equally important process is all about internal factors, i.e. awareness of yourself. What are your strengths? Values? Personality traits? This might seem obvious, but in reality self-awareness is one of the most difficult skills to develop, and often in my work with students it’s the one outcome of our work that they find most helpful.

5. Helpful Resources

Of course, if all else fails, you’re sure to get some helpful resources from your work with a career professional. The reality of career development/exploration is that it’s a very self-driven process, and there’s lots of resources out there for people to educate themselves with. So much, in fact, that it’s easy to get lost! Your career development professional can help point you in the direction of resources that are well-regarded, and suitable for your particular situation.

So what are you waiting for?

*Cross-posted in Dave’s Diary at the Career Services Informer.