Career progression is the aim for most workers, but career development is not something most of us think of regularly. But without proper understanding of what we want from our careers and how we can achieve our goals quicker, we can quickly end up dissatisfied with our jobs.

Career counseling is a process that can help you with your career progression.

Career Counseling: What is It and How Can I Use it for Career Progression?

© Shutterstock | Andrey_Popov

In this guide, we will examine what career counseling entails and discover whom to look for if you want to consider trying it. We’ll also discuss who can benefit from the practice and how, before looking closer at how career counseling can be used for career progression.


Career counseling refers to mentoring or coaching on issues, which relate to a person’s career. It generally helps individuals make the right choices in terms of career paths, career development and career change. The overall aim of career counseling is to help the individual maximize the successes they’ll have on their chosen career path.

Perhaps one of the simplest ways to understand the essence of career counseling is by examining what it isn’t about. Career counseling is not a process where the person is told what career they should pursue in terms of simply stating the job the person should apply for or the course they should enroll in. More importantly, career counselors won’t provide you with a job.

The focus of career counseling is to provide the tools for you to understand your passion or the so-called ‘true calling’. While it will provide you better awareness of the ways you can improve your job search and help you apply for the right roles regarding your career goals, experiencing career counseling won’t guarantee you with a job.

[slideshare id=29544234&doc=careerdevelopmenttheory-131228135202-phpapp01&w=640&h=330]


There are a number of options when it comes to receiving career counseling. It can be provided by a therapist, a life coach, or a voluntary business coach. A professional career coach is someone with expertise and academic qualifications in career development theory, counseling techniques, and in administrative and interpretative assessment. In addition, career coach has to have a vast understanding of career information resources.

Career counselors typically work in schools and universities. If you are studying, your institution’s website and Career Department are likely to have more information about career counselors.

But the popularity of career counseling has also meant many larger organizations now have in-house counselors. It’s a good idea to check with the HR department if you are considering a meeting with a counselor.

Furthermore, you can also find private career consultants. You could simply use Google to find a career coach near you. You can type in “career counselor in [your city]” and you should be able to receive plenty of results.

You can also try the professional associations of your country’s career counselors. For example, in the US this would mean checking out the National Career Development Association (NCDA).

Watch this funny career counseling session with Monty Python.


According to some studies, around 70% of Americans are unhappy at work. It’s therefore quite evident most people would benefit from better career planning. Career development is a lifelong process and most people find themselves questioning their career choices later on.

Job satisfaction isn’t something to take lightly. It can lead to stress, which can hinder your health and relationships with other people. It isn’t just the feeling of being unhappy at work. A 2014 study in the US showed only a little over 20% of workers are happy with promotion prospects and fewer than 40% were happy with their current compensation.

Therefore, whether you are just starting out, in the middle of your career or indeed coming to the end of your career, you can benefit from career counseling, as it can help you gain focus and find the direction you want to steer your career.

Career counseling is especially beneficial if you’ve had some of the below thoughts cross your mind:

  • “I don’t know what to do with my life”
  • “I’m not sure which course to choose or which job offer to take”
  • “I am certain of what I want to do, but I have no idea how to achieve my career goal”
  • “I don’t know how to best use my current skillset”
  • “I didn’t get the university place or job I wanted”
  • “I want a career with good financial rewards/job security/challenging roles”
  • “I’m not sure whether to move somewhere else in order to find work”

A career counselor can help you answer the above questions and find a route to better career satisfaction. The important point to keep in mind is that career counseling isn’t only beneficial when you want to find a new job or get on to the career ladder.

The tools you get from a career counselor can help you feel more satisfied in the current job, for instance, through learning how to improve your position either by earning a promotion or a raise.

For people with a high interest in career counseling, this compendium is very helpful.

[slideshare id=45790496&doc=gumwos5tpwyhoodbc6lc-signature-d7e26b028bc99f1930f6387558b77ecfdefec07f182af218380d8ac881a37021-poli-150313043709-conversion-gate01&type=d&w=640&h=330]


As the above highlighted, career counseling can help people in different stages of their careers.

The common advantages you can enjoy with career counseling are:

  • Identifying the different options and choices available for you in terms of your career.
  • Helping you clarify your career goals in order for you to achieve more in your career.
  • Supporting you during the job search through the provision of resources and feedback.
  • Ensuring you obtain a better understanding of your individual strengths and weaknesses.
  • Providing you with educational support and guidance, whether you are starting your studies or wanting to improve your current skills.

Let’s examine the above benefits through case studies. Both of the below examples are available in more detail on the Skill Scan website.

The first case study looked at Claire, who is at the start of her career. She had completed her studies at university, with a degree in Business Administration and Conservation Studies, but had no clue what to do. Through her visit to a career counselor, she learned more about her skills and values.

The different tests and discussions helped her reveal an interest towards organizational and managerial positions. She began focusing on applying for these types of positions in PR and landed a job quickly.

In Claire’s case, the career counseling helped identify the kind of jobs she would most like to perform, as well as the ones suited for her specific talents. She identified different options and created a path towards a career she liked.

The second case study focused on Andrew, who was transitioning from one job to another. He had been laid off from a law firm and he wanted to re-evaluate the direction his career was heading.

Andrew’s problem was that he hadn’t previously planned a career in law, but had just taken on the opportunity as a young man. Yet, he was worried about the difficulties in changing a career. Through the assessment and discussion with a career counselor, Andrew noticed he was drawn to being creative and solving problems. He considered a number of different career paths that would fit his skills and values, and eventually went on to complete a Financial Planning certificate.

In Andrew’s case, the career counseling helped him understand what his actual interest are and the different options he has available, without it causing him financial problems. He learned about different study routes and options to continue in the legal field, while gaining skills in another subject.

The two examples highlighted the benefits of career counseling in different situations. The practice can empower you to better understand your own preferences, but also receive real life tips on how to achieve those goals.

In addition to the above, career counseling can also provide specific social and economic benefits. A 2003 report titled, The Educational, Social and Economic Value of Informed and Considered Career Decisions, found career counseling being able to provide benefits such as:

  • Increase your job satisfaction. You can learn strategies that can help you solve issues at your current position, such as negotiating a promotion. On the other hand, you can simply find your true calling, ensuring you aren’t stuck in a career you don’t like.
  • Lower work-related stress and depression. Unhappiness at work has been shown to lower your ability to make healthier life choices. Thus, you can suffer from more stress and even depression. By ensuring you’re happy at work, you can reduce these harmful effects.
  • Shorten your unemployment periods. You’ll receive tools for a more effective job search and networking, which can ensure you aren’t unemployed for long.


To fully comprehend the ways career counseling can boost your job progression, you should understand the process behind it. All career counseling focuses on similar tactics, although the methods they use might vary slightly.

Identifying your strengths and skills

First, a career counselor typically starts by helping you define the strengths and weaknesses you have in terms of personality. This is often done through both self-assessment and different personality tests.

There are a number of different personality tests and different counselors might use different assessment methods. One of the major analysis options used for career analysis purposes is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test.

This test looks at the four personality dichotomies: extraversion/introversion, sensing/intuition, thinking/feeling, and judging/perceiving. The test will show the traits that are the most dominant in you, all of which can be used to understand the kind of roles most suited for your personality.

Watch the below to find out more about Myers-Briggs method:

Furthermore, the counselor will also help you examine your skill set. This can involve skill-based tests, such as an IQ test. The aim is not to find out how smart you are, but rather where your strengths lie. In addition, your skills are also analyzed through the education you have and the work or other experience you’ve gained.

The above will then be used to better understand the roles and positions, most suited for you and your career. This can help you identify the direction you want to take if you are starting out or re-direct your career path to a different direction.

The more understanding you have about your own capabilities and values, the more able you are to look for the roles that you want and which help you progress.

For instance, you might work in the service industry and through the above assessment realize your true strength lies in the sales sector. This can help you focus on searching for sales in the service industry, rather than customer service aspect of the industry, for example.

Examining factors which influence career development

The second point that helps your career progression is the focus on factors influencing your current career development. The counselor will help you identify the different issues that can have an impact on your career progression. These include:

  • Personal factors – If you have a family to support, career counselor will help identify career goals with you, which align with your family’s needs. For instance, if you can’t afford to stop working while changing careers, the counselor can help identify ways to obtain skills while working.
  • Value-based factors – These include not only things you want from your job, but also specific values that might influence your job satisfaction. For example, you might want to find a role that focuses on social justice.
  • Educational factors – What are the skills you have and how can you continue to learn more about your chosen industry? Career counselor will help map out the educational landscape, both in terms of the past and the future.
  • Ability-based factors – You’ll also examine the ability-based things influencing your career progression. This is a combination of examining your experience and finding different ways to increase the experience. For example, internships might be a suitable option for you or you should consider pursuing your new career as a hobby first.

Understanding how each of the above factors are influencing your career progression, both in terms of hindering it or boosting it, you can focus your efforts in strategies that work the best.

For instance, you might notice your education is slowing down your chosen career progression and keeping you from promotions. With the help of a career counselor, you can start looking into ways to educate and train yourself further.

Focusing on the right strategies

Career counseling will also help you focus on the right strategies in terms of career progression. The assessment and tips provided by the counselor will help you understand how to land a job of your dreams and where to put your energies when it comes to re-focusing your career.

Some of the strategies you can learn from a career counselor include:

  • Networking–Career counselor can help you understand how networking can help your career and teach you more about the best practices regarding the process.
  • Use of social media – Social media’s role in finding a job is growing and career counselors can help you understand how to take advantage of it. If you are wholly unaware of its use, you could even get help in creating profiles in platforms like LinkedIn.
  • Finding training opportunities – Career counseling can help you find resources for training your skills. If you are at university, you can discuss the different course options and any additional studies you should take. For workers, career counseling can help identify adult learning opportunities, both in full- and part-time education.
  • Creating personal development goals– Finally, you’ll also learn strategies in terms of personal development. The enhanced awareness of your personality can help you improve the weaker aspect and learn more about using your best traits.

Together with the career counselor, you are able to identify the resources you need in terms of career information, opportunity and development. Furthermore, you can better understand how to use these resources, which can guarantee you more access to better job opportunities.

For instance, strategies, such as networking, can be crucial for guaranteeing faster career progression, as it connects you with influential people within the industries you are passionate about.

As mentioned above, the strategies are not only useful for people looking to get on the career ladder or seeking a new direction with their career. Career counseling provides you more tools to ensure your current work situation improves. Training or better focus on personal development can give you the resources you need to seek for a promotion or ask for a salary increase. Career progression doesn’t necessarily mean changing jobs, as simply improving your status or financial incentive, can ensure you go forward in your career.


Career counseling can be a highly beneficial practice in terms of career progression. The process isn’t just for people at the start of their career. Whilst the process isn’t about telling you what to do and landing a job on your plate, career counseling can help you better understand what you truly want from your career.

In terms of career progression, career counseling guarantees you don’t stall in your career development. It does this by helping you identify your ideal career goals and the routes you need to take to achieve them. It’s also crucial for strengthening your abilities in order to march forward. It can do so either by improving your skills through training or by boosting your ability to use different resources and strategies to your advantage.

Comments are closed.