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Career Counseling in the United States

I always get a kick out of watching those old “Star Trek” reruns in which the hyperemotional Dr. McCoy gets frustrated with the often-demanding Captain Kirk (Jim) and finally blurts out, “Damn it, Jim! I’m a doctor, not a miracle worker!”

McCoy’s declaration hits close to home in my work as a career counselor. We’re not miracle workers either. All we can do is help our clients to the best of our ability, given what those clients do (or don’t do) during the counseling process.

If you’re currently or considering working with a career counselor, how can you reap lasting benefits from the experience? There’s no precise formula, but these tips will help make your voyage successful.

Think Participant, Not Recipient

If you take your car in for an oil change, you’re in recipient mode. You show up, pay and then get out of the way while the technicians do the work.

When you work with a career counselor, you need to step into participant mode. You can’t expect to just show up, pay and then get out of the way while the counselor does all the work. You’re required to be an active member of the team; if you don’t participate, your counseling experience will almost certainly end in disappointment.

Have Realistic Expectations

You may think career counselors have all the answers. They don’t, but they can help you work toward finding your own answers. They simply can’t pull them out of a box and hand them to you.

Be Honest, Especially with Yourself

It’s easy to talk yourself into feeling, thinking or saying something that really isn’t genuine. It happens daily in career counseling sessions as clients try to fight off a host of outside pressures (family, friends, teachers, society as a whole) to make their own decisions.

Career counseling sessions give you a safe place and time to express what you’re really struggling with — in your career and in the rest of your life, too. But you have to be completely honest if you’re to have any hope of really working through your challenges.