Top 7 Reasons That You Should Visit A Career Counselor

In the beginning of January, we posted a calendar with monthly steps to move your career forward.  The February task was to meet with a career counselor.  Here at OITE, we have two career counselors on staff.  Anne and Elaine were kind enough to introduce themselves on the blog a couple of years ago.  What makes them an enormous asset for you is that they exclusively advise scientists.  They understand the career dynamics of fellows here at NIH and researchers in general.  They have a wide breadth of knowledge and experience in career counseling and have already helped hundreds of fellows take the next step in their careers. 

Whether you know where your career is heading or not, meeting with a career counselor can help you be more competitive in fulfilling your career goals.  With the help of our two career counselors on staff at OITE, we have determined the top 7 reasons to visit a career counselor.

7.            Develop the skills necessary for career success.  The truth is, even the strongest job candidates are not perfect.  There is always room for improvement, and a career counselor can help you determine where and how to improve.  Career counselors can teach you how to be assertive in getting what you need and want from your current and future jobs.  They can teach you how and when to negotiate.  They can identify holes in your professional preparation. 

6.         Get help with the job search process.  No, they will not find a job for you.  They can, however, make the process easier, more transparent, and more efficient.  Learn how to begin a job search, maximize your CV or resume and improve your chances of getting interviews.  If you are already job searching, they can help you maximize your efforts.  If you are considering changing your career path, career counselors can help you assess what you might like to do and what options exist.

5.         Clarify career goals.  Career counselors can help fellows clarify their goals by identifying significant work related values, preferences and interests.  Through a variety of assessment inventories and discussions, career counselors can help you understand yourself better and relate this self-knowledge into career choices.  With this knowledge, they can then help you make career decisions in a meaningful way. 

4.         Learn effective networking tools.  Career counselors have a litany of networking tips and exercises to be a more effective networker.  They can explain how to do informational interviews.  They can help you map out a plan to help you realize all the people you have in your network.

3.         Mock Interviews.  I mentioned above the broad knowledge and experience of our career counselors.  That includes knowing a lot of common and specific interview questions you are likely to face during your job search.  Conducting a mock interview with a career counselor gives you a chance to prepare answers, get feedback on your body language and tone of voice, and to gain a sense of confidence before heading into an interview. Mock interviews are an effective tool in reducing anxiety before and during an interview.  (Click here for a post with other tips on managing anxiety and nervousness in an interview.)

2.         To make the best of your current position.  Career counselors are trained to help you deal with difficult situations.  They are a great place to find encouragement and support when things are not going well.  Perhaps your fellowship is not turning out the way you had expected.  Maybe your relationship with your PI is strained or non-productive.  It could be that there is a coworker that you have a difficult time working with.  A career counselor can provide you guides in communicating effectively, confront a difficult situation, and help you determine personality traits and preferences that can help you understand how people work differently.               

And then number one reason to visit a career counselor is…

1.            Because it will be a valuable experience.  That is why it is on the career development calendar for 2012!

Remember, these are only the top 7 reasons to see a career counselor.  There are many more ways a career counselor can improve your career success.  For a more detailed list of what you might expect when (as an NIH trainee) you come to visit our career services center at OITE, click here.