Are You Using a Career Counselor? How To Best Utilize Your Career Counselor

Job hunting is hard, so get help when you can! The worst thing you can do for yourself if you are looking to get hired for a learnership is to under-utilize your resources… especially the free ones. Career counselors are quite literally there to help you get a job.

Unsure of your career path? A counselor can guide you toward identifying the direction you want to go. Does your resume or cover letter need work? A counselor can edit, tweak, and help you make it the best it can be. Overwhelmed with your job hunt, or confused about where to look for openings? A counselor can help you find positions and advise you on how to approach the application and interview processes. They are professional job hunters, after all, who specialize in supporting young, soon-to-be professionals, so put them to work!

Where do I start?

Most high schools and universities have in-house counselors/advisors to work with students on this very task. If you are unsure of who your counselor is, go to the career center or your department’s administrative office and ask who you should speak to about learnership opportunities. In most cases, you will be required to set up an appointment (remember, you are one of many students looking for a job!) so that the counselor has time to pull up your records.

Now, it is OK to go in blind and confused, but it is not OK to go in expecting whomever you speak with to do all the work for you. Rather than showing up empty-handed and looking like a deer caught in headlights, do a small amount of preparation for your meeting so you can best utilize your time. You don’t want to waste yours OR theirs.

  1. Come up with a list of questions to ask your counselor.
  2. Have your most up-to-date resume on-hand, even if it is just a draft.
  3. If you are a high school student trying to determine your collegiate and professional path, be prepared to talk about what majors you would be interested in.
  4. If you are a university student trying to determine where to apply for a learnership, be prepared to talk about what you are currently studying, and if there are any specific things about your major that you are interested in pursuing further.
  5. If you have applied to any learnerships thus far, have a list of the companies and positions that are currently pending.
  6. Know what you want to accomplish in the meeting BEFORE you arrive.

What’s Next?

Your counselor will likely throw you right into the driver’s seat so they can understand what you are hoping to get out of the meeting and their services. You will be asked about your goals, what type of career you picture yourself in, what you’re studying and how you want to apply your education to your work. This is to give the counselor the big picture so they can map out a plan that works best for you as an individual. But again, don’t expect to be hand-held. You need to make it clear what you need help with, specifically.

  1. Ask how your resume looks. Whether you bring your resume in its most current form or a draft that is an absolute disaster, you need to give your counselor SOMETHING to work with. You will likely be asked if all your experience and activities are included, and if not, what was excluded. Counselors have a way of fashioning a resume that includes the qualities that a prospective employer is looking for, and may be able to identify correlations that you had not. It’s a starting point, because he or she can then see where you stand before going through job openings with a fine-tooth comb to present you with options. Once you narrow down a list of jobs you want to apply to, you can then work together to amp up and tailor your resume to your options.
  2. Ask how you should approach your job search. Every industry and position is different so finding and securing a learnership for one may require different strategies than another. For example, your counselor has had to help one student find a learnership in the accounting world and another find a learnership in the magazine journalism world – two very different beasts. Discuss appropriate tactics based on your industry.
  3. Find out what type of material and other resources they have to offer. A counselor can provide you with lists of networking events, what learnership opportunities are currently available, companies that frequently hire in your industry of choice, and maybe even contacts that work at the very company you’re looking to apply to.
  4. Ask them for their opinion of your social media accounts. It isn’t a secret that an increasing amount of companies look to platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to get insight that a candidate’s resume cannot offer. You could look really good on paper, but your professionalism and behavior as made evident by your social profiles could speak volumes to who you are as an individual. Ask your counselor to be honest about how you could be perceived by a hiring manager based on your accounts, and what you can do to improve them if necessary.
  5. Be open. If you are going to ask for help, you need to be open to critiques that may be tough to chew and advice that you may not want to hear. You may be challenged or pressed, but this is simply because they are trying to guide you toward the best possible end result.

Conclude your appointment by requesting a follow-up meeting. Time flies, especially when you are going to spend the initial part of your meeting discussing your goals. Job hunting is a process that requires many actions, and if you are going to seek help, you will need to revisit the conversation for progress reports and advice on next steps.

Remember, career counselors are there for free, so why wouldn’t you use them?