What a Career Advisor CAN'T Do

By Ellis Chase

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Once in a while, clients or students come to me looking for something I just can’t do -- magic. That’s not what they say they’re asking for, but that’s what they want.

I’ve written before about unrealistic client expectations. In fact my book, In Search of the Fun-Forever Job was based years of experience with clients who wanted to find a job that would be fun, satisfying and challenging. . .forever. But that was about what they wanted for themselves. Now I want to address what they want from me.

Sometimes clients expect me to provide a magical solution to a very complicated situation, without giving me much context or time to understand what their interests, skills, and experiences have been.

What I frequently want to say is "Hey, it's your LIFE we're talking about here; how can we possibly solve it in one meeting?"

Let Me Give You An Example

Let me give you an example. I recently had a private client who’d had significant personal achievement in teaching, but had gone through a rough time. He’d had one bad job, and was currently having a difficult time in his search. His search technique was not good, and he was what I call a "burn victim" -- someone whose perceptions have been thrown off kilter due to a bad work experience.

He wanted me to come up with alternative solutions, perhaps another career entirely. But at this point, he didn’t have any ideas of his own about alternate careers. I suggested he get himself on more solid ground by landing a teaching job, and then use that as a foundation to make career decisions while not consumed by uncertainty. I thought he'd be able to be much more creative when he was feeling better about himself, and employed.

We discussed search techniques for the better part of two meetings. He seemed to understand that answering ads was simply not going to do the trick alone -- he was going to have to be far more proactive in his overall approach. He left the second meeting feeling confident he could go out and execute our plan.

Two weeks later, I received an email from him expressing his disappointment with what we had accomplished. He described a couple of ideas he had that were related to education, ideas I thought were worth exploring. He had not mentioned these in our meetings.

And then he informed me he was going on vacation for the rest of the summer (the remainder of education hiring season). The feeling I got from his email was that I had been expected to produce some immediate, concrete, easy solutions so that he could go on vacation.

I’m using this story to explain that a career advisor can't just meet someone, and immediately come up with answers. We can’t be expected to guess what options a client might be considering. In other words, we can’t just pull the right solution out of a hat, wave a wand and give you a new job or career.

So What CAN a Career Advisor Do?

Here’s what we can do. A career advisor has tools, assessments, exercises, to help gather as much information as possible, so that the client will be able to put these factors together, with the advisor's perspectives, and come up with two or three possible solutions to explore. That's called intelligent career planning. While I'm usually not in favor of long-term career advising relationships, some situations might take more than a few meetings to solve, and success will be based on input from both sides.  


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