From Where I Sit

What to Bring to Your First Appointment with a Career Counselor

For most career counselors, the first appointment is an opportunity to get to know you, the client and to learn how you have made the major decisions in your life, such as:

  • Did you attend college or post-secondary school?
  • If so, how did you choose where to go?
  • What did you choose to study?  Why?
  • Did you have difficulty in choosing a field to study?
  • What is your evaluation of your college experience?
  • After college, how did you make the decision to apply for certain jobs?
  • In general, how have you fared in the world of work?
  • Why are you seeking career counseling at this time?

The first appointment is also a chance to understand other choices and variables in your life.  For example, are there special circumstances in your life that need attention, time, or financial resources?  What values guide your choices and how aware are you of those values?

Your first appointment gives you a chance to see if you can relate to and work with a particular counselor or if there are qualities that might interfere with a good working relationship.  This can include personality qualities as well as environmental ones, such as an office that is not soundproofed or clean. If it does not appear to be a “good fit”, a referral can be made at that time to another career professional.

A well-prepared client is willing and able to discuss his/her work history as it relates to career choices, including education and training, skills, interests, values, lifestyle choices, geographical preferences, working conditions desired, amount and type of people contact wanted, physical/mental/emotional limitations, past career failures (such as being fired), achievements, and anything else that helps the counselor to understand your situation.

It can be very helpful to bring a résumé to your first session, or to email one prior to the session. This allows the counselor to review your career history prior to the meeting.  It can also reveal weaknesses or lack of knowledge of résumé standards and thus shape the goals of career counseling.

Together, you and your counselor decide what to address and in what order. If you would like to consider career testing, for example, you and your counselor can discuss the pros and cons together. When a career history is taken, the plan of action becomes clearer and suggestions can be made on-the-spot.  A career counselor might see a pattern in a client’s employment history that suggests a particular direction that had not been seen by the client.  Or a résumé might be strengthened by changing a few keywords. Or perhaps you might be made aware of self-defeating behavior that could be interfering with your career success.

Whatever the topic of conversation, career counseling is an adventurous process for most people and can be very helpful to you in determining your next step.

Katharine Nelson
Seattle Career Matters