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Career Focus

A Day in the Life of a Career Counsellor

By LISA TRUDEL - April 7 2014

Are you exploring careers? Do you want a career that focuses on helping others? Are you considering a career in social services or as an entrepreneur?

If you answered “yes” to these questions,you might want to consider researching the career of “Career Counsellor” or “Career Coach”

I became a Career Counsellor over 20 years ago and sometimes students and clients have asked me about my career and what the main attributes and abilities are. More than once I have been asked to describe “a day in the life of a career counsellor”.

Before answering these questions, it is important to review the 3 basic stages of career planning which are:

  • WHO AM I?

The first stage of “Who Am I?” is the self assessment step when you confirm your interests, values, skills, barriers, credentials and motivation. It is a crucial starting point before making a career decision. It can start with asking simple questions such as “Do I want to work in an office setting?” or “Do I want to work outside braving the changing Toronto weather?”

If you want to conduct a formal self-assessment test, career counsellors can direct you to group assessments such as “Personality Dimensions”, or to online assessments such as “Matchmaker and My Skills” at www., or assessments in traditional print versions such as the Jackson Vocational Interest Inventory, the Myers Briggs Type Indicator or the “Who Am I? Inventory”.

It is important to know that completed assessments are never really complete until a Career counsellor interprets the results with you. For example, an assessment might result in stating that your occupational choice should be a farmer. What this result might really mean, is that you should be an entrepreneur, as it is less about the occupational title and more about the skills and attributes needed in the occupation.

Over 30 years ago, I completed a career assessment and the result stated that I should be a member of the clergy. I was shocked, disappointed, discouraged and frustrated. Unfortunately I did not have a Career counsellor help me interpret the results. If I had, I would have learned that I might want to consider an occupation that focuses on my interest in understanding human behavior and my enthusiasm to help others using the skills of listening, patience, and motivation. Luckily I completed another assessment five years later with the help of a Career counsellor and I was able to confidently choose a career that suited my circumstances, interests and personality.

The second stage of “What’s Out There?” is the research and decision-making step. Once you have found an occupation that interests you, and before going to University or College to gain credentials, it is essential to conduct an information interview with someone who is actually living your occupational choice. Find out what the trends are, where the work is, and if it is a regulated or un-regulated profession. The answers might shift your decision, and you might decide to go in a different direction.

For example, the occupation of Career counsellor is an unregulated profession, which means the salaries, hours of work and educational requirements are organizationally-driven and can vary dramatically depending on the sector and credentials one might have. Currently, I am a Career counsellor who works full-time in the social services sector and my standard business hours of Monday to Friday, 8:30am to 4:30pm.

In the past, I have been an Independent Career Coach, As with all entrepreneurial endeavors my hours were any time I could find work. Sometimes I worked evenings, Saturdays, and Sundays. Some weeks I had no income, and other weeks I had too much work to do. Career exploration should always include the question of “Do I want to be an employee or entrepreneur?”

This second step of researching and discovering as much as possible about a choice is crucial. Too often, decisions are made without careful research and the result can be the lonely word “regret” due to choosing too quickly.

The third stage of “How Do I Get There?” is the promotional step. It focuses on the areas that include learning how to find work, how to target resumes and cover letters, how to successfully secure job interviews, and how to maintain a work/life balance.

As with almost all occupations, Career counsellors who are aiming for an employee-driven job usually secure job interviews through the art of networking. Career counsellors who are independents or entrepreneurs, usually find their clients through the art of networking too.

In summary, a day in the life of what I do as a Career Specialist with the Centre for Education & Training, Employment Services, includes helping unemployed job seekers navigate toward goals by providing advice and support. I help clients with developing interview techniques, assist with editing resumes, cover letters and LinkedIn Profile Summaries, and I act as a sounding board to develop job search ideas and new approaches to building alliances and networking contacts. This might include encouraging purposeful volunteer work, using the Toronto Public Library for self-directed learning, and becoming a joiner by joining alumni associations, book clubs, online networking groups and professional associations.

The main skills I use include public speaking, listening, researching, writing, accountability, punctuality, database management and being an example of best workplace practices. The majority of my day is spent helping others create futures, clarifying their short-term and long-term goals, identifying obstacles and barriers they might not recognize, and using my passion for learning about the labour market to provide realistic guidance and direction. I strive to ease job seekers frustration and try to transform discouragement into hope and optimism.

My clients are anyone who is unemployed, job-ready, not in full-time school, and legally entitled to work in Canada. I work in downtown Toronto so the demographics of my clients are incredibly diverse.

For example, in the morning I might help a 25 year-old University graduate who has only been employed as a Barista, and then I might help a 40 year-old new immigrant who is an experienced teacher who has never worked in Canada. In the afternoon, I might help a 60 year-old business executive with a Master’s degree that has just been laid off after 25 years with the same company, and then I might help a 19 year-old who has a high school diploma.

Whether you are a mature job seeker, a recent University or College graduate, or a youth with no work experience, you might want to consider finding a career coach or employment counsellor at an Employment Ontario funded career centre so you can become part of “a day in the life of a career counsellor”! Visit for information on locations, hours and services.

Lisa Trudel, Career Specialist with the Centre for Education & Training can be contacted at:

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