Thursday, April 3, 2008

Is Career Counseling a Waste?

It's odd for me to be raising that question in that I'm a career counselor. Yet stories like this one a client told me just an hour ago (I'll change a few irrelevant details to protect his anonymity,) does give me pause:

After four years studying at Harvard, he came to believe money was a shackle and the root of much evil. So he went to his CitiBank and withdrew all his money, in $100 bills. He then stood at the main entrance to the Harvard campus (the gateway to one of America's hub of liberal thought) and gave away all the $100 bills at random.

He was shocked that well-heeled Harvard students who had been filled with "redistributive justice" rhetoric and indeed probably espoused it in class discussions and term papers, pushed homeless people away to attempt to get a second $100. Distraught as perhaps only Hamlet has been, he fled to his Harvard advisor's office and screamed at the meaningless of it all. What did his advisor do? Called the police and had him involuntarily committed to the local mental hospital.

After my client was released, he took a job--at a bank, the icon representing everything he had reviled. The punch line: He liked his job and succeeded there, eventually earning a six-figure salary.

This is the most extreme such story I've heard, but I've known many people who ended up happy in careers that no career counselor could have predicted to be well-suited.

Although I am a career counselor/coach, my best advice to those seeking aid in choosing a career: Forgo seeing a career advisor. Instead, for a week or two, keep musing about career and write any clues in a memo pad, which you keep with you at all times. After that, look at my Best Careers, 2008 and my book, Cool Careers for Dummies, to trigger additional ideas.


Anonymous said...

Wow! Now that's a story.

This isn't necessarily an indication that career counseling is a waste. After all, this successful person is still your client. Are you considering telling him that perhaps he does not need your services?

He seems to be an unusually smart and sensitive person from this story. He was able to become a successful and productive worker on his own, after spending time in a mental hospital. And the craziness that is Berkeley.

People like him may not need counseling, but there are others in the world, I'd guess, that can use the guidance and direction that a good counselor can provide so that they can get back on track.

Marty Nemko said...

He's using me to help improve his skills as a CEO, not to help him find another career.

But yes, I agree that some people benefit from someone to help them choose a career and certainly to help them develop and implement a strategy for landing the job, and importantly, for being more successful on the job.


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