Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Case for Not Consulting an Eminent Job-Search Counselor/Coach

If you need help in landing a job, non-stars might want to consult a not-eminent job-search coach or even a trusted friend.

Why? We all tend to give advice that would work for us, with insufficient regard to whether that would work well for someone else.

Eminent job-search counselors are brighter, more driven, have more expertise, a more pleasing personality, and fewer debilitating psychological and physical issues than do the pool of people who need a job-search counselor.

That counselor/client gap is likely to be especially large with clients who need to pay for job-search counseling, for example, students who got free help from their college's career center but still haven't been able to land a job and thus sought paid help. Stronger job candidates are more likely to find good employment without a job-search counselor, let alone having to pay for one.

Unless an eminent career counselors is unusual, s/he isn't conscious enough of that gap or is insufficiently willing or able to create and supervise a job-search regimen that is simple enough, well-adapted to the client's strengths and limitations, presented slowly enough, and providing the usually-needed months of ongoing support.

Too often, the eminent career counselor dispenses the standard job-search advice that they learned from other eminents: professors, career book authors, and keynote speakers. That advice is usually," "Network and make direct contact above all. Only secondarily use headhunters and answer ads. And do it all aggressively for 30 to 40 hours a week." That would likely succeed if the career advice dispenser were doing a job search but usually fails when attempted by typical career counseling clients. As bad, the eminent counselor too often assumes the client "gets it," and so the counselor doesn't provide sufficient ongoing support or implies to the client that that shouldn't be necessary.

A side note: The below-average pool of people that come to career counseling engenders an ethical issue for job-search counselors. Too often, job-search counselors are paid to make a candidate look better than s/he really is. Thereby, if successful, job-search counselors/coaches are in the business of replacing more qualified applicants with less qualified ones. That hurts not only the more qualified applicants but the employer, co-workers, and because the result will be worse products or services, society.

It may seem ironic for me to say all this. After all, I'm in my 27th year as a career counselor/coach. I've addressed those ethical issue by focusing my efforts on helping clients choose a well-suited career and on making the most of their current job. I accept clients for job-search counseling only when I honestly feel s/he'd be a great candidate for a job but merely needs advice on how to present him or her self fairly and that s/he'd be better off getting that counsel from me than from a more entry-level career counselor or from a trusted friend.


Robert said...

Dr. Nemko writes:

"The below-average pool of people that come to career counseling engenders an ethical issue for job-search counselors. Too often, job-search counselors are paid to make a candidate look better than s/he really is."

This is, I'd have thought, an ethical problem not only with career counseling but with the therapy industry in general. It appears to be an article of faith within this industry that no-one is too hopeless, too malign, or too manipulative to benefit from therapy. Of course, it was precisely because the Catholic Church's hierarchs bought this delusion hook, line, and sinker, when therapists proffered it, that this Church has the problems it does with sex abusers.

Rare is the therapist who dares to admit, as (female) Australian psychologist Toby Green admitted in 2010, to failure: "I used to think that everyone had potential, that given enough love and care, they'd be fine. I now, through years of experience, really think there are people among us who are just cockroaches. They are just evil."

Marty Nemko said...

Robert, good point re therapists. But it's even more compelling with job-search counselors because their efforts, if successful, too often result in making the world a WORSE place--a less qualified person gets the job. With an ineffective therapist, there's no loss to society.

Robert said...

"With an ineffective therapist,", says Dr. Nemko, "there's no loss to society."

I'm not sure about that. I think there's a very great loss to society. To take the example of Catholicism that I mentioned earlier. The Catholic Church's sex-fiend plague was very largely the consequence of therapists pulling the wool over the eyes of Catholic officials (whether they did so primarily through malice or through stupidity, others can judge).

In the old pre-therapist days - roughly before about 1967 - a Catholic bishop could rely on his own commonsense, and say things like: "I don't like the way in which that young man hangs around the boys' locker rooms. If he isn't kicked out of this parish by next Sunday, I'll bounce him off the four walls with my own bare hands." But once the therapists (themselves usually warped by Alfred Kinsey's ideology and similar) got on the job, bishops could no longer say that, because the decisions as to who got made priests were taken on the basis of mental health tests, administered by ... therapists. Even to suggest that pedophiles were recidivists was considered, in those days, defamatory.

And of course, leaving aside Catholicism, those therapists who abuse their position of trust by having sex with patients are alarmingly numerous. Some reports indicate that the proportion of such therapists is as high as 11%. Which, if true, is higher than even the most pessimistic scientific assessments of the priestly pedophilia rate.

Of course, to say this is not at all to dispute Dr. Nemko's comments about the destructive potential of an unethical career counselor also. The little I've had to do with career counselors on the basis of personal consultations, I've found that even when they are individually honest, they are incapable of that Nemko-esque "tough love" which says, "Sorry, I can't help you. In the present job market, nobody can help you."

Maureen Nelson said...

"That counselor/client gap is likely to be especially large with clients who need to pay for job-search counseling."

Oh, I bet it was tempting to say, "Anyone who has to pay for counseling doesn't deserve it." Imagine one of your physician clients on that couch. As soon as the conversation veers away from how to shift their practice to how to land a slot in a practice group, you're in tricky territory, aren't you? Maybe you ought to kick the person out. It's almost a Schroedinger's cat problem. You're only aware that a person might fall into the category of not deserving your services once they contact you. Must be tough. Good thing you're good at identifying people who aren't really looking for job-search assistance. Your favorite clients must be those who are barely able to hit "Send" because they're so convinced they can do the job themselves.

Re: your implied point, you are correct, of course. And I've lamented this before. The biggest Fed grants at the One Stops go to the dislocated workers -- those who have the least need for the services. We quickly met enrollment goals for the general adult population -- those who are helpless and [more] hopeless. But we have a harder time attracting those with their own resources: money, connections, smarts, drive, imagination, confidence, nice interview clothes, education... and an idea about how to approach the job market.

You wouldn't mind if the broader CC world were aware of your post, would you? It's sure to raise your site's numbers.