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Booktalking "The Career Counselor's Handbook" by Howard Figler and Richard Bolles


The Dictionary of Occupational Titles lists 20,000 different jobs. That is a lot of careers to choose from. Many people are disillusioned with their jobs and view them as sheer drudgery. This book can change their outlooks and their lives. Written by one of the authors of What Color is Your Parachute?, which is translated into 17 languages and the most popular job hunt book in the world, this book is interesting.

The authors encourage career counselors to urge clients to take responsibility for their lives and their job search activities. If they promise to engage in certain types of job search behaviors and they do not, it is the job of the career counselor to gently ask them why they are not pursuing their goals. They urge counselors to be honest with their clients and to focus on the clients' interests and dreams. They want job seekers to network, since most jobs are not secured by simply responding to Internet job ads. Clients should send thank-you notes. The authors suggest that posting resumes online is not an effective job-search strategy. I tend to agree; furthermore, I do not want my personal information hanging out on the web. They also recommend that clients read extensively, the newspaper, and whatever they can get their hands on to become more knowledgeable about their field, job search strategies and the world in general.

The following is a quote from Dave Barry's Claw Your Way to the Top:

"We do not expect to have any positions available until approximately the end of time.


The Personnel Department" 

The authors cover marketing yourself as a career counselor, setting up a web site, etc. Telephone (distance) counseling is growing in popularity. The book provides a time line of developments in the career counseling field, which I found interesting. One of the authors stated that people should treat customers as if they were their grandmothers. Clients do not have to choose between doing jobs for the public good or being well-compensated. There are good electricians, grocery store clerks and dentists. In addition, many corporations donate money or workers' volunteer hours to charities, which they also do to improve their business reputations, and consequently earn more money.

Richard Bolles, author of What Color is Your Parachute? has been an ordained Episcopal minister for 50 years. He brings God up in group counseling sessions, and he determines whether the clients pursue that line of inquiry. If the clients are religious, he says that the connection can be a useful tool in counseling.  

I like the fact that the book focuses on a certain kind of responsibility towards employers as well, encouraging clients to be honest in their careers. I do not believe that it is ethical for career counselors to dump people with a poor work ethic on unsuspecting employers. I am always happy to find that the people I mentor are dedicated to their jobs, so I am not doing a disservice to employers who need reliable, dependable employees who care about doing the best possible job that they can. 

The Career Counselor's Handbook by Howard Figler and Richard Bolles

The authors do not believe in the value of career assessment tests. They say that clients take the results of the tests too seriously. However, I believe that tests can be useful in giving people a sense of which careers that they might be interested in. Also, the authors may be self-interested and trying to encourage people to employ them as counselors rather than take the tests. The authors do not believe in career forecasts (i.e., jobs in technology are growing). Like weather forecasts, they can be faulty or people jump on the bandwagon and so many people are interested in the "hot" jobs that the supply soon exceeds the demand. People should pursue careers that they have an interest in, not whatever job someone said will be plentiful in the future.

Due to the fact that I have been helping people find jobs and improve their job-search skills since 2007 without any training, I figured that it was time to fill in any gaps that may be in my knowledge of how to provide career counseling. I am currently mentoring librarians on a professional level, so this knowledge is especially important for me to acquire now. Luckily, I have a Master's degree in psychology and some graduate training in social welfare, so I learned the basic tenets of counseling there. However, it was great to read a book specifically about career counseling to get a basic foundation in the field and discover which challenges may be particular to career counselors. It also helps me to further hone my own job-search skills. I learned a lot about how to job search effectively by reading books that were aimed at recruiters and human resources professionals, as well. The book tends to take an approach to counseling that is similar to existential psychotherapy.

Unfortunately, job searching skills and proper workplace behavior are not taught in most colleges and high schools. However, most high schools have guidance counselors that help students with college applications, and most colleges have career counselors that assist students with job-search skills. I benefitted greatly from my career counselors at my undergraduate college; there was a career counselor there who helped me develop my very first resume. Likewise, I benefitted from a career counselor at my graduate school who helped me contemplate my career options. 

In Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Unemployment Project (PUP) was a god-send. I had the most awesome career counselor there, who held the best group counseling Jobs Club meetings ever. They were on Fridays for two hours. She invited recruiters to come speak to the participants about the jobs that they had available, she gave us basic information about appropriate workplace behavior, she volunteered to be a reference for us, and she let me conduct a mock interview with one of the other participants. She told us that turnover is a huge cost for employers due to training and recruiting costs; therefore, we should not accept jobs that we do not intend to keep for at least a year. I liked that she looked out for employers as well and that she wanted us to be good employees. The group job counseling was great because I did not feel like there was pressure on me to constantly discuss job search activities. Faith came up with the themes for each session. I even went to Harrisburg with the group one year because she asked us to go advocate for health care for unemployed individuals, and I learned first-hand about the world of political advocacy. I do not think that she still works there, but organizations like PUP are vital for job seekers.


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career books

re titles in blog: some seem to be old or out of print

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