I had never been to any form of counseling until October of last year. Some people still view going to counseling as a negative thing, like you can’t handle your life on your own or you have big, dark problems. That’s really not true, and I think our culture’s perspective on counseling is changing for the better. My best friend of 10 years is a mental health therapist, and she says even therapists have therapists. Counseling is great for anyone because it provides you an outside perspective and expert guidance.

After I realized how helpful it could be, I knew I needed to start adding it to my own life. One of the areas I felt I could gain some wise counsel for is my career, so last year, I sought  a career counselor, someone who could give me pointers on how to navigate and make the most of my career. I finished the career counseling program in March. It’s been a great season of growth for me, and I want to share with you some of the tips I’ve learned, which might motivate you to see out your own career counseling professional.

Knowing Yourself

Before you can know what you should DO at any step in your career, you have to know YOURSELF. What is your personality? What are your strengths? What are your dominant cognitive functions? If you can’t answer those questions in depth, a career counselor will be really helpful to you.

There are many tests out there that can help with that. Myers Briggs is the famous one everyone has heard of, but some other tests that have been truly eye-opening for me are the Career Fit test, the Clifton Strength Finders test, and the Enneagram. I am an ESTJ borderline ESFJ. My dominant strengths are Achiever, Discipline, Woo, Communication, and Connectedness. I’m an Enneagram Type 8. These tests I have taken both as part of the counseling program and on my own over the years have helped me know myself on a much deeper level than I ever could have otherwise, which benefits every single aspect of my life, not just my career. As a bonus, discussing these tests with friends has also helped me understand others better as well.

Another aspect of knowing yourself is understanding your fears and weaknesses in relation to your career. The book I read as part of my career counseling program outlined several key fears that hold people back in their careers and how to overcome them.

Knowing the Work World

After you know yourself, you have to get to know the world of work. What are the options? How do people get where they want to go? Counseling taught me all about the careers that exist, marketing yourself, networking, the job search process, the “hidden” job market, and current tools that are out there for advancing your career.

I came away from counseling believing that this type of information is so valuable that it should be taught in high school or college. We often just expect people to automatically KNOW themselves and what they should do and how the work world works without giving them any formal education in those topics. It’s crazy to think about how much more I know about myself and my career now at 29 than I did when I was 18 and just starting college.

I would absolutely recommend investing in a career counselor, even if you think things are going along fine in your career progression. It’s incredibly useful to get back to the basics on who you are and what you are good at before you are tempted to define yourself by a job title, and get an outsiders perspective. The work world is changing fast, and a career counselor might be just what you need to keep up and feel comfortable making decisions and moving forward in your career.