Vocational counseling helps ensure students plan for the career best suited for their unique personality traits and their interests. Vocational counselors use a variety of assessments and methods to help students realize those careers that seem to be the best fit for them. Vocational counselors are trained to help students through all steps of the career planning process and if they are able, students should take advantage of the expertise of these professionals.
Keywords Assessments; Career Planning; College; Continuing Education; Counseling; Counselor; Forensic Science; Gestalt Theory; Internship; Myers-Briggs Inventory; Person-Centered Counseling; Personality Trait; Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy; Self-Analysis; Teaching; Values Cards Sort; Vocation; Work
There are some people who don't have to do the research at all. Instead, they simply fall into the family business or the same type of job a parent or family member was involved with and it turns out to be a satisfying career for them as well. Others may get hired to do part time work while in high school or college and find themselves never leaving the industry. In reality though, career choice should not be left to chance or luck and students should choose their future career purposefully and in an informed fashion (Rayman, 1993).
In a perfect scenario, everyone would know immediately the type of career they would enter after graduating from high school or college. They would know what college or university, or other type of trade school they would need to attend, the major they would need to be accepted into, and the coursework to successfully complete in order to seamlessly enter their field of choice - whatever that may be. In fact, the myth says that those of us who have things best organized in our heads have well-thought-out goals for our lives at every turn (Lewis & Gilhousen, 1981). For most of us of course, that's not the case. Many high school and college students aren't sure at all of their future vocation -the career or profession they will ultimately enter - and they need all the help they can get as they gather information and seek out possible choices.
Those who do begin to think seriously about their future career options often don't even realize they don't have the necessary background information to make an informed choice. Making any type of lifelong decision without having all of the facts can create problems - college students often take classes in fields they only think they are going to pursue. Once they learn what the field is really about, they may decide it's not for them (Lewis & Gilhousen, 1981). By conducting career research in this hit-or-miss fashion, students have arguably wasted valuable time studying something they won't end up ultimately pursuing. Instead, the career development process should be deliberate and aided by trained professionals in the vocational counseling field.
As they move through their high school years, most students think in general terms of types of careers they may be interested in. At this stage of their development, students tend not to decide on one particular career and their broad choices usually lean in wide directions: those that need a college degree, those that don't need a college degree, industries with a heavy emphasis in science and technology, and non-technology-linked careers (Lewis, 1977). Career possibilities at this time may also often reflect the popular jobs and industries of the time period. Students in our contemporary times often favor the fields of forensic science or information technology-two career areas that are referred to and glamorized regularly in the today's media. In the past, this type of popular career interest was often in the areas of engineering, teaching, law, and business (Astin & Panos, 1969). Students will typically have an interest in a particular career but won't know how to go about getting into the industry or really anything about the job, except that something about the work intrigues them.
Students who aren't sure what career field they will pursue often find themselves in a state of confusion and doubt. Solid information about careers, the type of work each entails, and the coursework necessary to get into that line of work is crucial at this early stage of career planning and development. The students also need information about the best route to get into their field of choice. This is not always easy to figure out without professional guidance (Bogenschutz, 1994).
The Vocational Counselor
Career planning is a process. In order to figure out the right career to pursue, students need to understand that their career decisions are evolutionary- over time they will hone their initial ideas and set personal goals to eventually end up where they really want to be (Bogenschutz, 1994). High school and college students do seem to know intuitively that they need to begin thinking about and researching their future careers but in most cases they don't really know how or where to begin (Lewis & Gilhousen, 1981).
Enter the vocational counselor. The job of the vocational counselor is to make available counseling and career information to students in schools - from elementary through postsecondary settings. The counselor's goal is to provide all students, even those with special needs, particular academic strengths and weaknesses, or varying levels of social comfort with sound career advice (US Department of Labor, 2006). The vocational counselor assesses each student client and offers ideas and strategies to help each hone in on their best career choices. Information provided by the vocational counseling office about a wide range of industries, jobs, and careers is both critical and empowering and helps students as they think about their next step in career planning (Bogenschutz, 1994).
Vocational counseling is often referred to as career counseling (Bechtel, 1993). Students can begin the career counseling process with preconceived thoughts about the career consideration-and-decision path. They may sometimes believe, for example, that identifying a possible career path is going to be arduous and dull (Lewis & Gilhousen, 1981). The frustrating truth is that most students are not interested in devoting innumerable hours to exploring and investigating the type of work they will be doing for the next 40 or 50 years, day to day, and week to week (Rayman, 1993). There is plenty of career planning information available today and to its target audience, the catalogs, books, brochures, posters, and DVDs are in fact sometimes thought of as boring and not worth reading (Rayman, 1993). These ideas often impede or otherwise affect the students' ability to make good decisions about the career that may be best for them (Lewis & Gilhousen, 1981) so the vocational counselor's challenge is to somehow adapt and incorporate this often-lackluster information into other types of media and get them interested, reading, and considering. The vocational counselor's mission is to create an individualized plan to help the student realize a fulfilling job and eventual success in their chosen career. Vocational counselors are able to help students throughout this entire process (Bogenschutz, 1994). The task is complex but also rewarding and satisfying to both the counselor and the student, especially when a lifelong career match has been accomplished (Kimbrough & Salomone, 1993).
Research shows that correlating a career with an individual's particular interests will help ensure satisfaction and success in that field (Rayman, 1993). The career assessments students take at this point of their career planning are no passing vocational counseling fad. In fact, for over a hundred years students have been using assessment instruments to learn more about themselves and to analyze their personality characteristics. These types of assessments are widely used in the vocational counseling field and help students and counselors make informed decisions about the best types of jobs and industries for individual students (Rayman, 1993).
Vocational counselors at both the high school and secondary level will typically first assist students in evaluating their strengths, weaknesses, talents, abilities and personality traits.
Most people will seek a field of work that highlights their unique personalities once they really know what these traits are. The theory is that when there is a good fit between an individual and his or her work environment, that individual will be happier than if the job was chosen for another reason (e.g., the location is convenient, a friend works there, the dress code...
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