Resources for Career Development: You Have a Choice

Career assistance comes in all shapes and sizes. There are career centers that do everything from issuing you an unemployment check and offering skills workshops, to sending your resume to potential employers. There are individuals who specialize in assessing and increasing your skills; there are non-profit organizations that offer workshops free-of-charge; and there are for-profit organizations that offer counseling and coaching. Individualized career assistance is just as accessible as self-help books and group transition seminars. It seems as though lots of organizations, publishers, and individuals have jumped on the career assistance bandwagon, each with their own offerings and expertise. So how do you decide where to go for help? That all depends on the type of help you need.

What’s Available?

Perhaps the easiest analogy for understanding the types of help available for selecting a career, entering the job market, and transitioning to a new career is to compare career assistance to losing weight or getting in shape. For weight loss or physical toning, you can choose self-help options, health clubs and classes, or personal trainers. Each offers valuable help. The success you derive from using each, however, depends on what kind of help and how much help you need. You have the same basic choices in career development – self- help options; classes and workshops; or personal counselors, coaches, and consultants.

Self-Help Options

Using self-help books, videos, and websites is a great solution for you if you are internally motivated to reach your career goals and you enjoy researching and selecting career development options that fit with your interests or understanding. Self-help allows for flexibility and the development of personal discipline. You choose when and how to engage in the career development process, measure your results, and shift approaches to meet your career goals. You make the plan, monitor the plan, and keep to the plan.

If you like to create your own learning approach and need limited assistance and support as you progress, self-help is a great, inexpensive way to find your next job or develop your career. There are numerous, wonderful self-help books available that offer everything from generic to job-specific advice. Before purchasing any career development books, however, it might be helpful to first investigate the offerings at a local library or bookstore. Some books will share career development philosophies, some will provide step-by-step assessments and worksheets, and others will be filled with tips and suggestions on how to create job search tools. Using a variety of these types of books will help you to understand the current dynamics behind career development and job search, as well as gain some practical tools to use. What Color Is Your Parachute? By Richard Bolles, Me 2.0 by Dan Schawbel and Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters by Levinson and Perry are particularly helpful for understanding how to select your career direction and then market yourself to customers, clients, or potential employers.

If you do use a book, video, website, or another self-learning option, consider checking the reviews of it on www.amazon.com or other review sites. Career professionals regularly review career development resources and offer insights for users. If you are in doubt, call a career center or career professional in your area and ask about the self-help resources available. Most professionals will be gracious enough to point you in a good direction for self-help tools. Many career professionals also provide recommendations on their websites.

Classes and Workshops

Attending career classes and workshops can eliminate your need to wander through numerous resources to find the best practices in career development. They can provide a supportive and encouraging environment as you work through selecting, transitioning, or immersing yourself in a career or job. Courses are generally updated regularly to keep pace with the demands of the marketplace, and fellow workshop participants can provide current insights and tips as well. Additionally, many career resources point to the social and networking benefits of working within a group to achieve career goals. If you enjoy learning with others, find work group gatherings motivational, or come to life through group dynamics or peer competition, classes and workshops provide a great approach to job searching or career development.

Classes and workshops are offered by topic area such as resume writing, career planning, and networking, as well as offered by career development philosophy and approach such as “Getting Your Next Job through Informational Interviewing” or “Discovering Your Career Path Using the Strong Inventory.” Courses range in price and quality. You can find classes and workshops in your area by contacting your local community colleges and universities, career centers, or by searching the Internet with keywords appropriate to the topic you desire to learn about.

If you are signing up for workshops or classes, ask to talk to others who have attended the course or workshop. Some workshops provide lectures, others provide tools, and still others offer hands-on, real-life experiences. Make sure you will be getting the type of information you desire and in the format that will help you best, before signing up for a class or workshop.

Personal Counselors, Coaches, and Consultants

For some people, the quickest, easiest, most efficient way to dig into their career development or job search is to hire someone who can provide personalized help. Counselors, coaches, and consultants provide individualized and group assistance to fit your specific needs. They keep updated on career development tools and techniques. They follow career trends to provide insights into what is and is not working for career development and job search, and they incorporate the best resources available into their work with you. If you enjoy one-on-one learning; a customized approach; having ongoing, professional feedback and support; and desire both flexibility and expediency in scheduling; a personal counselor, coach, or consultant would be a wonderful choice for helping you develop, transition, or select a career.

You can find personal career counselors, coaches, and consultants in your area through many resources. Colleges and universities often can provide a referral; unemployment offices frequently have resource lists; the telephone book and internet may have listings; your newspaper may highlight career workers in your area; and most importantly, friends, family, and co-workers often provide the most valuable resources of all.

If you are hiring a personal career consultant, ask for references and either speak with the references or read what the references say about the career professional’s services. Be sure to ask career professionals about their experiences providing the specific career services that you require. You might also inquire about their experiences in different industries and in using a variety of career development tools. Because counselors, coaches, and consultants in career development all have varying degrees, employment background, and specialties, it is important to know what you are getting when you hire personal assistance. Pick a career development professional who offers you resources and support in a manner most helpful to you.

Having choices in career development doesn’t mean that you have to use only one option. You can combine self-help reading with workshops catering to specific skill development. You can use computer-based assessments for helping you identify your skills and then use that information along with a career consultant to develop your personal brand and market. You can also get support and encouragement from a career counselor while attending workshops and taking online courses to enter a career path. The glory of having career development choices is that there is a tremendous amount of help available for you to identify, enter, or transition into a new career. What’s stopping you now?