Q&A with a career consultant from Wilfrid Laurier University

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Stacey Campbell, a career consultant at Wilfrid Laurier University, is passionate about helping students make a successful transition from school to career.

Before becoming a career consultant, Campbell earned a bachelor of arts in psychology at Laurier and a master of science in couple and family therapy from the University of Guelph.

Q. How did you get into career counselling?

A. After four years of being a therapist, I found it very tiring.  I wanted to deal with more practical issues…it was a little bit of burnout.  An opportunity to be part of coordinating the arts and science co-op program at Laurier came up which exposed me to the career practitioner world.

I have zero interest in going back and being a therapist, but a lot of the issues a therapist deals with like family pressure and self perception, all come up in career counselling and are important for student career planning.  Working as a therapist has helped inform my ability to recognize when these issues come up in career planning. Our emotional well being is always going to be part of the way we approach our career plans.  The reality is that what we do defines us and when we’re happy working, were happier with our lives.  ”

Q. What type of personality do you think is best suited for this career?

A. Extroverted. You can have five or six appointments a day and a workshop.  There is very little down time…schedules are prepared for us a month in advance, so people who feel confined by structured predictability might not be happy.  Your schedule is largely determined for you. You have to take what is thrown at you.

Q. What other environments could a career counsellor work in?

A.There are a lot of opportunities at not-for-profits or career counselling with specific populations, like people with disabilities, newcomers to Canada or at-risk youth.

You could also work as a private practitioner.  That broaches into life coaching as well, which is essentially therapy for the professional self.  Sometimes private practices can receive funding from the government (e.g., Ontario Works).

Career counsellors could also work in career management firms, which aid the unemployed or recently laid off with career transitions.

Q. What is the best way to look for job openings in this field?

A.Most universities are unionized or have fairly structured employment policies, so check for job postings but always do your networking and info interviews to make contacts in the field.

Q. What is the best part about being a career counsellor?

A.The best part is having a student come in who is totally confused and to have them walk out the door with some nice ideas on possible career directions. Or, having a student come in saying that they’ve never had an interview, giving them some help, and a week later receiving an email from that same student telling you they landed the job.

Q. What is the worst part?

A.Everyone struggles with the pressure that a client can put on you to figure out their life for them.  A lot of people come in with unrealistic expectations.  A career counsellor is going to give some solid ideas, but we’re not saying you should go out and do HR, for example.  We’re saying, “Based on our conversation and assessments, this might be an idea, now read this about HR, speak to these people who are currently in HR, and then you can make an informed choice.”

Some people want to skip the leg work. This can take a lot of energy to motivate a (perhaps unmotivated) person to buy into the career planning process.

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