Now and again I hear people say to me, “I’m sure I could do your job; it doesn’t look that hard.”
That comment is one I take with a smile and usually respond with, “Thank you! I’m succeeding then in making it look effortless when in fact it takes a lot of preparation, planning, skills, experience and mental energy. If you’re ready to put in all the effort to continually get better every day, why not?”
Like any profession, you’ll find Employment Counsellors of varying abilities; some strong, others learning the ropes, many improving and some stagnating and using out-of-date techniques. Why should this field be any different from others?
Let me share what I believe are some of the key qualities, skills and traits which many of the very best of us hold. It’s a list that’s open to debate, but here’s at least this professional’s take on the job from someone in the position. Please comment and indicate if you’re in the field now, in training to join us, receiving the help of an Employment Counsellor yourself or are considering the field. Dialogue and comments can be very productive!
- A good listener. While we hear similar stories from those we aid, no two people have exactly the same background and their path to the present is unique. The best of us remember that and listen attentively, picking up on the person’s interests, motivators, barriers real and perceived, hopes, goals and dreams. When we actively listen in the moment, we engage and establish credibility and hear what we’d otherwise miss.
- A positive influence. We often meet people in periods of desperation, frustration and hopelessness. It is imperative that we remind ourselves of the stress and pressure people are under. The faith they place in our ability to help, whether great or small, is what we must take and work with. There’s great potential in those we help and we must through our actions bring out the best by encouraging and above all providing hope. We must influence action with positivity.
- Enthusiastic. Ah if you know me you just know this has to be in the list. Enthusiasm is contagious and infectious. I think it safe to say that most if not all learners hope to be in the presence of a teacher or mentor who goes about imparting their knowledge with energy and enthusiasm. Enthusiasm means we embody and display the most desirable trait employers themselves are looking for in the people they interview: enthusiasm!
- Knowledgeable. Broadly speaking, all learners hope that those they learn from are sharing best practices, state of the art techniques and what is proven to work. The best of us are never above doing self-checks, reaching out to our colleagues, continuing to grow and learn ourselves. This is self-investment that keeps us relevant, imparting not what we believe works but rather what we know works; and yes there is a difference.
- Creatively flexible. Now here’s a key piece! The great in this profession know that when we identify a person’s needs, responding to them in a way that the person will both comprehend and come to own mean we may have to use a number of strategies to get the message through. How we were successful with one person doesn’t mean the same delivery will work with others. Our approach may have to be as unique as the people we help. Rather than expecting the learner to conform to our own style, we often change our approach to reach others where we find them.
- An appreciation of service. Just as we expect to receive great customer service when we are the customer, exceptional Employment Counsellors know that we are essentially service providers ourselves. We therefore practice good customer service skills: delivering on what we promise, working to satisfy both the customers wants and needs, sharing tips and advice, and assuring our availability when needed after service.
- Honest feedback. Great Employment Counsellors give honest feedback on what they see. Be it a résumé needing an overhaul, hearing self-defeating language in a mock interview or observing poor hygiene and clothing issues, a trusting relationship with those we serve will best allow us to provide the critical feedback that people need to hear. The best deliver this feedback from a helping perspective, choosing words with sensitivity but saying what needs to be said. Honest feedback can get to the heart of a problem quicker than dancing around an issue and wasting their time.
- Praising. The best praise when needed, ensuring the praise is legitimate, not fabricated. We find what is good in others, encouraging them to do more of what is working in a person’s favour. Positive reinforcement of good behaviours, praising effort even when success isn’t necessarily forthcoming, sets people up to eventually realize their goals. Remember, looking for work is fraught with ups and downs, highs and lows, raised expectations and dashed hopes. As an Employment Counsellor, you just might be THE one person they are hanging all their hopes on until they can once again be self-sufficient.
So there you have it: a short list of some the essentials needed to be not just a good Employment Counsellor but a great one. And why not aspire to be the best you can be? Whether a Coach or Counsellor, the best look to get better and see room for self-improvement always.
Written By Kelly Mitchell