imageContributing blogger John Long is a professional career coach and consultant in Atlanta who founded Two Roads Resources. He blogs at Atlanta Career Coach.

Q: I’m ready to work on a career transition and I think it would be a good time to speak with a professional. How do I decide who would be the best fit for my situation?

A: Now that you’ve reached a decision to seek professional guidance, it’s critical to identify someone who has the expertise to meet your needs. Depending upon the circumstances surrounding your career transition, you have several categories of professionals to choose from. But first, figure out if you need a counselor, career coach, recruiter or resume writer.

A professional counselor will focus, in large part, on the diagnosis, treatment and healing of psychological disorders, often stemming from the client’s past. A significant goal of counseling is on providing the necessary treatment to support the process of healing.

The counselor or therapist is the professional of choice for individuals dealing with feelings, emotions and unresolved psychological issues, which exist as barriers to positive development. These issues might include: anxiety, burnout, attention deficit, depression, conflict management and low self-esteem. Counselors have an advanced degree, they are licensed by the state in which they practice and many also maintain national certification.

A career coach will often guide the client through a process to asses their background, challenge boundaries, explore options, define goals and develop a plan of action. Coaching poses the following core questions, “Where are you now; and where would you like to be?”

Like counselors, many coaches are skilled at administering and interpreting formal career and personality assessments to gather current data on key areas such as the client’s skills, strengths, interests, values, and preferences. A career coach may also be highly skilled at developing targeted resumes and letters. The coach should maintain certification from a national professional organization and many have also completed a graduate program.

The recruiter’s role is to advise job seekers on the opportunities available in their field, then facilitate the match between candidate and company. The executive recruiter or search consultant can be retained on a contingency or retained search basis. The contingency recruiter is paid by the company filling an open position, while the retained search consultant is paid up front by the candidate. Recruiters can also pursue national certification from a professional body.

A professional resume writer will assist clients with the process of preparing their personal marketing materials, with a clear focus on targeted roles in a specific industry. The resume writer critiques your current documents and works with you to prepare materials highlighting strengths, expertise and professional achievements.

When selecting a professional to best fit your needs, consider their experience, credentials, affiliations and client recommendations. A complimentary phone consultation is standard practice and there must be a clear understanding of the terms of the services to be provided.

Beyond price and professional background, be sure to get answers to several key questions:

Will I feel comfortable interacting with this individual?
Will they represent my best interests?
Will they act with empathy?
Are they LGBT friendly or a member of the LGBT community?

Resources

National Board of Certified Counselors
Psychology Today Therapists Directory
National Career Development Association

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