Career Counselors, Coaches Offer Support
As a psychology major and student-athlete at Vanderbilt University, Lea Lafield was involved in a counseling program that offered a sports niche for its students. For her, a specific program such as that helped her get the attention she needed in a concentrated way.
Now, she finds herself on the other side of the table. Lafield serves as both a career counselor and career coach at the University of Missouri’s Career Center.
Mizzou offers one of the country’s top five Ph.D. counseling psychology programs, according to a ranking by U.S. News and World Report in 2012. The program provides students and faculty, along with community member, with one-on-one help in navigating their lives, starting with major career decisions.
Amanda Nell, the senior coordinator for online career services and student employment at MU, co-teaches the coaching class for master’s students with the Career Center’s director Joe Johnston.
“Around career and major decisions there is sometimes stress and anxiety,” says Nell says, who adds that career choices might seem intimidating, but the counseling and couching programs help people manage the stress.
While there are similarities, career coaches and career counselors serve different functions. Coaches guide and motive their clients.
“You might already have a specific career goal in mind,” Nell says. “The coaches can help you stay on track and be accountable for things such as deadlines.”
Coaches provide the resources and encouragement needed to achieve specific career-related goals.
On the other hand, career counselors are trained to deal with emotional distress that arises from career and general life issues.
“We deal with emotional and mental issues that involve career-related decisions,” says Lafield, who is finishing up her master’s of education degree and plans to pursue her Ph.D. in counseling
Counseling is centered on the emotions that surround the career process in order to identify specific skills and values, whereas coaches work more with motivating clients to achieve a specific goal.
As both a counselor and coach, Lafield describes the programs as being built around a model of positive psychology that helps people to reach their maximum potential. “Your career influences every aspect of your life,” she says.
Mike Koertel, a fellow career counselor and coach, makes it clear to his clients that they are free to discuss any concerns. That approach is supported by the Career Center’s resources of self assessments, books, handouts and staff of paraprofessionals who can further help cement goals in the career-decision process.
“I get up every morning just so I can listen to people,” Koertel said, “I really enjoy sitting with people and learning about them.”
Each semester, around 75-85 clients utilize the MU Career Center’s counseling and coaching services. Well over 50% of counseling clients, Lafield says, come in for career-related issues and end up exploring personal issues that have affected and will affect their future.
The counselors work under the supervision of a licensed psychologist and usually meet with students once a week throughout the semester. The program is free for students and $25 for community members for a four-month pass to the center’s resources. The fee can be waived if a financial need is present.
Lafield has seen her clients clarify their interests while making substantive progress toward their goals if not achieving it fully.
“It’s all collaborative,” she explains. “Our department’s job is to give back to the university and the Columbia community.”