A Day in the Life of a Career Advisor

by Dolores Naney

A day in the life of a career advisor can be satisfying, challenging and exhausting. "Each day is as varied and different as the number and types of clients I work with," said Sue Leonard, who is a Career Advisor in the Indianapolis branch of Bernard Haldane Associates, the career management company.

A Three-step Process

Bernard Haldane Associates' clients go through a three-step process when they are working with a career advisor. "The first step is the self-assessment stage. This is where we administer personality tests, interview the client at length, and gather the appropriate information for us to work with them to present a realistic picture of their strengths and weakness and likely areas of success in their careers." 
For instance, she recalls a client who had a successful career in medical sales, but wanted to work in the then booming Internet field. She loved the pharmaceutical industry, but wanted to find a way to combine both, so she left her sales job to start a web-based business. But not unlike many Internet start-ups, the venture ultimately failed and she began working with Ms. Leonard to determine her career options.
"She needed help figuring out which job would allow her to combine her interest in the pharmaceutical industry with her desire to work in an Internet-based capacity."
The client and advisor worked together in the second phase to create the foundation for the search. "At this point," said Ms. Leonard, "we identified target industries and specific positions that would match her 'ideal'." In addition, Ms. Leonard conducted role- playing situations, discussed networking options and practiced job interviewing and salary negotiating techniques with the client.

In the final phase, the client initiated the actual career campaign. "This is where the client's hard work was finally put to use." After identifying the type of position she wanted, Ms. Leonard's client ultimately found a position as a web-based sales trainer for a pharmaceutical company, meeting the career and job requirements she chose following her counseling with Ms. Leonard.
"Our clients commit to a three year relationship with us. And it's interesting and gratifying when they start a job because you have been a part of the process the entire time.
"The financial rewards are great, but it's also very satisfying on an emotional level when the people you're working with reach their goals."
Networking Leads to Jobs
Ms. Leonard has been a advisor with Bernard Haldane Associates for three years, after working for 20 years as a social worker in the non-profit, mental health sector. With two Masters Degrees, one in Social Work and the other in Public Administration, she has had a diverse range of jobs, most recently serving as a director of a homeless shelter. However, nearly four years ago when she was a newlywed, she felt the need to make a career switch that would give her more personal time and financial options.

Ms. Leonard found her position at Bernard Haldane Associates through networking. "I had a friend who worked for the company and who was familiar with my career experience, and suggested it might be a good fit for me."
Since 61% of new jobs are found through networking, Ms. Leonard's experience was not unusual. "I recently worked with a client who had spent the bulk of her career in one industry, but as a result of our work together, was able to change industries and find a satisfying job through networking." 
After going through training with Ms. Leonard, the client was able to translate the skills she had developed over the course of her career as a restaurant chain executive into a new position as an operations director with a cell phone chain. 
"She basically had the skills, but I worked with her on adapting those skills to a new business environment, and instructing her on networking techniques that ultimately helped her land the right job."
Ms. Leonard said that her counseling job requires the ability to work well with people in all situations, and people seeking a new job are often under a great deal of stress. "My background in social work was great preparation for this job," said Ms Leonard.

Varied Daily Responsibilities

The bulk of Ms. Leonard's day is spent meeting and talking with clients. "I set aside a block of time each day to meet with clients, each usually lasting 45 minutes. And in between meetings, I respond to client calls and emails." She often works a 12-hour day and is committed to fulfilling the company's policy of returning client calls on the same day. Counseling clients is a big part of her responsibility, helping them explore career options and job choices. 
"One interesting situation involved a young woman who had a degree in marketing but had worked as a salesperson at a cosmetic counter for eight years before deciding she wanted to change fields." The client wanted to use her degree to get into marketing, which would prove to be a difficult transition.
"She had an interview with a marketing director for a position as his administrative assistant. I coached her through two interviews on how she could persuade him to change the position into a marketing assistant job that would satisfy both needs, his for an assistant and hers for a career-tract position." Ultimately, she was offered the job, which the director changed to marketing assistant.

Anyone interested in working for a career management company would have to like variety and client interaction. They would also need to be skilled in advising and mentoring clients explained Ms. Leonard. And of course the desire to help others is the foundation of this career choice.

Dolores Naney is a vice president at R.C. Auletta and Company, a New York City public relations firm that provides public relations support to professional services businesses. She can be reached at DNaney@AULETTA.COM