Career counselors working in private practice typically provide services to individual and organizational clients. The services most often rendered to individuals include assistance with career decision making and planning, coaching, and securing employment. Organizations most often retain private practitioners to assist with staffing decisions, developing succession plans and programs, and outplacement.
Many career counselors’ private practices evolve and are market driven. Some have, for example, developed specialized practices related to corporate employment selection (evaluating candidates being considered for new hire or promotion), partner relocation (assisting “trailing partners” in dual-partner relationships with career transitions after their partners’ job transfers necessitated relocation), and forensic expert services (providing analyses in disputes related to earning capacity). A counselor’s talents and interests—along with local market needs and other business factors—typically shape the complexion a private practice assumes.
Private practice services are rendered on a fee-for-service basis and in addition to providing services counselors operate for-profit businesses. Since a practice’s viability depends upon a counselor’s ability to consistently maintain a business volume that generates fees higher than costs while also allowing the counselor to realize compensation goals, private practitioners must be astute businesspeople. As in any business, the delivery of quality services, marketing, pricing, operations management, and other business functions are central to private practice success. Simply put, a private practice career counselor must be skilled technically, professionally, and entrepreneurially.
Because private practitioners must be competent businesspeople and have experience in a for-profit business, preferably in a consulting organization, business-related training is also recommended. Most career counselors transition into full-time private practice via part-time initiatives, after having maintained another, allied, source of employment. They then transition into full-time private practitioners as their practices become established. This helps minimize risk and enables practitioners to adapt resources and business development strategies as market factors are tested. A sound business plan, with ongoing refinement, is essential to career counselors considering private practice venues.
Clients who seek private practitioners’ services can greatly benefit from specialized, on-demand, and individualized career development assistance—provided a competent, ethical practitioner renders the services. Many unqualified individuals, however, purport to offer quality career guidance services. Consumers are cautioned to conduct due diligence before engaging a private-practice career counselor. The National Career Development Association maintains guidelines to help consumers select appropriate services and to understand standards of practice essential to effective service delivery.
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