Job counselors stay busy HOWARD COUNTY BUSINESS

November 26, 1992|By Ann Ellis | Ann Ellis,Contributing Writer

If there were a doubt that this recession is different -- or enduring -- the Johns Hopkins Career and Life Planning Center ** and the non-profit Careerscope in Columbia have the white-collar clients to prove it.

Both have counseled a steady flow of professionals looking to move up, to find something more secure in an unsettled economy, or find jobs to replace the ones they just lost.

"This summer, we had more clients than we could handle," says Hopkins center director Kathy Bovard. "We're seeing people who are being forced to make a transition before they chose to. Often, they're employed, but are expecting to be laid off, or concerned about their industry.

"There really isn't any 'typical' client. We've seen everyone from doctors and lawyers to support staff people who want to move into management. Most people rate themselves managerial or administrative," Ms. Bovard said.

At Careerscope, located in the Harper's Choice Village Center, the story has been much the same, says director Ann Sim.

"Many of the people we see at orientation sessions are victims of layoffs, and in a variety of fields -- computer sales, insurance, construction, and more," says Ms. Sim. "The market is being flooded with mid-management professionals as companies flatten the hierarchy. So these people are using their skills on a temporary or contractual basis because these companies aren't creating new jobs but will hire part-time workers."

With its move to the Columbia Gateway Center in August, the Johns Hopkins center joined Careerscope, the 15-year-old non-profit career counseling center, in offering seminars and individual counseling.

But the two centers offer different counseling techniques and assessment methods.

"The life planning approach differentiates us from other counseling programs," Ms. Bovard said. "We examine the worker role and its impact on many other roles in a person's life, like that of parent, volunteer, and spouse. Once we bring all of these factors into the discussion, we might find self-esteem issues, personal problems, or other issues that become barriers to career decisions."

Although the number and format of counseling sessions vary, based on a client's needs, the initial meeting is a 1 1/2 -hour session used to discuss the client's expectations and goals. Clients are charged $70 an hour for counseling.

"The focus is on self-assessment and the career decision-making process. We discuss career-related interests, values, and skills, then combine resources and a plan of action appropriate to the individual's goals," Ms. Bovard says. "Some people come to us for two sessions, some for two years."

The client and counselor then develop a counseling program based on information gathered during the initial interview. "The number of counseling sessions depends on where a person is in the process. Some clients have clearly defined goals, and just need help marketing themselves. The client is the final decision-maker. Our role is that of a guide, to generate options. No program can guarantee decisions," Ms. Bovard says.

The Hopkins center offers assessment tools designed to reveal patterns of interests, related career choices, personality types, values, and other characteristics. A career resource library, computerized job bank, guidance and information system are also available for clients.

"The terms 'career and job' don't always suggest full-time, paid employment anymore. People are looking at part-time options, retirees want new careers and non-traditional ways to stay involved, and some people who have achieved success in a career are looking for more personal reward in their job," Ms. Bovard says.

The increased need for job satisfaction also is an emerging trend at Careerscope, says Ms. Sim.

"People are looking for gratification in their work. Frequently, men are expressing the need for more family time, less traveling, and other needs traditionally expressed by women," Ms. Sim says.

The Careerscope program focuses on two components: life-work planning and job search tactics, mostly in seminars and classes. Opened in 1975, the center offers a peer-counseling program designed to evaluate skills, values, and goals. The program aims to assist clients with career research, confidence-building and FTC making decisions. Clients pay small fees, usually between $15 to $30 for workshops and seminars.

Careerscope draws from a pool of approximately 30 volunteer counselors. "Our counselors come from a variety of backgrounds, which brings more to our clients. This diversity gives them broad access to different professional environments," Ms. Sim says.

For more focused clients, job search workshops examine specific topics like resume writing, interviewing, self-confidence or how to get federal government jobs. Careerscope also offers several free orientation sessions each month.

"People are looking for a listener. It's not an easy process for anyone. We provide reassurance, process, structure, support, and motivation. But, ultimately, clients get out of the program what they put into it."

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