Career Story: Guidance Counselor At A Suburban High School

Guidance Counselor At A Suburban High School

Job Title: Guidance Counselor

Type of Company: I work in a public high school.

Education: BS, Elementary Education •• M.Ed., School Guidance Counseling

Previous Experience: I taught eighth grade for four years after college, then took a two-year break to complete my master's degree, which included a year-long internship. I then secured a job as a high school guidance counselor which I've held for the past four years.

Job Tasks: The main purpose of my job is preparing students for life after high school, whether that involves going on to college, entering the world of work, or taking time off to explore different regions of the globe. I do "personality inventories" with my younger students (9th-10th graders) and send them to a variety of career-based websites, whose purpose is to get them thinking about what they would like to do in their post-secondary careers. The majority of students (approximately 95%) end up going to either a four-year or two-year college, so the bulk of my time is spent helping them research schools, secure help preparing for the SAT or ACT, create resumes, write college essays, fill in applications, and other college-related tasks.

When I'm not doing college and career counseling, I am meeting with students whose emotional/social/behavioral issues have begun to interfere with their ability to perform well in school. I consult with students regularly, sometimes to talk about their school work, and sometimes to talk about issues such as depression, anxiety or drugs. I also make referrals to outside agencies: local psychologists or drug rehabilitation programs. I attend and run numerous meetings with these students and their families and teachers, the goal of which is to help them overcome their challenges and meet their potential.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of my job is working with teenagers; no two days are ever the same, and every year I meet some of the brightest, most talented youth in our country. I always stay in touch with at least a handful of my students after graduation each year, and the bonds I form with them are what makes my job rewarding. It is also immensely satisfying to hear from students years later, thanking me for the help I provided them.

Unfortunately, the worst part of my job is often the adults. Dealing with parents can be challenging, as they often do not understand that the goal of a school is to help all the students maximize their potential, not just help one child -- their own. as a consequence, they often make unrealistic demands that high schools just cannot comply with. This self-absorption is widespread and afflicts teachers as well; they often have "tunnel vision" and can only see the importance of their particular subject area. When a student is struggling, it can be hard for teachers to see the Big Picture, and that can lead to conflicts. As a result, I often get involved in refereeing struggles between kids and stubborn faculty, which is never fun, and I often feel I am resented by a number of the teachers in the building. Essentially, when you're in guidance, you're the "middle man" (or woman) in a variety of conflicts, and that is not usually a fun place to be.

Job Tips: Getting teaching experience before becoming a counselor can be beneficial because it helps you to understand a teacher's perspective better, and it also gives you credibility with the teachers with whom you will later need to work. Or, working in a college's admissions office is also helpful, as it will give you insight into how the application process works, why certain individuals are chosen over others, etc.

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