11 Essential Skills for Guidance Counselors: Defined with Examples

Updated 12 September 2023

A guidance counsellor is a certified professional that schools or universities hire to provide counsel to its students about career and personal decisions. They assess the students' abilities, weaknesses and goals to offer advice about their careers and also help to improve their study environment. If you are planning to work as a guidance counsellor, it is important to understand the necessary skills to become one. In this article, we outline skills for a guidance counsellor to have and ways to improve and highlight your counselling skills.

Related: What Is Career Counselling? (With Definition And Benefits)

11 Skills For A Guidance Counsellor

Here are some useful skills for a guidance counsellor to have:

1. Communication skills

Communicating well with students is a crucial skill for a counsellor. To offer their advice, they are ideally able to understand their students' needs, goals and emotions. Only then they can give insights that can help the student. Counsellors do so by conducting interviews and asking questions to the students about their education and their needs. This helps in avoiding further emotional distress for the students.

Related: Counselling Skills: Definition And Examples

2. People skills

A counsellor's responsibilities might involve guiding a student through months or years. To do so effectively, they constantly work on building long-term relationships with the students. They also work with an array of groups and colleagues and grow their contacts. Most importantly, being a sociable person and understanding the needs of others with empathy can help persuade the students to shift their mindset.

3. Professionalism

Right from their training phase, a counsellor's duties involve regularly following the ethical code of conduct. This includes maintaining a strictly professional relationship with their client. A good counsellor respects the client's privacy and keeps the information confidential. It is also important for them to make sure that their statements do not cause harm to the client's mental health in any way.

4. Patience

A part of a counsellor's work is accepting the fact that their desired results may not be achievable in a short period. Sometimes it may take months or even years to persuade a student to achieve their goals. It is necessary for counsellors to be patient in their approach and keep themselves motivated to work.

5. Authoritative nature

A good counsellor knows how to balance friendly behaviour with authority. There might be times when it is necessary for a counsellor to be firm and stop the student from indulging in unhealthy habits. If the situation demands, they are ideally able to take steps to guide the student away from risky practices as well.

Related: How To Write A Counselling Resume Objective In 6 Steps

6. Multi-tasking

Guidance counsellors are often in charge of school or college activities. They not only offer advice to students but also develop test schedules, complete admin tasks and meet college counsellors. To complete all these tasks, multi-tasking skills are necessary.

7. Evaluation skills

To guide the student about their prospects, counsellors usually conduct tests with the help of professors in the institution. A good counsellor works on evaluating these test results in a way that can assess the students' key strengths and weaknesses. Based on their evaluations they can offer advice on the kind of career paths available to them. The student might be sceptical and may limit their choices, but it is a counsellor's job to persuade them to expand their mindset and use their strengths to build their career.

8. Approachability

A good counsellor is warm and friendly not only to students but to their parents and teachers as well. This skill can help their students trust and confide in them about their concerns and worries. Students are usually overwhelmed with expectations and have doubts about their future. At such times, they are ideally able to approach their counsellor without any worries.

It is important for a counsellor to develop an excellent reputation with the students and develop trust amongst them. Developing a sense of humour can be very helpful in doing so. Telling some friendly jokes to make students comfortable or sharing some stories about their personal experiences can be a helpful practice. When a student gets comfortable with the counsellor, they may find it easier to open up to them.

9. Listening skills

Listening is the primary role of a counsellor. A good counsellor listens to students, parents and colleagues about their concerns. Listening is a crucial skill for any counsellor as they spend most of their time listening and assessing their clients' answers and evaluating based on the information they provide. It is necessary for the client to feel that their concerns are being heard without any judgement.

Related: Active Listening Skills: Definition and Examples

10. Empathy

There might be times when you may counsel students who are victims of bullying, body issues or family issues. In such situations, it is important for you to be empathetic to their problems and guide them with compassion. It is advisable to have an empathetic attitude when listening to them.

A school or college has students come in from various communities and financial backgrounds. It is a counsellor's priority to be empathetic to all of them and ensure that they are comfortable with themselves. Accepting diversity can help make students trust their counsellors and not feel secluded.

11. Flexibility

As a counsellor, you may come across clients with different opinions and views. A good counsellor respects everyone's thoughts and is flexible while hearing them. It is essential to develop this skill to ensure that you can build a therapeutic relationship with your client. Additionally, if a counsellor feels that they are not serving a client's needs correctly, it may become necessary to refer them to a counsellor who is a better fit for the client.

Related: Learning Styles For Career Development

How To Improve Your Counselling Skills?

Follow these steps to improve your counselling skills:

1. Work on your interpersonal skills

There are many ways of improving your interpersonal skills as a counsellor. Body language and listening skills are two key parts of interpersonal skills, and you can develop these skills by being confident and listening to people's opinions before voicing your own. Things like smiling, making eye contact and relaxing your posture can typically signal to your clients that you are approachable, but as every person is different, ensure you take the time to observe your clients' body language and mirror it appropriately. There are also image management and soft skill courses that you can take to improve these skills.

2. Learn about new developments in the industry

There are constant changes in the field of education and as a guidance counsellor, it is important for you to be aware of them. You can do so by researching new courses online or talking to other professionals in your field. Ensure that you keep yourself up-to-date with new changes and developments in the industry.

3. Get certifications

You can consider getting certifications in the field of counselling to further develop your skills. There are many short-term courses available that can help you specialise in certain topics within the industry. Adding these to your resume can also help you secure a better job.

Related: How To Become A Psychologist: A Complete Guide (With Steps)

Ways To Highlight Your Guidance Counsellor Skills

Here are some ways to highlight your skills as a guidance counsellor:

Add them to your resume

One of the most effective ways to highlight your counsellor skills is to add them to your resume. You can do so by highlighting your strengths and experience. It is advisable to support the skills you list with relevant experience. This justifies your talent, helps you impress your potential employer and makes your application distinctive.

Related: Professional Resume Samples To Help You Land A Job

Highlight on your cover letter

If you are including a cover letter in your application, be sure to mention your skills in the body of the letter. To do this, consider briefly listing your skills that are most relevant to the position to which you are applying. This can help to persuade the employer that your particular skills and abilities are most suited to the role and differentiate you from other candidates. Make sure you keep it brief and free of grammatical errors.

Mention them during the job interview

The job interview is another opportunity to showcase both your role-specific and interpersonal skills. Try to incorporate descriptions of your skills when answering interview questions. To do this, you may discuss experiences in your work history and how your skills helped you to succeed or overcome challenges.

Related: 48 Common Counsellor Interview Questions With Sample Answers


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