[Thanks to EA for sharing her informational interview report on becoming a high school guidance counselor.]
1. Currently, my career goal is to become either a rehabilitation counselor or a high school guidance counselor. For my interview, I wanted to interview my old high school counselor, but unfortunately he retired so I chose to interview the new counselor when I was in high school who is now the head guidance counselor.
The reason why I chose to interview him is because I want to gain more insight as to what guidance counselors do and also what techniques they use to help a wide variety of high school students.
I didn’t know him personally, but I do remember seeing him in the guidance counselor’s office during my years at my high school.
2. My main goal for my informational interview was to gain more knowledge as to how guidance counselors interact day to day with students and also to find out if the courses I’m taking are the ones I need to get into this type of field.
3 & 4. The questions and responses are below:
How did you decide that you wanted to become a guidance counselor?
He stated that as a student he always struggled to find something that he was good at. He wanted to help other students who were in the same situation that he was in back when he was a student.
Is it something you always knew you wanted to do? If not, what made you want to be a counselor?
He said that at first he wanted to get into engineering, but when taking the courses needed to become one, he figured that that field wasn’t for him. Around that time, he reconnected with his college mentor who suggested becoming a counselor of some sort. He chose to become a high school guidance counselor.
As a guidance counselor, what are your daily duties and responsibilities?
His daily duties vary day to day, but for the most part, his duties include interacting face to face with students, helping students with figuring out what it is they’re good at, helping students come up with academic plans, running workshops that help students find what they love to do, and counseling students who are having issues and more.
What techniques do you use, and what do you say to a student who doesn’t want to succeed and doesn’t want your help?
As far as those students who don’t want guidance or help, he said that it is important not to give up on any student because that only demonstrates that he or she has no value and that they will not succeed in life. He stated that the best thing to do in a situation like this is to keep trying to talk to students who feel that they don’t want help and show them both the positives of school and the negatives if they don’t continue with school. He said that the more interest you show these students, the more potential it gives them. All they need is a little push.
What are the greatest challenges that you face as a guidance counselor, and how do you overcome those challenges?
One of the greatest challenges that he said he faces is trying to help those students who don’t want to be helped. He said that the way he overcomes this challenge is by trying to open up to students on a more personal level and make them feel that with hard work and effort, they can accomplish anything that they set their mind on. He also says that he uses extreme examples to show kids what they can become if they head down the wrong path and what they can accomplish if they stick with something that they truly enjoy doing.
What courses did you take in order to obtain a degree in this field? If you could go back, are there any additional courses that you would take?
As far as some of the courses he took in order to obtain a degree in this field, he said that he took a human growth and development course, an individual counseling course, group counseling, professional orientation, career development, theories, research and program evaluation and some other ones that he can’t recall. He stated that if he could go back, he would take an intercultural communications class to better communicate with students who come from different ethnic backgrounds. He said that the high school has become so culturally diverse and he would benefit a lot from a class of that nature.
What advice do you have for someone preparing to become a guidance counselor?
Some advice that he gave me is to be a good listener. He told me that many guidance counselors listen selectively only to those things that they feel like listening to, and he said that this makes some students not want to talk. He said listening skills is a key essential if I want to become a guidance counselor. He also said that you need to be sympathetic and be able to reason with students in order to be able to help them better. Also, my interviewee stated that at times not being able to help some students can be stressful and you have to be able to deal with some amount of stress.
What do you like/dislike about being a guidance counselor?
He stated that there are many things that he likes about his job. One of the things that he likes the most is the fact that he’s able to help students create academic plans, which helps guide students who feel lost. It essentially gives them a game plan, which tends to motivate students more. It makes them feel as if they’re doing something with their life regardless of what it is that they chose to do. He said that something that he dislikes about being a guidance counselor is the fact that he cannot help all students. He stated that he does everything in his ability to help all students but some students just don’t want guidance, which he says is something that he dislikes, not being able to help everybody.
What majors and/or minors do you recommend for someone interested in this field?
He recommended that I get a bachelor’s degree in counseling and minor in psychology and after, he said to pursue a masters in school counseling which is required by many states.
5. I learned a number of interesting and new things from this informational interview. I found it interesting how like my interviewee, I too struggled to find something that I’m good at which is why I’d like to help guide students like us because I feel that there are many such students.
It was also interesting seeing that he would choose a career like engineering first, maybe because of the money, but then he realized that money isn’t everything and he would get more of a satisfaction from helping kids. Satisfaction is very important when searching for a career that works for you.
Something new that I found out was that school counselors don’t only help students with their curriculum but also run workshops which help students while in groups.
I found it interesting how he kept emphasizing not giving up on students because if you’re persistent, they’ll feel like someone actually cares for their future.
I knew that having good listening skills is important when being a counselor, but I didn’t know that selective listening was not good for the most part. It’s important to listen without evaluating so that students actually feel like they’re being heard.
Also, I thought that a bachelor’s degree would be enough education but after extensive research and after talking to him, I now see them importance of obtaining a master’s degree and how the courses leading to it can shape you into a better counselor and person.
6. The informational interview helped me create a positive impression about this specific field. It provided essential information from a person who both loves what he does and is also great at it, which helped me understand and acknowledge that this is something that I truly want to do as a career. It showed me different elements pertaining to this type of job, some of which attract me greatly to becoming a guidance counselor or a rehabilitation counselor. I love helping others, especially young adults, and this is something that I can do as a guidance counselor.
7. If I could do it all over again, something that I would have done differently is ask him questions like, what’s the average pay you can expect in this field and how secure are positions in this field. Life in the Bay is getting expensive and I think that the information that I didn’t ask is essential to know if I want to live in the bay area. I also should have asked him questions about growth and promotion opportunities.
8. Yes, I sent an email thanking him for his time and the useful information that he provided that has helped me learn more about this field.