Being a career advisor is a dynamic and challenging role, and it’s one that is extremely rewarding. But it’s not for the faint of heart; you need to be at the top of your game by keeping up on the latest industry information, employment skills, and education opportunities.
In addition to this knowledge, you need to be able to engage with your clients to draw out information to help them through the processes of self discovery and goal setting.
In the Kuder Career Advisor Training® course, the key competencies include Helping Skills. In this course module, we cover two key elements of advising: questioning and listening.
As simple as questioning and listening may seem, there are serious considerations those of us serving as career advisors must take to bring these skills to the level required to help clients.
Keep in mind, one of the first tasks when we meet new clients is to help them effectively communicate with us, and, in turn, help them experience hope so they can achieve their goals and dreams. That’s pretty important stuff.
Questioning and listening are an art form, in some sense. They’re not just about collecting information or hearing what your client has to say. They’re tools in advising that help build strong relationships and draw out important information.
Questioning and listening are not mutually exclusive; rather, they’re a synergistic pair in the career advisor’s toolbox. We’ll look at them separately in order to understand and apply them in new and powerful ways.
In career advising, we know about open- and closed-ended questions, but they’re only the beginning. You can ask questions to clarify information or help the client elaborate on an idea or a story. You can use questions to explore and seek out examples of situations.
Questioning can be used as a method to help a client share more or even share less. In advising, questioning is a tool for helping the client understand themselves as much as it is a tool for helping the advisor understand the client.
Questioning is a skill that advisors need to refine and intentionally understand. Sometimes the best way to identify what you should do is to look at what you shouldn’t do, so let’s explore some questioning Do’s and Don’ts:
1. You ask questions that lead back to your own personal experiences. If you’re finding that you’re constantly sharing examples from your personal life, shift the questions you’re asking so they’re about the clients’ stories rather than your own.
2. You’re asking questions in an interrogative way. Make sure your questions aren’t lined with judgement but rather curiosity. Judgement leads to interrogative questions, which are not pleasant for the client and deplete trust, whereas questions asked with pure curiosity lead to open discussions and a trusting environment.
3. Avoid questions to prove you’re right. When you use questions to manipulate a client into a “told you so” situation, you lean back on judgement, which can break down the relationship and definitely create frustration for the client. This leads back to item #1. Questioning is about the client, not about you – keeping this simple idea in mind will help you be a better advisor.
4. Remember to keep your questions simple. Stick with questions such as “Could you tell me more about that?”, “What led to that?”, “What else?”, “How would you describe that?”, “How do you want to proceed?”, “What’s next?”. Keeping a bank of questions on hand will help keep the client conversation on track and help you in those times when you’re looking for a question.
Listening skills are equally as important – if not more so – than good questioning skills. Not only does listening establish trust, it helps you as the career advisor identify patterns, themes, and schemas from the client.
As a career advisor, you listen with intent to help your client. When you listen carefully and effectively, you gather data and information to help develop questions and reflect back what the client doesn’t – or can’t – see on their own.
Through listening and questioning, you help the client through their own personal discovery process. You help make connections and see the successes and challenges in their experiences.
Listening happens on various levels. Let’s explore some listening Do’s and Don’ts:
1. Avoid listening for yourself. As with questioning, listening is about hearing what the client has to say, not about how you can relate to what the client has to say. In some cases, you may have no experience in the client’s realm, so listening effectively and carefully will help you reflect patterns that are about the client rather than listening to share how you overcame a certain obstacle or had a similar experience. Although self-disclosure is powerful coaching tool, it’s meant as a technique rather than a method of listening.
2. Listen to gain depth into understanding. When you listen to ask better questions or identify additional information, you do it for the client and gain a greater depth into understanding and therefore helping them.
3. Listen to what’s not being said. Many times clients can’t clearly express the sequences and patterns of their life behaviors, transitions, and life situations. In this case, you need to listen for emotion, motives, and examples to help the client make connections in their own lives and experiences.
Questioning and listening set the stage for providing an excellent experience for your clients. In addition to serving as a base for understanding, they also create a framework for a plan.
Ultimately, questioning and listening effectively can help establish positive and productive patterns in client behavior and find connections to help create an action plan that leads the client to success.