Should an effective Career Consultant have experienced Unemployment to be Empathetic to his clients?

Recently, after spending close to 15 years, working with Executives, Vice Presidents, Directors and Senior Management who are in career transition as a result of downsizing, layoffs, moving to a new city or other personal situations, I reflected whether my own experiences with unemployment, have made me a more empathetic Career Consultant.

Growing up in industrial Cape Breton, in the province Nova Scotia in the 1970′s and 80′s, I witnessed the hardship that unemployment can have on families and the community. Although, my father was a dentist, who was self-employed, I observed first hand the impact that layoffs had on everyone – either directly or indirectly as a result of layoffs. The town of Sydney, Nova Scotia had one major employer, the Sydney Steel Plant.

When layoffs were announced on the tv or radio news, I knew immediately how bad the news really was, based on the look on my father’s face. Announcements of more unemployment meant that more people would have difficulty paying their bills. Unemployed men and women, no longer had insurance benefits, and would be forced to make cutbacks including their ability and willingness to obtain dental treatment. My father’s income was often affected negatively by the layoffs.

Fast forward to when I graduated from my Bachelor of Commerce degree at the age of 22 years. After completing my studies, I moved to Toronto. Without a network in Toronto, I was challenged to develop the skills that were required to develop the career search tools that would help me to launch my career. Personally, I was experiencing unemployment for the first time. I prepared my resume and cover letter, sent them to many companies and organizations but I was frustrated when I received many negative responses. There was little support that was available or that I was able to access to help me. Needless to say, I experienced many of the emotions that many people in career transition feel.

As time went on, I, myself,  became an Employment Consultant, worked for corporate career transition organizations, community colleges, as well as other community based organizations. Through extensive training and being mentored by experts in the field, I developed the skills and competencies to be a Career / Employment Consultant.

Like any business, there have been highs and lows. Sometimes, business was busy and sometimes not. During the slow times, I was reminded of many of the emotions – including disappointment and stress – that I experienced when I moved to Toronto.

As an Employment Consultant, I have been on site to provide counsel to clients when they have received the news of a downsizing. I have observed the roller coaster of emotions that these clients have experienced from hearing the news of a layoff through their search and until they secured their new employment.

I have the skills, capabilities and characteristics to be an effective Employment Consultant.
Having experienced many of the challenges that my clients face, I naturally have empathy for their situations. I understand the challenges and range of emotions that they are experiencing as they search to secure work in their respective fields. From an online dictionary, empathy is the “Identification with and understanding of another’s situation, feelings, and motives”.

Empathy is a key requirement to be an Employment Consultant. He / she should be able or to do his best to understand the challenges, frustrations, difficulties and highs/lows of the work search.

Should an effective Career Consultant have experienced Unemployment in order to be Empathetic to his clients?

It is not a requirement that a Career Consultant have experienced Unemployment. It is, however, an asset.

As a result of observing the effects of unemployment on my clients and my own personal experiences with it, I can share with you that I am a very empathetic Employment Consultant.

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