What is personal career guidance, anyway?



Before writing this blog, I spent a little time choosing the images on the left here, to reflect on what personal career guidance means to me.

I was drawn to these images because personal career guidance provides opportunities to:

  • Pause, look back, assess your current situation, and look forward to the future
  • Unlock and express career ideas
  • Discover, discuss, and evaluate potential career choices
  • Think about where you are heading and the steps and resources you need to get there

Personal career guidance offers much more than this, but these are the images that sprang to my mind. I thought it was worth sharing my rationale for my picture choice before I explain more about personal career guidance and what it can do for you.


Before defining and describing the benefits of personal career guidance, I want to share with you what I believe ‘career’ to be.

Not everyone believes they have a career. They might think they have a job or a series of jobs, or do work to make money. They might think that ‘career’ is a word that applies to people with a plan, who work in a well-known profession, or who have made a series of logical steps towards a long-defined goal.

I don’t believe this.

I believe that career is a word we can all use about how we spend our time, however we occupy it. Whether we spend our days learning, working, caring for others, contributing to our communities, or seeking our next opportunity, career is our word – a word we can use to describe our “journey through life, learning and work” (Hooley, 2017).

Whatever we do, we all have careers. Careers come in many shapes and forms. They are as individual as we are.

I believe that as we all have careers, we can all benefit from personal career guidance.

What is personal career guidance?

Personal career guidance is one activity within the career guidance family (CEC, 2018).

The Inter-Agency Working Group on Work-based Learning (WBL) (2019) defines career guidance as “services which help people of any age to manage their careers and to make the educational, training and occupational choices that are right for them”. WBL explains that career guidance can help “people to reflect on their ambitions, interests, qualifications, skills and talents – and to relate this knowledge about who they are to who they might become within the labour market”. 

Hooley, Sultana, and Thomsen (2020) describe career guidance as “a purposeful learning opportunity which supports individuals and groups to consider and reconsider work, leisure and learning in the light of new information and experiences and to take both individual and collective action as a result of this”.

Personal career guidance is one method of delivering career guidance. It takes place on a one-to-one basis through a structured conversion between you as the client and a qualified careers professional (Stewart, 2019), who can walk alongside you and support you in this important reflective space.

Why is personal career guidance useful?

In a fast-changing volatile context, we can’t necessarily assume we will make and then execute one career plan.

Even if we know ourselves well enough at the start of our career to make an informed and appropriate career choice – I certainly didn’t – life happens, things change, and plans don’t always go according to schedule or turn out how we think.

The world around us is constantly changing, throwing up the unexpected, requiring us to adapt and change while still moving forward. In light of this, our plans may need to change too, or at least adjust.

It’s not just the world that changes. We change too. I don’t know about you, but I am not the exact same person I was at 17, when I was making decisions about my future. My core values are the same, but my experiences have evolved how I think, what I want, and how I want to spend my time.

As we change, and the world around us changes, it makes sense that we may need support to navigate and manage our careers.

How can personal career guidance help you?

Talking things through on a one-to-one basis with a career guidance professional can help you to get clear on:

  • Who you are now (skills, qualities, strengths, interests, preferred learning style, decision-making style)
  • What is important to you now (interests, motivations, values)
  • What you want now (aspirations, goals)
  • What is possible now (opportunities, factors impacting career choice) 

A personal career guidance meeting can help you to:

  • Unlock, explore, and review your career ideas
  • Identify career goals that align with your skills, qualities, interests, and values
  • Discuss any limiting assumptions that may be impacting your career choices
  • Evaluate any skill gaps and make realistic plans to deal with them
  • Identify and address your career information needs
  • Find and access relevant sources of labour market information (LMI)
  • Make confident, well-informed, and realistic career decisions

What to expect from a personal career guidance meeting

Your personal career guidance meeting is a confidential, impartial, and non-judgemental space for you to explore and review your career options. It is focused on you and tailored to your personal needs.

It is a chance to think about where you are now, where you want to go, and what happens in between. It offers you space to think about the steps you need to take to move forward, and to identify the tools and resources you need for your journey. These might include self-awareness, the right mindset, qualifications, skills and qualities, experiences, decision-making skills, labour market information (LMI), a CV, LinkedIn profile, and your support network, for example. Career guidance can help you check what you have and identify what else you might need.

It is not just a packing exercise, however. Career guidance can identify and help you address barriers preventing you from progressing. It can help you understand yourself and your story better, preparing you to move forward. It can open your mind to new possibilities, and give you the confidence and positivity to embrace those possibilities.

Although the word ‘guidance’ may conjure images of someone leading you or telling you what to do, a good career guidance meeting is not and will never be about someone telling you what to do. You have the best insight on yourself, your situation, and possible solutions to that situation. As I mentioned at the start, the career guidance professional’s role is to work alongside you, helping you to explore and review options, clarify your goals, and plan for next steps.

You can find out more about what you can expect from a personal career guidance meeting with Sunrise Career Guidance here.

Reference List

Hooley, T. (2017) ’Redefining Career Guidance: Is it time to move on beyond the OECD definition?’ [PowerPoint presentation]. Symposium at #BERA2017. Available at: https://adventuresincareerdevelopment.wordpress.com/2017/09/06/redefining-career-guidance-bera2017/ (Accessed: 7 August 2020).

Hooley, T., Sultana, R., and Thomsen, R. (2020) Why a social justice informed approach to career guidance matters in the time of coronavirus. Available at: https://careerguidancesocialjustice.wordpress.com/2020/03/23/why-a-social-justice-informed-approach-to-career-guidance-matters-in-the-time-of-coronavirus/ (Accessed: 7 August 2020).

Stewart, M. (2019) Briefing Paper: Understanding the role of the Careers Adviser within ‘Personal Guidance’. Available at: https://www.thecdi.net/write/CDI_27-Briefing-_Personal_Guidance-_FINAL.pdf (Accessed: 7 August 2020).

The Careers & Enterprise Company (CEC) (2018) Personal Guidance: What Works? Available at: https://www.careersandenterprise.co.uk/sites/default/files/uploaded/1146_what_works_-_personal_guidance_digital_15-11-2018.pdf (Accessed: 7 August 2020).

The Inter-Agency Working Group on Work-based Learning (WBL) (2019) Investing in career guidance. Available at https://www.cedefop.europa.eu/files/2227_en.pdf (Accessed: 7 August 2020).