What does a careers adviser do? Key duties explained

Updated 17 July 2023

Being a career adviser can be one of the most rewarding jobs; landing your client their ideal job can be a great feeling. They have a broad spectrum of responsibilities, including their education options, what careers they might be good at, how to apply for jobs and other questions related to career development. If you're interested in becoming one, knowing what the job involves before pursuing training is essential. In this article, we cover the key skills that make a great careers adviser.

What does a careers adviser do?

In a broader sense, careers advisers help people explore their options in the working world, but you might wonder exactly, 'what does a careers adviser do?'. In schools, colleges or universities, a career adviser helps students make career decisions by providing them with the necessary knowledge and skills to achieve their goals, whether long-term or short-term. They can also provide parents with information about their children's progress.

It's common for students to feel overwhelmed choosing a career path with so many options out there and a careers adviser helps guide them into a path suited to their skills and wants for the future. A career adviser also provides career guidance to job seekers, helping them develop resumes and cover letters, improving interview skills and overcoming obstacles that could prevent them from getting the job they want. No matter how many careers you've advised or how many different people you've helped find fulfilling careers, there are some universal tips that you can follow to become an influential adviser.

Key responsibilities

A career adviser has many responsibilities and duties. Whether you work in school, on a university campus, or at an outside-of-school non-profit organisation, you may work with various people on different projects. Some of the responsibilities of career advisors include:

Working with students

One of a careers adviser's top tasks is helping students choose what to study. This involves understanding their career goals and helping them weigh their options to make an informed decision based on what they find most rewarding or financially lucrative. They help these individuals build professional identities and understand how their interests and strengths fit into the larger world of education and employment. They also provide resources for students, prepare them for college-level courses and often participate in campus recruitment efforts by visiting high schools and presenting information about available opportunities.

Related: Guide to the best jobs for teenagers (young and old)

Working with jobseekers

Many job seekers are not students and there are many reasons why they may be out of work, looking to change careers or needing advice on how to progress in their industry. In addition to being well-versed in career advice, try to relate well to others. As a careers adviser, being friendly and personable helps you connect with those around you and offers your clients' helpful insights about themselves and their future goals.

Related: 12 important interview skills and how to improve them

Careers adviser skills

Since career advisors spend most of their time working with clients or students, most of the skills they possess revolve around their ability to work effectively with others. Although career advisors may work alone in a department, they still practise their management skills to ensure they can manage students. Here are some of the key skills that help careers advisers day-to-day:

Communication skills

Having good communication skills is important when working with people of all ages. Listen carefully to your client's needs while guiding them through their questions about education options. Communication skills are important for in-person meetings with clients and to ensure the job seeker is communicating in the best way with their potential employer.

Related: How to be a good communicator (16 steps for you to follow)

Time management

Working in an office or with multiple students means you may have good time management skills to ensure all your meetings run on time. Keeping schedules up-to-date is important; not only can it allow your student's parents or carers to keep up with what's going on, but it also reduces stress on all parties by making them aware of any changes. The same applies if you're working remotely. Good time management skills help minimise any issues that could arise from not being present throughout an interview process, for example.

Related: Time-Management Skills: Definition, Examples and Tips for Improvement

People skills

Careers advisers are good at creating relationships with their clients. There are so many reasons why someone may be looking for work, so it's essential to be flexible and understand each individual's situation. A career adviser may build trust and keep people coming back for more advice. Having skills like active listening can go a long way in ensuring you present your message effectively.

Related: Guide to people management: steps and skills for success

Negotiation skills

A careers adviser may also want to develop and improve their negotiation skills. If there's no job for your client, it's your responsibility to put them forward for an alternative role. Again, flexibility and understanding play a big part here, and assessing what is out there before putting someone forward for something else can help you explain why you're suggesting a specific role. Good negotiation skills can be crucial when speaking with potential employers on behalf of your client, as they allow you to ask about potential vacancies and negotiate better wages or conditions if needed.


Many students may need help to develop their skills and understanding of what's required in today's job market. Some may not even know what they want to do next after school, so asking open-ended questions can be helpful. It can take time for students to find answers that work for them. Some students who struggle in academic environments may even be rude or dismissive during career advice sessions, but ensure you are patient and let the student know you are there to help.

What makes a careers adviser stand out?

Many people focus on their academic performance, which is undoubtedly a vital part of being a careers adviser. You can succeed in becoming one if you have solid people skills, are good at reading others and know how to tailor your advice to them. It can be helpful if you have experience in counselling or have worked or volunteered with young people aged between 14 and 21 years old. Regardless of your background, there are some things that make a good careers adviser:

  • Ensuring clients understand what you do: It's important for career advisers to explain what they do and don't cover when working with job seekers. This communication can help motivate clients and set boundaries so they know what they can and can't expect.

  • Asking questions helps build relationships and trust: An experienced careers adviser may be empathetic with their client's situation, ask questions, listen closely and remember details about their story.

  • Keeping up with current events: Most students need information about today's working environment, which is constantly changing with new technologies.

  • Continuing education is critical: A lot changes so quickly in today's competitive business world. Learn all aspects of your profession so you can give out accurate advice every time someone walks through your door.

  • Networking with others in your sector: Even though you may work on your own, you also want to develop solid networking skills so you have a broad knowledge of careers and connections that can aid in finding jobs for your clients.

  • Thinking creatively: Offer career advice that an individual may not have thought of before and broaden their career goals.

Related: 34 work coach interview questions with sample answers

Who can be a careers adviser?

You don't need years of experience to provide valuable career advice, just a thorough understanding of what your potential client's needs might be. There are many different types of careers advisers, so it's important to do some research about which type is best for you. For example, you could consider becoming an independent career adviser who works for multiple clients at one time or a school-based adviser whose client base is local schools and educators.

You may even want to specialise in working with students from specific grade levels or backgrounds. It's key that you understand your own strengths and interests to work in a way that aligns with your values. In addition to reviewing what makes a promising careers adviser, make sure you fully understand all of their responsibilities before considering a career as a careers adviser. If something is missing from your checklist, you may benefit from building specific skills to become a careers adviser.


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