Darlene Foster's Blog

Realistic Character Occupations: My Experience as an Employment/Career Counsellor

Posted on: September 6, 2020

To win readers over we need to write characters so authentic they feel like real people. How do we do this? By brainstorming a character’s backstory, personality, needs, desires, and their day-to-day world. Lucky for us, one aspect of their daily life is a goldmine of characterization: the type of work they do.  

Think about it: a job can reveal personality, skills, beliefs, fears, desires, and more, which is why Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi created The Occupation Thesaurus, a writing guide that profiles 124 possible careers and the story-worthy information that goes with each. To help with this project, I’m sharing my experience as an Employment/Career Counsellor below, in case this career is a perfect fit for your character!

You can find the full list of Contributed Occupation Profiles and check out The Occupation Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Jobs, Vocations, and Careers at Writers Helping Writers.

OCCUPATION: Employment/Career Counsellor

An Employment/Career Counsellor provides coaching to individuals searching for suitable and sustainable employment by assessing what jobs would be the right fit based on aptitudes, interests, education and capability. The job involves helping clients overcome barriers to employment, assist in creating effective resumes and cover letters, practise interview skills and develop a targeted job search.

The position often includes designing and facilitating job search and life skills workshops, as well as conducting assessments. Clients include people from all walks of life, abilities and cultural backgrounds. An Employment/Career Counsellor might work for a government funded agency, in an educational institution or be self-employed.


Although there are no strict education requirements for becoming a career counsellor, many employers prefer you hold a Bachelor´s Degree.

An Employment Counsellor Certificate is a definite asset as is a Job Club Facilitator Certificate.

I have a CERTESL (Certificate in Teaching English as a Second Language) from the University of Saskatchewan which was very helpful as I worked with job searching immigrants from many different countries.




Some unemployed people can be unstable and blame the counsellor for them not getting a job

Participants in workshops may come from cultures that clash and cause friction in the classroom

Clients may share unsettling information with their counsellor like suicidal thoughts or illegal activities

Some people don’t like being told their resume isn’t good or that they should dress better for an interview

Government funding can stop, causing the counsellor to have to look for work themselves

A client may become infatuated with his/her counsellor and stalk them

Career councillors can get too caught up in the client’s problems

A client may suffer from mental illness or have a history of violence


Employment/Career Counsellors risk becoming too close to their clients and have difficulty keeping their work and personal life separate.

It is a challenging career but also very rewarding, especially when an individual finds a great job due to the coaching, which turns their life around.

Due to the many ups and downs, people in this field can suffer from stress and stress-related illnesses.

Have any questions about this job? I’d be happy to answer. Just leave a comment below!

45 Responses to "Realistic Character Occupations: My Experience as an Employment/Career Counsellor"

That would be a rewarding albeit challenging job. Kudos for taking it on!

I worked as an Employment/Career Counsellor for 12 years before I retired. I loved the job in spite of its challenges.

I have worked with many young people entering the entertainment field, and there are some common mis-steps, such as a fear of taking a leap into the professional unknown…no one knows the future, but you can create a path for yourself and work toward it, as long as you are ready for obstacles and diversions…it is after all life!

So true. I recall some young people being so afraid of choosing a profession, saying “What if I don’t like it?” I said, “Then you can change to something else.” Nothing is carved in stone.

Thank you for this insight. Going forward I will take the time to write the backstory first. It makes a lot of sense.

It is really a good thing to do. It won’t all end up in the story, but at least you really get to know the character, which will determine their actions.xo

Darlene this would be an excellent resource for fiction writers I am certain. When I reviewed the skills that would be an asset for the role you held for 12 years, it seems like a broad range. I have no doubt you positively impacted many on their road to successful career choices.

It was a great job and it was so wonderful to see people get a good job. So many folks have the skills required, they just don’t know how to sell themselves. Assisting youth at risk and new immigrants was the most rewarding. I will always be thankful I had the opportunity to do this job.

That’s a neat book that I’m sure will help many. I’ve had close to 30 jobs since I was 16; I think this was training me to be a writer.

Excellent training for a writer!

What an interesting job you had! I’d love to know about a result that thrilled you. Maybe there were many.

There were so many. But helping a young person who had a tough start in life, find a good job that led to great opportunities which turned their life around, was always thrilling.

Those are real success stories. I’ll bet there are many who still remember the help you provided.

This does sound like a very rewarding career, Darlene. Thank you for sharing this.

You’re welcome. It was very rewarding and a great way to end 48 years of working a day job.

So what he wonders does this reveal about Darlene? What causes of friction contain the seeds of a cracking story? Mind you, I always thought being a lawyer would have been so much fun if only i could have avoided the need for clients, which probably says so much abouy me!

I haven´t yet written a story about being threatened by a drugged up teenager or interviewing someone who had just been released from jail for killing his wife. But my main character, Amanda, loves helping people and meeting folks from other cultures! 95% of my clients were wonderful people, but there is always that odd one…..

That’s true of my career in the law

Sounds like a fascinating job, Darlene, though not without its challenges. The Occupation Thesaurus is a great idea.

The Occupation Thesaurus is a great resource.

Fascinating resource for fiction writers….I can only believe you were incredible as a career counselor. Very informative post…thanks for sharing!

Thanks, Kirt! I loved my job which helps you be good at it.

I totally understand. I loved my job also and was very successful because of that!! My best to you!!

great share Darlene! I’ve never thought of that as a job for a character but its a neat job I think!

There is a lot you could do with a character in this profession. Thanks, Carol Anne.

Excellent share, Darlene! I love this series. I own The Emotion Thesaurus and find it quite helpful.

I know, I couldn´t be without my Emotion Thesaurus. Others in the series are great resources as well, especially the Occupation Thesaurus.

A great post, Darlene, and I’ll have to get the book. It sounds like a really helpful guide for writers.

You would like this one, Debra! Very useful.

What an interesting resource for writers! It looks as though it’s the information from the Occupational Outlook Handbook with the addition of “Sources of Friction” and “What Writers Should Know”?

It is so good and great for if you get stuck and need an idea. I love it!

What a fascinating and handy resource, Darlene. Thank you, I always find the thinking up of occupations a challenge, this would be a good addition to my ‘library’.

It is amazing how a job/career can define a person. This can give a writer ideas we may not come up with ourselves. I know I need all the help I can get! If you decide to include a Career Counsellor in one of your stories and need more info, let me know.

This is a great tool for writers. What a fascinating job.

It was a great job. I worked as a Career Counsellor to youth at risk for 7 of those years. They were between 16 and 29. And I would read to them sometimes and they loved it. Even the ADD kids sat still and listened.

What a wonderful thing you did for those young people! 🙂

Darlene, how interesting your job must have been. Inspiring and empowering people to find a job that would fit their skills. For sure a very rewarding job and with good, immediate results that could potentially change peoples lives for the better. I am sure it must have been incredibly challenging also. Great resource for writers to have a database of careers/jobs that can help to better define a fictional character. I had no idea such database existed, it makes sense.

It was a very interesting job, Gilda and 2 days were never the same. This is a valuable resource for sure. Nice to see you here. xo

I wouldn’t want to do this job, Darlene. We have to do career counselling in my job – well, we are supposed to do it – and I don’t like it at all. I feel that many people look for excuses for their lack of understanding and poor performance and try to blame external factors rather than taking responsibility for their own careers and actions with regards thereto. I won’t do it anymore. I enjoyed thinking about this, it helped me rally my own recent thoughts.

I completely understand. Part of my job as a career counsellor was to get people to take responsibility and recognize their strengths and weaknesses so they can find the right job for them. So many people are just in the wrong job and that´s why they don´t do well. Many people said they were in the job because their parents said they should do it! Career counselling shouldn´t be part of your job, Robbie but rather a Human Resource Department duty. You already have enough on your plate. xo

Fabulous article, Darlene – it’s really made me think about how an occupation could give rise to a fascinating character. What a fascinating career you must have had in that role – and so rewarding. Toni x

Thanks, Toni! So many ideas can be got from what a person does for a living. I loved that job.

Such a rewarding career, Darlene. As a result of your employment counselling, a young person finds work that can be life changing for him/ her. #senisal

Thanks, Natalie. It was great to be part of seeing them on their way to a good future.

[…] My Experience as an Employment/Career Counsellor […]

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