Client Selection: Clarity or Confusion? Success or Struggle?

by Sharon McCormick

"You're Hired!" Those are words we love to hear from prospective clients that decide to select us and retain our services as Career Counselors. "You're Fired!" Those are words I have never said to a current client, but I might have to re-think this due to some recent bizarre experiences with an unusual client. Please let me know what your thoughts are as Private Practitioners regarding your experiences, successes or struggles with taking on clients. I want to thank NCDA for giving us Private Practitioner's a venue to share experiences to better be equipped for future situations.

Because this person never became an actual client, I am able to discuss this situation. The names have been changed to protect the person's identity, and the identity of the other Private Practitioner involved.

I had an interesting gentleman call me to tell me that he received my information off of the Internet, through NCDA. He was from a different state and needed career counseling help. He started off by stating negative things about my colleagues in the career counseling field, all of whom he assured me he contacted from NCDA as well. He gave me specific examples and seemed very disappointed in all his previous interactions.

He had some other professionals to "interview" over the phone and if he was still interested in discussing my services further, he would call me back. A month went by, and he called me back. This gentleman, who I'll call fictitiously Mel, told me that he
"found another practitioner to help with his career counseling and initial goal-setting," and that he "wanted her and I to work together and conference-call to discuss him and his career needs extensively." I was chosen by him, he informed me, to write his resume. He stated that he was certain that the other lady, whom I will call "Sarah" was better-qualified to set his initial goals, and provide his career counseling, and that I was better-qualified to write his resume. He added that he ascertained this by speaking with us both for an hour apiece.

I stated that I appreciated his calling me to help him, and that I would like to speak to Sarah and get her input on this "arrangement." He was quite eager to get started on this, but I re-stated the desire to process this with Sarah before agreeing. Mel was surprised that I didn't readily agree to his request.

I spoke with Sarah and we agreed that even though this was an unusual situation, we would be glad to work together to help the client. She spoke more in-depth with Mel. After that, Sarah and I spoke further and shared our concerns. We were concerned about the following points:






Sarah has upcoming surgery and didn't feel that she could give him the time or attention he needed, so when he "demanded to know many sessions she wanted" to have, she told him "none," she had to decline him as a client due to her upcoming medical needs.

Mel called me and told me he was confused by Sarah and didn't know what to do next. He wasn't sure what his goals were, even after talking with her, and couldn't come to me yet as he wasn't ready for me to do his resume.

Mel kept asking me career counseling questions over the phone, but of course, he hadn't HIRED me as his Career Counselor, so I politely referred him:



I followed-up with Sarah to give her whatever information I had to coordinate any future services. Mel sounded unhappy with my referrals, but I couldn't think of any other responsible way to take care of him.

Next time I receive a call like this one, I will continue to be very clear with my services and parameters of service. In addition, I will be clear with clients about what I need from them to take them on as clients. I was surprised by this situation, but each occurrence is an opportunity for me to refine my goals, purpose and boundaries. I thought at this point in my career, I would have seen or experienced everything. I guess not!

Sharon McCormick, MCC, NBCCC, has 15 years experience in career and clinical counseling, consultation, curriculum development, program creation, teaching, training, and workforce development. She has an MS in Counseling from Indiana University, and holds numerous other certifications and memberships. She can be reached at Email: career1@ij.net

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