Not knowing what to do with your life is a pretty common narrative these days. Even more common, and equally frustrating, is knowing what you want to do, and not being able to figure out how to do it. Maybe you’re looking for a job, or maybe you have a job that “every girl would kill for,” but you can barely drag yourself to your desk/the set/behind the counter every morning. If you’re unhappy with where you are in your career, it might be time to call in some reinforcements and go see a career counsellor.

A career counsellor is basically someone who is paid to listen to you vent all the frustrations you usually foist upon those you love, but in the end, you’ll walk out with a plan and positive steps, not an outrageous bar tab. All of the conceptual ideas you have about your perfect work life will distill into a series of goals.

Shirin Khamisa, a career counsellor and life coach and the founder of Careers by Design, says that people who seek out her advice range from recent grads to people who have been working successfully in their fields for years. From the post-school panic (“Oh god, MAYBE SOCIOLINGUISTICS WASN’T THE MONEYMAKER I ALWAYS DREAMED IT WOULD BE!”) to the mid-career slump, a third party can always be helpful: Someone to give you a hand raking through a pile of skills, passions, and qualifications to find what matters.

Whether you feel like there are no options out there, or you’re faced with too many options and can’t decide what will make you happy, a sounding board can be exactly what you need. Khamisa says that different career counsellors take different approaches, so take your time to find one that fits with your personality, and makes you feel encouraged to take proactive steps in a way that works for you. Khamisa takes a structured approach, which she says is about collecting the “a-ha!” moments and translating them into action steps.

It’s all about figuring out what really excites you, and leveraging that into the world of work. Khamisa says so many of us are out of touch with our current goals and principles: we’re fulfilling dreams we had five years ago, or ambitions that have more to do with parental expectations than our own wants and needs. Needs can refer to what fulfills you in a day-to-day work environment, but it can also refer to those gaps in your skill set that are holding you back. A career counsellor can help to identify these gaps.

Think of your career counsellor as a real-live Googlemaps. You know you’re going somewhere great, you just need a hand figuring out how to get there.

Shirin is running a series of free workshops at the Ritz Carlton Spa on Jan. 21st and 25th on how to transform stress into success. All the info is here.

~ Haley Cullingham