Whether career counseling happens one on one or in a group, it begins with establishing a rapport with the client(s), and seeing if career or another kind of counseling is needed.

Brammer and Shostrom pointed to three kinds of career counseling goals:

1. Validating choices clients have already made
2. Clearing up career goals
3. Learning more about themselves and the working world in order to make better decisions

Herr and Cramer understand career counseling as proceeding from these eight refreshing assumptions:

1. Choices can be influenced by things beyond our control.
2. Faced with career decisions, clients don't get or absorb all available information.
3. In counseling, clients will only make decisions that will help them meet their goals
4. Decision-making is usually judged by process rather than outcome.
5. People can be taught to make effective decisions.
6. Intervening factors unknown to both client and counselor can sabotage counseling.
7. For unknown reasons, different clients focus on different factors in making decisions.
8. Though career counselors may want to believe otherwise, clients are not always motivated.