Nella Barkley: A Career Counselor Expands Her Own

For 12 years, Nella Barkley has been helping top executives point their careers in new directions. Now, the co-founder of Crystal-Barkley Corp., one of the nation's better-known career counseling firms, is busily going off in a few new directions of her own.

In the three years since co-founder John Crystal died, Barkley has expanded Crystal-Barkley's franchise with three new offices, a snazzy PC software package called Career Design, and coming next fall, the first in a series of books from Workman Publishing. The idea is not to make Crystal-Barkley the biggest firm around but to help it keep growing in tough economic times.

The software program has attracted the most attention. Selling for $100, it extends Crystal-Barkley's career strategies to thousands of people who wouldn't be able to afford its counseling services, which go for as much as $3,600. PC users perform various thought-stimulating exercises, and over the course of 40 or so hours at the keyboard, arrive at new ideas for their careers. Thanks to positive reviews and word of mouth, the self-published Career Design has been picked up by several top retailers, including Egghead and Babbage's. Barkley just signed a deal to sell the program in Australia and is working on versions for Britain and France.

Barkley, 55, began her own career as an independent management consultant. A graduate of Sweet Briar College, the Charleston (S. C.) native switched to career consulting in the late 1970s when she met Crystal, whose career strategies formed the basis for Richard N. Bolles' best-selling job handbook, What Color is Your Parachute? Today, the firm they founded is based in New York, with new offices in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Atlanta. It services about 500 clients a year. Next, Barkley would like to add a Houston office. But that ought to do it for a while. "We'll always be relatively small," she says. "We're not selling hamburgers, after all."

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