Career counseling and career guidance are similar in nature to other types of counseling, e.g. marriage or psychological counseling. What unites all types of professional counseling is the role of practitioners, who combine giving advice on their topic of expertise with counseling techniques that support clients in making complex decisions and facing difficult situations. The focus of career counseling is generally on issues such as career exploration, career change, personal career development and other career related issues.
There is no agreed definition of career counseling worldwide, mainly due to conceptual, cultural and linguistic differences. This even affects the most central term counseling (or: counselling in British English) which is often substituted with the word guidance as in career guidance. For example, in the UK, career counseling would usually be referred to as careers advice or guidance. Due to the widespread reference to both career guidance and career counseling among policy-makers, academics and practitioners around the world, references to career guidance and counselling are becoming common.
Related professional activities
Career counseling or career guidance includes a wide variety of professional activities which help people deal with career-related challenges. Career counselors work with adolescents seeking to explore career options, experienced professionals contemplating a career change, parents who want to return to the world of work after taking time to raise their child, or people seeking employment. Career counselling is also offered in various settings, including in groups and individually, in person or by means of digital communication.
Several approaches have been undertaken to systemize the variety of professional activities related to career guidance and counseling. In the most recent attempt, the Network for Innovation in Career Guidance and Counselling in Europe (NICE) - a consortium of 45 European institutions of higher education in the field of career counseling - has agreed on a system of professional roles for guidance counselors. Each of these five roles is seen as an important facet of the career guidance and counselling profession. Career counselors performing in any of these roles are expected to behave professionally, e.g. by following ethical standards in their practice. The NICE Professional Roles (NPR) are:
- The Career Educator "supports people in developing their own career management competences"
- The Career Information & Assessment Expert "supports people in assessing their personal characteristics and needs, then connecting them with the labour market and education systems"
- The Career Counsellor "supports individuals in understanding their situations, so as to work through issues towards solutions"
- The Programme & Service Manager "ensures the quality and delivery of career guidance and counselling organisations' services"
- The Social Systems Intervener & Developer "supports clients (even) in crisis and works to change systems for the better"
The description of the NICE Professional Roles (NPR) draws on a variety of prior models to define the central activities and competences of guidance counselors. The NPR can, therefore, be understood as a state-of-the-art framework which includes all relevant aspects of career counselling. For this reason, other models haven't been included here so far. Models which are reflected in the NPR include:
- BEQU: "Kompetenzprofil für Beratende" (Germany, 2011)
- CEDEFOP "Practitioner Competences" (2009)
- ENTO: "National Occupational Standards for Advice and Guidance" (Great Britain, 2006)
- IAEVG: "International Competences for Educational and Vocational Guidance" (2003)
- Savickas, M.: "Career Counselling" (USA, 2011)
Professional career counselors can support people with career-related challenges. Through their expertise in career development and labor markets, they can put a person's qualifications, experience, strengths and weakness in a broad perspective while also considering their desired salary, personal hobbies and interests, location, job market and educational possibilities. Through their counseling and teaching abilities, career counselors can additionally support people in gaining a better understanding of what really matters for them personally, how they can plan their careers autonomously, or help them in making tough decisions and getting through times of crisis. Finally, career counselors are often capable of supporting their clients in finding suitable placements/ jobs, in working out conflicts with their employers, or finding the support of other helpful services.
It is due to these various benefits of career counseling that policy makers in many countries publicly fund guidance services. For example, the European Union understands career guidance and counseling as an instrument to effectively combat social exclusion and increase citizens' employability.
Frank Parson's Choosing a Vocation (1909) was perhaps the first major work which is concerned with careers guidance. While until the 1970s a strongly normative approach was characteristic for theories (e.g. of Donald E. Super's life-span approach) and practice of career counseling (e.g. concept of matching), new models have their starting point in the individual needs and transferable skills of the clients while managing biographical breaks and discontinuities. Career development is no longer viewed as a linear process. More consideration is now placed on nonlinear, chance and unplanned influences.
There is no standardized qualification for professional career counselors, although various certificates are offered nationally and internationally (e.g. by professional associations). The number of degree programs in career guidance and/or career counseling is growing worldwide. The title "career counselor" is unregulated, unlike engineers or psychologists whose professional titles are legally protected. At the same time, policy makers agree that the competence of career counselors is one of the most important factors in ensuring that people receive high quality support in dealing with their career questions. Depending on the country of their education, career counselors may have a variety of academic backgrounds: In Europe, for instance, degrees in (vocational/ industrial/ organization) psychology and educational sciences are among the most common, but backgrounds in sociology, public administration and other sciences are also frequent. At the same time, many training programs for career counselors are becoming increasingly multidisciplinary.
Finding a career counselor in the United States
In the United States, the designation, "career counselor" is not legally protected; that is, anyone can hang out a shingle and call themselves a career counselor. However, CACREP, the accrediting body for counselor education programs requires that these programs include one course in career counseling as a part of the coursework for a masters in counseling.
The National Career Development Association (NCDA), the credentialing body for career counselors provides various certifications for qualified, career counselors. For those, university trained, counselors and/or psychologists who have devoted a certain number of years to career counseling and taken specific coursework, it offers a Master Career Counselor (MCC) credential. The National Career Development Association is the only professional association of career counselors in the United States that provides certification in career counseling.
Professional career guidance centres
There are many career guidance and counseling centres all over the world. They give services of guidance and counseling on higher studies, possibilities, chances and nature of courses and institutes. Also that these services are offered either fixing up a meeting with the Experts or having telephonic conversations with the guide or even the online guidance which is very common these days with the people getting services on click of their mouse. There are many such service providers all over the world providing online counseling to people about their career or conducting a psychometric test to know the persons aptitude as well as interests.
Career testing and Assessment
People who participate in career counseling can benefit from the use of aptitude tests, or career testing. Career testing is often done online and provides insightful and relatively objective information about which jobs may be suitable for the test taker based on combination of their interests, values and skills. Career tests usually provide a list of recommended jobs that match the test takers attributes with those of people with similar personalities who enjoy/are successful at their jobs. There are various ways to test an individual for which field he is suitable, psychometric testing being one among them.
Psychometric testing covers a wide range of skills, interests and values of people and can be of use in career counseling in different ways. For example, the information from such tests can be of help for the professionals who mentor, coach or counsel individuals. With psychometric testing, there is no pass or fail, but the quality of the information won from the tests can vary. Psychometric testing uses in-depth psychological profiles to assess personality and intellectual levels. Different test companies use different theoretical approaches to testing, such as the psychometric approach, the psychodynamic approach, the social learning approach and the humanist approach. Different test companies have their own methods of testing, some of them being protected with copyrights. Usually, psychometric testing uses multiple sets of questions relating to personality type, how the test taker would handle aspects of work and home life, what his or her goals are for the future and his or her strengths and weaknesses. If the test taker is honest and the employed tests follow scientific standards, the results should be fairly accurate and useful for career counseling activities.
In the United States perhaps the oldest testing tools include the Strong Interest Inventory.
One of the major challenges associated with career counseling is encouraging participants to engage in the process. For example, in the UK 70% of people under 14 say they have had no careers advice while 45% of people over 14 have had no or very poor/limited advice.
In a related issue some client groups tend to reject the interventions made by professional career counselors preferring to rely on the advice of peers or superiors within their own profession. Jackson et al. found that 44% of doctors in training felt that senior members of their own profession were best placed to give careers advice. Furthermore, it is recognised that the giving of career advice is something that is widely spread through a range of formal and informal roles. In addition to career counselors it is also common for psychologists, teachers, managers, trainers and Human Resources (HR) specialists to give formal support in career choices. Similarly it is also common for people to seek informal support from friends and family around their career choices and to bypass career professionals altogether. Today increasingly people rely on career web portals to seek advice on resume writing and handling interviews; as also to research on various professions and companies. It has even become possible to take vocational assessments online.
- Industrial and organizational psychology
- Careers Advisory Services
- Career Guide
- Enneagram of Personality
- Holland Codes
- Career development
- Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
- Occupational Outlook Handbook
- Personality psychology
- Standard Occupational Classification System
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