The Job Club Redux: A Step Forward in Addressing the Career Development Needs of Counselor Education Students

Article excerpt

The career development needs of counselor education students beginning a professional job search have not been systematically explored. Although job clubs have been linked to positive outcomes, there is no empirical evidence that they meet the needs of this group. The purpose of this study was to examine how counselor education students viewed a proposed job club intervention using focus group data. The findings suggested that students had strong interest in a group that emphasized empowerment and collaboration, offered predictable social support, and provided training in specific job search skills. Implications for counselor education and career counseling practice are discussed.

A recent position paper issued jointly by the Association for Counselor Education and Supervision (ACES) and the National Career Development Association (NCDA) strongly recommended that training in career development become a more central aspect of counselor preparation (ACES/NCDA, 2000). The authors of the position paper also advised counselor educators to incorporate "learning by doing" (p. 4) experiential strategies as a means of strengthening the career development portion of their curricula. Notwithstanding the many positive changes in response to this call for action, a review of the literature revealed that there has been limited focus on the career development needs of the very students trained by these programs. Without an empirically based understanding of these needs, it is difficult to design, implement, and evaluate experiential career development strategies targeting this population. We were particularly interested in the sets of skills and types of support required by masterVlevel counselor education students as they engaged in a search for their first professional position.

Since the concept of job search clubs was introduced by Azrin in 1974 (Azrin, Flores, & Kaplan, 1975), individuals have benefited from these specialized groups geared toward obtaining employment (Stidham & Remley, 1992). Although Azrin and BeSaIePs {1980) manual, referred to as the "bible" (Bikos & Furry, 1999, p. 31 ) of job search club intervendons, focused on assisting job seekers in general, more specific applications of this efficient and cost-effective methodology have been developed to address the unique needs of subgroups, including welfare recipients (Sterrett, 1998; Stidham & Remley, 1992), unemployed workers (Van Ryn & Vinokur, 1992), people with psychiatric disabilities (Corbiere, Mercier, & Lesage, 2004), and international students (Bikos & Furry, 1999). Results of these studies suggested that job clubs improved job search outcomes. Nevertheless, there continue to be unanswered questions regarding precisely how, why, for whom, and under what circumstances job clubs lead to these positive findings.

To better understand the processes and ingredients that have made job clubs successful, it is necessary to examine briefly the conceptual underpinnings of the model. The theoretical foundation of job clubs draws heavily upon behavioral and social learning constructs. An explicit assumption is that all participants are capable of learning more effective job search skills (Azrin & Besalel, 1980). Rather than using a one-size-fits-all approach, job clubs feature individualized curricula to empower the job seeker through information, training, and practice on specific aspects of the job search; through concrete expectations for tasks to be worked on between scheduled meetings; and through strong social reinforcement. Structured activities include brief lectures, demonstrations, and role plays. A group setting maximizes opportunities for members to learn from and help one another through the sharing of information and experiences and the giving and receiving of constructive feedback. A facilitator works with participants to create a supportive group climate. During a typical series of job club meetings, participants are coached as they develop resumes, cover letters, portfolios, networking strategies, job search plans, and tactics for successful interviewing. …

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