Academic journal article Career Planning and Adult Development Journal

ENGAGING WITH SOCIAL JUSTICE: Applying Ecological Models of Career Development to Advocate for Client, Organization, and Personal Change

Academic journal article Career Planning and Adult Development Journal

ENGAGING WITH SOCIAL JUSTICE: Applying Ecological Models of Career Development to Advocate for Client, Organization, and Personal Change

Article excerpt

Abstract

Social justice calls on career counselors to promote and advocate for justice and equity in the workplace for all individuals regardless of gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and ability (O'Brien & Fassinger, 1999). Traditional models of career development are linear and person-centered in their approach to career development, often to the exclusion of individuals with values systems that diverge from traditional male majority values. Recently developed ecological models of career development challenge those individualistic models and integrate sociocultural influences into career trajectories to create dynamic new ways of thinking about work (Betz, 2002; Cook, Heppner, & O'Brien, 2002). This paper addresses how to apply ecological models to career counseling by conceptualizing individual career decision-making and satisfaction within larger cultural contexts. Specific strategies are recommended for helping clients access and persist in meaningful employment and helping employers improve workplace policies to be more inclusive of diverse life experiences.

Recent literature has called for integrating theories and principles of social justice into career counseling, including advocating for fairness and equity in the workplace by improving access for individuals at all levels of ability (Fouad & Byars-Winston, 2005; Hartung & Bluestein, 2002). Though ideals of social justice are not fully explicated in career counseling literature, regularly we are called to be advocates of social change (Fondacaro & Wienberg, 2002; Okocha, 1994; Rappaport, 1984). Acknowledging Rawls' definition of social justice as fairness and equity, counselors need to better understand the experience of marginalized individuals, assist those who lack privilege, increase access to educational and career opportunities, and advocate for change amongst those in power (Hartung & Bluestein). Because pervasive poverty, stereotyping, culturally-biased expectations, and discrimination meaningfully limit career development for many disenfranchised individuals, counselors must recognize and respond to socio-cultural forces that dictate options and choices for their clients (Fondacaro, 1995; Lee, 1989; Okocha, 1994). Based in an ecological approach, newer models of career development provide a framework for addressing individual client progress within those larger socio-cultural contexts (Byars & Hackett, 1998; Gomez, et al., 2001). Ecological models encourage counselors to empower clients, in particular marginalized clients, to develop satisfying work and consult with employers to create environments that foster equality and opportunity for all (Fondacaro & Weinberg, 2002; O'Brien & Fassinger, 1999). The current paper highlights the merger of social justice principles and ecological models, summarizing treatment recommendations based in recent research. Using these newer models to broaden our own worldview, to improve our counseling, and to guide employers, has the potential to meaningfully improve the lives of individuals who would benefit most from our advocacy and support. Based in Bronfenbrenner's ecological model, newer career development models grew out of qualitative research with successful minority women (Byars & Hackett, 1998; Cook, Heppner, & O'Brien, 2002; Gomez et al., 2001 ; Pearson & Bieschke, 2001). At the base of the ecological models is the incorporation of social and cultural influences on individual career opportunity, decision-making, and satisfaction (Cook et al.; Gomez et al.; Härtung & Blustein, 2002). Where traditional career development models, based in predominantly white male experiences, valued individual traits and performance; the newer models integrate culturally and socially diverse perspectives taking into account multiple layers of influence, including gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, familial needs, political forces, psychological factors, and socio-historical influences (Byars & Hackett; Cook et al. …

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