Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Getting Unemployed Job Seekers Back to Work: The Development of a Process Model of Employment Counseling Behavior

Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Getting Unemployed Job Seekers Back to Work: The Development of a Process Model of Employment Counseling Behavior

Article excerpt

The aim of this study was to propose a tentative model of employment counseling based on 31 critical incident interviews with supervisors, employment counselors, and unemployed job seekers. The incidents (N = 599) mentioned in the interviews were inductively used to develop a category framework describing behaviors of employment counselors. On the basis of the interviews, categories, and incidents within these categories, the authors proposed a 4-phase preliminary model of the employment counseling process. Findings suggest that employment counseling is a complex and dynamic process involving several distinct and consecutive steps focused on clients, governmental funding agencies, colleagues, and employers.

Job loss is one of the most important career changes in people's working lives (Wanberg & Kammeyer-Mueller, 2008) and one of the top 10 traumatic life experiences (Spera, Buhrfeind, & Pennebaker, 1994). Unemployment has large psychological and health costs for the unemployed individuals as well as large economic costs for these individuals, their families, communities, and nations, including individuals' loss of earnings, reduced national productivity, and costs of social security programs and employment services.

Accelerated reemployment could yield significant benefits for national economies as well as for individuals' finances and well-being (McKeeRyan, Song, Wanberg, & Kinicki, 2005). Previous research has shown that specific reemployment training programs are effective in speeding reemployment. For example, participating in reemployment programs has been shown to result in more time spent on job seeking and a greater likelihood of reemployment (e.g., Van Hooft & Noordzij, 2009). Studies have also been conducted to examine the perceived effectiveness of employment counseling (e.g., Butterfield & Borgen, 2005). However, these studies have focused exclusively on a small selection of client-directed behaviors (i.e., support or training). Moreover, coping with job loss and finding a new job are complex tasks requiring various skills and behaviors (e.g., Saks, 2006). They are also tasks that are relatively novel and ambiguous for most job seekers. Furthermore, setbacks and negative experiences are abundant during job seeking, making it a highly stressful task (Wanberg, Zhu, & Van Hooft, 2010). Thus, to deal with the difficulties of job seeking, many job seekers get assistance from employment counseling agencies (also called career centers, employment centers, reemployment agencies, outplacement agencies, or job services). Employment counselors operate within employment counseling agencies, helping job seekers overcome emotional barriers to reemployment and supporting them in their job search (e.g., Aquilanti & Leroux, 1999; Zikic & Klehe, 2006). Savickas (2011; see also McAdams & Olsen, 2010) differentiated between three basic services that can be provided by career counselors, depending on clients' needs: (a) vocational guidance, in which counselors help clients find a matching job (i.e., client as actor); (b) career education, in which counselors help clients develop new competencies for a job (i.e., client as agent); and (c) career counseling, in which counselors help clients construct their career (i.e., client as author). In the current study, the focus is on vocational guidance and career counseling of unemployed job seekers. Therefore, we define employment counseling of unemployed job seekers as the process of vocational guidance and career counseling that helps job seekers to construct their career and find a job and employment counseling effectiveness as the degree to which counselors' behaviors result in their clients getting reemployed in the right kind of jobs.

Upon review of the limited body of research on employment counseling, it becomes apparent that all counselor behaviors identified as effective are behaviors directed toward clients. Client satisfaction is commonly used as a criterion for identifying effective client-centered behaviors (e. …

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