Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Career Counselors as Advocates and Change Agents for Equality

Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Career Counselors as Advocates and Change Agents for Equality

Article excerpt

This analysis of the career counseling profession's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats emphasizes the importance of the profession's contributions to fostering equality in a democratic society. Career counseling professionals and their National Career Development Association are well positioned to expand their concentration on fostering the career development of individuals to encompass advocacy about public policy and agency in changing systems. Advances in the use of technology, attention to multicultural issues, and advocacy of holistic models have the potential to enrich the career counseling profession's contributions to individual development and social equality.

When I began working on this project in the summer of 2002, I did several things in addition to analyzing the career counseling and development profession and the National Career Development Association (NCDA) to identify their strengths, weaknesses, threats, and opportunities. First, I reflected on the more than 40 years I have been involved in NCDA since, as a graduate student, I joined the Twin Cities Vocational Guidance Association in Minnesota in the early 1960s. Second, I identified significant events, happenings, and milestones that I used regularly to introduce counseling students to the career counseling field in my Career Development courses at the University of Minnesota. I called the statement From Vocational Guidance to Career Development over Nine Decades: Past, Present, and Future. Third, I reviewed salient literature related to changes in the career counseling field, some by my late mentor and colleague, Henry Borow, and others by former and present leaders whose work has influenced my work.

Analysis of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT)

Let us then turn to the SWOT analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats on which this special issue is based and briefly examine some of the global, national, and local issues that face us as a profession and as professionals. Following are what I believe are internal strengths of the profession of career counseling and development.

Internal Strengths of Career Development

One of NCDA's strengths is its strong organizational structure and leadership. Professional career counselors consist of a group of professionally trained master's of arts or PhD counselors, counselor educators, and paraprofessionals with specialties in career counseling or career development. We, as career counselors, work to facilitate choices and decisions people make over the life span in work and other life roles. We teach clients both the content and the process of making career decisions and transitions. We work with diverse populations in a variety of settings such as government, education (schools and colleges), agencies, business/industry, and independent practice. NCDA has a well-developed set of organizational structures clearly articulated by the NCDA (2000) "Mission, Values, and Goals" submitted by the NCDA Long-Range Plan Committee. It has also identified Career Counseling Competencies and Performance Indicators (NCDA, 1997). Basic competencies are required in 11 areas: career development theory; individual and group counseling skills; individual and group assessment; information/resources; program promotion, management, and implementation; coaching, consultation, and performance improvement; diverse populations; supervision; ethical/legal issues; research/evaluation; and technology. A more detailed description of the above is found on the NCDA Web page at It is also available in print from the NCDA office in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

There are several areas where internal strengths are real but where there are still miles to go. One is technological developments in relation to career exploration and planning, especially the creation of information systems and networks, cybercounseling for career planning, and ethical codes for counselors in using computer-assisted career guidance. …

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