Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Career Counseling in the Twenty-First Century: Beyond Cultural Encapsulation

Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Career Counseling in the Twenty-First Century: Beyond Cultural Encapsulation

Article excerpt

The author analyzes the context in which professional career counseling in the U.S. exists at the beginning of the 21st century and makes recommendations to enhance the growth and development of the profession. The issues addressed include developing curricula, training career counselors, broadening the focus on career decision making to include work adjustment, improving the basic and advanced skills of career counselors, and extending career services to diverse groups in the U.S. and to people in other nations. Specific strategies that address each of these issues are discussed.

In this article, I discuss the strengths that make career counseling a resilient profession, some weaknesses that are inherent in this profession, opportunities that have arisen at this point in history, and the threats that may forestall these opportunities. In addition, I present a strategic plan that ensures the future viability of the career counseling profession.

Strengths of Career Counseling

A chief strength of career counseling as a profession is its relatively long history. The beginnings of the organized practice of career counseling in the United States and Europe date to the early 1900s (Brewer, 1942; Pope, 2000). Because of this history, there is a large body of data, knowledge, theory, and skills, which provide the underpinnings for the effective practice of career counseling. This long history has also led to the availability of many career development theories. These theories and their derivatives inform the practice of career development.

A second strength of the career counseling profession is a very practical one-you can make money! People who specialize in career counseling can earn a lucrative salary. In fact, the independent practice of career counseling is one of the few applied psychology fields in which individuals can make substantial amounts of money.

Another strength of career counseling is that it is inherently positive. It focuses on a person's strengths and how to use those strengths appropriately. A "new" movement in psychology has named itself "positive psychology." It is no more than what career counselors have been doing every day for more than 90 years.

Yet another strength is that individuals who are having career problems seek out career counselors. Although there continue to be substantial shame and guilt attached to such mental health issues as depression or personality disorders, there is relatively little shame in not having all the skills to make an effective career decision. Career counseling has not been tainted with the mental illness, medical model approach to counseling. In fact, it has been relatively impervious to forays by medical model practitioners (Lowman, 1993).

Career counseling practitioners have many positive attributes. They believe in the power of career development. There is an energy and passion similar to the energy and passion of fanatics in sports or religion or of any other "true believers." This energy and passion, combined with a more enterprising personality type (Gottfredson & Holland, 1989), makes career counselors a formidable force in the counseling profession. Furthermore, I admire the kinds of people who are attracted to the profession of career counseling: They are proactive, positive, and strengths oriented. They are also better at marketing than their non-career counseling counterparts.

Finally, career counseling has been applied to many groups of people and cultures around the world, from Asian to Native American to women's cultures to sexual minority cultures such as gay male and lesbian and to other multiracial, multiethnic, multisexual, and multicultural groups. There has been a strong and growing movement in the career counseling profession to address the problems of applying to other cultures the career development principles that were originally developed with a White, upper-class or middle-class, male population. …

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