ACA Blog

Kevin Stoltz
Oct 30, 2009

Career Counseling vs. Career Assessment and Job Search Services: Is there a difference?

I am not sure we have done a great job as counselor educators in identifying that career assessment and job search services are activities that are different from career counseling. I am often struck that career centers rely so heavily on career assessment and make little room for career counseling. I realize that I am generalizing here, and that many career centers do support and provide very extensive career counseling services. However, there are many career centers, both university and private, that rely on assessment and job search services as the primary function of the organization. Why is this so?

First, I do not want to minimize these services or the professionals that administer them. I believe they are a vital part of providing career clients valuable and holistic services. However, these services are not the beginning or the end of career counseling services. As I was discussing my blog from last week with my wife (an LPC), she reminded me that career counseling is the purview of counselors and that many persons untrained in counseling administer career assessments and conduct career assessment interpretations and job search services. She was stressing the importance of identifying career counseling as a more holistic service, and that career counselors are trained to identify and work with many mental health issues involved in career counseling.

My point is that career counseling is often perceived as limited to the activities of helping a client choose a job and getting them employed. In reality career counseling includes the breadth of the person embedded in his or her environment. This breadth includes values, interests, personality, genetic predispositions, personal history, ethnicity, race, and much more. Our job as career counselors is to help clients gain clarity on how these variables come to impact one’s work life. Adler (1936) labeled this a life task. I like this phrasing, as I see work as a concept we all need to face continually over the life course. The selection of a career and finding a job is not the final component of career counseling! Career researchers are shouting statements like “The Protean Career” (Hall, 1996), indicating that a paradigm shift has occurred. We will all face making several career decisions throughout our lives. Career adaptability is a new focus in our profession. Matching interests and abilities with job needs is no longer the most important part of career work. Career counselors need to learn to support the client’s requirements for continued learning and reinventing of the self. Krumboltz (2009) emphasizes this in his Happenstance Theory, claiming that clients must be supported in continuing exploration and experimentation. Clients unable to tolerate this type of employment environment will face continued difficulty over the lifespan.

Counselors possess the training and skills to help support clients holistic career development throughout life. Certainly, the services mentioned above are vital to career counseling, but I believe they should not be emphasized as the bread and butter of career work. It is time for us to put the “counseling” into career work! What do you think?

Kevin Stoltz is an assistant professor at The University of Mississippi. He specializes in career counseling and Adlerian Psychology and has a strong interest (no pun intended) in early recollections related to work life.

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