Fifty Shades of Grey: Ethics and the Professional Career Counselor
Ethics and the Professional Career Counselor
In the abstract, we may agree on nature of professional ethics for all as licensed professional counselors. We study and debate the topic, sign our names to statements of professional codes of ethics and understand the supreme importance of adhering to the utmost best in our profession.
It is in the shifting sands of reality, however, that challenge us to adhere to our codes in complex, complicated and myriad ways that can serve to blur our actions.
It is in the press of time and the desire for outcomes that shortcuts appear and over time, continue. We do not wake up with the thought, “I will be unethical today”; rather, it can be a greater need that presses an action to occur without thought of unintended consequence that drives the action home.
It can be an unrealistic case load, the pressure of financial gain, lack of equivalent job opportunities, agency downsizing, or institutional pressures to conform to a lower common denominator or simple exhaustion that can lead to unethical behavior. Such is complicated by the sheer numbers of public figures who appear to have made terribly unethical decisions for power or financial gain making the invisible line so much more so.
The boundaries of good practice demand a solid referral network and the common sense to use this network when necessary. Pausing to think through the process is a skill learned through experience; think safe, not sorry.
Additionally, background themes of religion and morality operate in ways that can obscure or clarify actions based in the heart. Indeed, even a “Good Samaritan” without application of knowledge and skills can incur harm with the purest of hearts.
Our professional organizations, including but not limited to the American Counseling Association, the Canadian Counseling and Psychotherapy Association, and the National Career Development Association offer webinars, conference presentations and publications to help us work though the application of ethics in real time. Such are real time skills in a real time workplace that may not always pause to consider the overarching ethical lens.
As career counselors, we need to be versed in socioeconomic realities for marginalized populations while advocating for social justice. The oft repeated phrase, “Follow your passion” seems to ring hollow while viewing the limited job market. Such is true for those of an entrepreneurial bend as so many small business fail in their first year, creating new debt for many. Countries experiencing 24% unemployment rates among youth fear the potential rise of a charismatic figure promising an easy route to a better future.
Understanding local and national labor market information in terms of simple supply and demand is a considerable wisdom for career counselors however, many distance themselves from looking at this reality. While it is likely true that secure stable jobs may have belonged to an earlier era, navigating the “gig” economy provides some benefits for new workers and career changers.
Technology and Job Shifts:
For those thrust into an advising or planning capacity, the ethical concerns creep in. Although pressure to predict what a future economy might look like will continue, that view is fraught with peril as technological changes will alter the present complexion of the marketplace. Occupations that have been commonplace may not have a growth rate such as auto mechanics, carpenters, retail clerks, taxi drivers. This changes the point of entry for workers as the demands of the work world have been altered.
We need to consider the needs of diverse populations of job seekers; migrant workers, college students, K-12 students, returning veterans, ex-offenders, career changes, recent immigrants, seasoned workers, the differently abled, LBGT, those whose skills differ from current market demands, limited English skills workers and those marginalized by poverty.
Our professional ethics are to use our skills as career counselors to understand and join with those who need us as they surely do, now more than ever.
Ellen Weaver Paquette, MA, CAGS (www.linkedin.com/in/ellenweaverpaquette) (www.careerconsultingconcepts.com) is a professional career counselor, counselor educator and author. She is an NCDA Fellow, Master Trainer and member of the NCDA Board of Directors, 2014-2017. She has taught career counseling graduate courses since 1983 and has conducted NCDA CDF (CSP) trainings in the US and the Middle East. Ellen is a stalwart supporter of all things Canadian especially CANNEXUS.