Career counseling

8 August 2016

European policies in the lifelong learning field reconfirm the essential importance of information, counselling and guidance services in the process of “facilitating the access to the education and continuing training offer” and of supporting the positive entering of social and professional life for young people and adults. In this sense it is necessary to create a culture of open, transparent, comprehensible dialogue resulting in a practical gain for both the clients and the employers.

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At the same time, these services must be provided insistently and persuasively so that any person should have the opportunity of learning and training throughout their lifetime and benefit from equal opportunities on the labour market (special attention should be given to groups threatened by social and job exclusion), stimulate social cohesion, encourage private initiative and assist the improvement of beneficiary’s lifestyle.

Counsellors who work in information, counselling and guidance institutions will make recourse to the information and communication technologies to facilitate the access to their services of as many clients as possible, will work in close cooperation with the local employers and the community, endeavouring that their services should be up to date, connected to clients’ needs, to their systems of qualifications and interests, and to the dynamics of the local, regional, national and European social and economic development.

While selecting the methods and techniques for this Compendium, we held in mind the following issues: • the practical value of the method or technique for the field of counselling; • solid, rational, logical theoretical base, grounded on rigorous and systematic empirical research; • the existence of standards adapted to the social, cultural and economic specificity of the population or the possibility to easily adapt these instrument to the practice prevalent in our country; • facile use and quick results, comprehensible for client and counsellor; the extent to which the method or technique are is widespread in career counselling in our country and internationally; • the diversity of information sources, direct access to the reference material about the working method or technique. At the same time, the selection process is concerned with aspects such as: • • 6 the consensus or majority vote of the authors team and their close collaborators; the result of polls among counselling practitioners regarding the instruments they employ in practice or have requested to use.

In the choice of instruments, the following practical considerations are of some importance: • adapting the instrument to the category of clients requesting counselling services and to the specificity of their problems; • mastering in detail all the technical and methodological aspects required for the administration of the instruments, scoring and interpretation of results; • being acquainted with the social, cultural and economic environment of the clients, as well as with other characteristics pertaining to their gender, education, residence; knowing the context in which the instrument intended for use was developed before deciding for its applicability; • the comprehensibility of the general structure, procedural friendliness, statistical support, availability of standards and scoring scales; • the extent to which the instrument offers the information needed by the clients in their career development. The main questions that counsellors should ask when deciding upon the purchase, adaptation and use of tests are the following: • To what purpose were the tests developed?

What do they claim to measure? • What target groups are they recommended for? • What types of items / tasks does the test employ for evaluation? • Does the test come with an administration and scoring manual? • Does the test include standards and scoring scales for assessing the results? • Is the test easy to use and the result interpretation comprehensible and transparent for the beneficiaries? • Are there data regarding the test’s reliability and validity? • Are there copyright provisions? What are the costs? • Who are the authors of the test?

Another category of problems that such a work may encounter is related to the methodological systematisation, categorization, taxonomy of models and techniques used in the practice of career counselling. It is known that extremely diverse objectives, criteria, indicators might be applied to the process. In their daily activity the counsellors develop their own working style based on their preferences regarding the methods and techniques; on the other hand they must use certain methods and techniques adequate to the categories of clients and to the categories of problems raised.7 In general, the sources of information / purchase of the instruments / questionnaires / tests, etc. used in career counselling are: • specialized publishing houses commercialising psychological investigation tools; • publications (journals, books, other sources on the Internet); • copies from the originals in universities (used experimentally for research); • direct purchase from the source of the free use rights (through professional organizations, libraries, peer counsellors); • purchasing the reference instruments and the rights of translation, adaptation, re-sampling and use (by institutes and universities) with their own funding or through various projects and programmes; • elaborating original instruments at the national level as a result of research activity carried in institutes and universities. It must be said that it is forbidden to use psychological instruments protected by the copyright act without the permission of the authors or publishers. Access to these instruments is granted on the condition of purchasing the rights to adapt and use in full compliance with the laws, orders and provisions of the Regulations of professional associations in the field.

Besides the legislation, there are ethical principles that regulate the professional use of methods and techniques specific to career counselling and the counsellors behaviour in relation to them. The present Compendium is a methodological handbook and also a professional statement of coherence, synergy and continuity in the work of career counselling, a scientific and systematic approach to the field and a way of supporting high quality service of information, counselling and guidance.

We hope this Compendium to be a useful instrument both for the undergraduates preparing to become counsellors, professors teaching this course and counselling practitioners in the fields of education, employment, youth work, law enforcement, healthcare, military and others and who are known as careers advisors, school counsellors, educational and vocational guidance counsellors, employment officers, etc. 8 Methodological Aspects

Mihai JIGAU Institute of Educational Sciences, Bucharest Career counselling is a global approach to individuals under all aspects of their personal, professional and social life; it consists in providing information, counselling and guidance services with a view to supporting each and every person – in any stage of their life – in the development of their own career through decision-making as regards to education, work, and community life.

The domain of career counselling has known success and recoil of using various assessment methods and techniques (in the beginning mostly psychological tests, currently mostly questionnaires and inventories of interests, preferences, aptitudes, attitudes and values). In the dawn of educational and vocational guidance in Romania we can identify a psychometric phase, followed by an educational phase, and by the contemporary phase related to cognitive information management and processing, having the holistic career approach ethics and quality at its core.

In career counselling we identify helpful methods among tests, questionnaires or inventories concerning: • aptitudes (intellectual, verbal, numerical, reasoning, reaction speed, special talents, etc. ); • personality; • interests and special needs; • values and attitudes; • assessment of academic acquisitions (learning skills and methods); • interpersonal relations; 9 • self-image; • decision-making; • career development (training for decision-making); • special categories of population.

Tests are a means to objective and systematic measurement / assessment of certain behavioural elements (in either areas: aptitudes, personality, attitudes, knowledge) of individuals, based on their answers to certain work-related tasks. These fixed sequences of personal characteristics investigated are considered relevant to defining and identifying the respective aspects in human subjects. Standardized inventories are also means of measuring behavioural segments, in which the subject’s answers are not judged as right or wrong, but compared against those of other individuals taken to be a group norm (Brown and Brooks, 1991).

In practice, it has been shown that in most cases counsellors use inventories of interests and skills rather than psychological performance and personality tests. In fact, the balance between one type of instruments and the other stems from the role assumed by counsellors: whether it is centred in supporting clients with their career development and decision-making, or in interpreting information for what is considered to be their clients’ best interest.

As it can be noticed, the ends are the same, but the means different in each of the two situations described. Here are what psychological inventories and tests can identify with respect to career counselling: • areas of interest / preference in the sphere of occupations; • skills, abilities, aptitudes, as well as levels of performance required in various occupational areas; • aspects of personality compatible with certain occupational fields;

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