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Internationalizing career counseling: emptying our cups and learning from each other.

The symposium International Perspectives on Career Development included a plenary session that addressed career counseling in a world of limited resources. Panelists representing diverse areas of the world shared their perspectives on career counseling in their countries and the specific problems they faced. They identified common concerns and prospects for the future of cross-national career counseling in 3 domains: (a) counselor training and human resources, (b) career service delivery practices, and (c) resources and sources of support. Harnessing the energy and capital of the global career counseling community will better equip career development professionals to deal with existing limitations and realize the common goal of the International Association for Educational and Vocational Guidance and the National Career Development Association to internationalize career counseling.


A university professor once traveled to visit a famous Zen master. While the master quietly served tea, the professor talked about Zen. The master poured the visitor's cup to the brim and then kept pouring. The professor watched the overflowing cup until he could no longer restrain himself. "It's overfull! No more will go in!" the professor blurted. "You are like this cup," the master replied, "How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?"

As vocational guidance and career counseling professionals from nations and regions around the world communicate with each other, they would do well to be mindful of the visiting professor and ready to "empty their cups" and learn from one another, because each one is a "local expert." Such a spirit of openness was shown by participants in the symposium International Perspectives on Career Development.

International Career Counseling Roundtable

The 2-day symposium included a round-table plenary session that addressed career counseling in a world of limited resources. This topic deserved spirited attention because career counseling and guidance have emerged as a worldwide enterprise with a common mission to help people manage and adapt to the psychosocial and cultural demands of work in their lives (Savickas, 2003). In today's information age of the global economy, advancing this mission grows ever more important given the constantly changing and increasingly complex world of work that we all confront and must navigate (Collin & Young, 2000; Herr, 2003).

Just as they share to a large degree a common historic mission and, to an extent, common models, methods, and materials, career counseling and guidance across nations and regions also differ significantly, as would be expected. These differences surface particularly with regard to indigenous factors such as underlying philosophy, structure and delivery of career services, public policy mandates and initiatives, prevailing socioeconomic conditions, available resources, sources of support, objectives, and training practices and standards. Special thematic issues of the International Journal for Educational and Vocational Guidance have begun to inform and educate the international community about some of the cross-national commonalities and differences in career counseling and guidance practice (Athanasou, 2002; Plant, 2003). Articles and sections of The Career Development Quarterly have also been devoted to these efforts (e.g., Law, 1993; Leong & Pope, 2002).

Career Counseling in Four Nations: Issues and Avenues

In a similar manner, four roundtable panelists--Fidan Korkut (Turkey), Andreea Szilagyi (Romania), Dan-Bush Bhusumane (Botswana), and Agnes Watanabe-Muraoka (Japan)--shared their perspectives as local experts on career counseling in their country and the specific problems that they face. Panelists focused their remarks to stay within a brief time allotment on key areas such as training programs and standards, career service delivery practices, resources, and sources of support. Each of the areas was considered in terms of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, barriers, and threats centered around one or more of the seven themes treated in the symposium discussion groups: career theory, assessment, intervention, technology, programs, policy, and competencies. Although presenters noted circumstances unique to their country, they collectively identified some common concerns and prospects for the future of cross-national career counseling.

Counselor Training and Human Resources

Across the four national contexts represented, without question the most significant issue raised by panelists concerned the shortage of counselor training programs and professionally trained counseling staff to deliver career services to individuals who need them. Panelists underscored the vital importance of career counseling and guidance in their countries, characterized by Watanabe-Muraoka as a sociopolitical instrument for advancing national goals. They consistently expressed that there were substantial deficits, however, in the number of quality graduate-level programs to train counseling professionals to do the necessary work. This problem persists even in countries with numerous well-developed counselor education programs that, however, often include at most a single career counseling and development course in their curricula.

At the time of the symposium, Turkey had 17 master's- and 9 doctoral-level graduate-degree counseling programs that included a career counseling course. Reporting a counselor-student ratio of 1 counselor to 2,031 students, Korkut indicated a slight, but steady, yearly increase in the number of school counselors and pointed to the pressing need for more counselors to reduce this proportion. Romania trained master's-level counselors in varying disciplines, such as psychology, sociology, and social services, to provide career services, yet with no specific training in career counseling. Botswana and Japan relied almost exclusively on paraprofessionals. Bhusumane particularly emphasized the tremendous workload and limited training available in Botswana, which in effect overwhelms and demoralizes staff, who lack appropriate support and direction. Key to the future of counselor training in Botswana, and without doubt other countries as well, is developing and using culturally appropriate training models and methods. Japan has witnessed a recent upturn in private institutes that provide short-term training of paraprofessionals to provide career services. Work is now underway to create a model Japanese career counselor education program that integrates attention to career and personal issues within a culturally relevant context.

Panelists indicated, at best, very limited formal training programs for career counselors and, expectedly, no licensure and only very limited credentialing of career counseling professionals. Turkey restricted use of career assessment instruments to certified guidance personnel who have completed in-service training. Turkish employment institutions and the Ministry of National Education typically determined the qualifications that service providers must possess. Romania offered one master's-level career counseling program that led to certification. There remained, however, no national-level certification; poorly defined status, roles, and responsibilities; and no pre- or postgraduate supervision for career counselors in Romania. Other countries experienced similar circumstances. Szilagyi noted that the Romanian National Agency for Employment operated more than 200 counseling centers staffed by private, accredited service providers. Increasing the number of counselors in the schools, in the labor market, and in the private sector, in some cases, and initiatives to design and implement culture- and context-specific model training programs within the four countries would bode well for the future of guidance in these nations, specifically, and for others globally.

Career Service Delivery Practices

The greatest disparity in career service delivery among the four countries concerned access to information technology, such as the Internet, CD-ROM, and computer-based career guidance programs. A range from relatively high access to information technology in Japan and Turkey to very limited or no access in Botswana reflected the varying availability and resulting efficacy of technology across countries. As Watanabe-Muraoka pointed out, wide accessibility does not necessarily mean, however, wide benefit unless the user has appropriate decision-making readiness and information-management skills. Improving access, quality, and appropriate use of information technology represents a prime concern and prospect for the future of career service delivery worldwide.

Panelists noted that counseling services are situated primarily in elementary and high schools and are typically very limited in other settings and for adults. Service delivery methods range from one-stop career centers, job shadowing, and career expos to educational activities and individual and group counseling, although the latter methods are often quite restricted, given staff shortages and limited opportunities. The situation in Botswana, for example, afforded minimal individual counseling, with information giving and advising predominating.

Providing occupational and world-of-work information, trait-based career self-assessments, and interventions focused on promoting career awareness and exploration; increasing job search skills; and enhancing occupational placement represented core career service delivery practices among these countries. Theories prove useful for guiding the delivery of career services only if concepts and models relate meaningfully to the culture. Summing up the theory-practice nexus, Bhusumane stressed that alien theories remain problematic unless concepts and models apply to the local culture. Individuals involved in theory development and application would do well to take heed of this caveat. In the same vein, interventions must be designed and conducted in ways appropriate to the local culture.

Resources and Sources of Support

Many nations increasingly recognize the importance of career guidance and counseling services for developing their citizenry, supporting the labor force, and enhancing workers' participation and satisfaction. At the policy and implementation levels, however, resources for counselor training, materials, information technology, staffing, and delivery of career services remain scant to modest, at best, in most nations and regions worldwide. The panelists echoed the fact of limited resources as being generally the situation experienced in their respective countries. Ministries of education, local and regional school boards, other governmental agencies, and employers and institutions support counseling services and underscore their value, yet human and material resources lag behind social need in most cases, and far behind in some cases. Perhaps the greatest source of support for the future of career counseling and guidance around the world rests in continuing and accelerating collaborative efforts among national and international professional organizations, groups, and individuals concerned with career counseling. These collaborative efforts would seem best directed toward developing indigenous theories, assessment methods, and practices that have relevance and validity for the local culture.


Resonating with the theme of the roundtable session, panelists agreed that career counseling, in all its forms, certainly occurs within an international world of limited resources. Harnessing the collective resources of the international career counseling and guidance community will better equip us, as career development professionals, to deal with these limitations. Movement toward establishing international competencies and practice guidelines for career counseling and guidance professionals represents one important and useful step in this regard. Concurrently, training counselors specifically to provide career services would attenuate problems inherent in leaving, de facto, delivery of such services to psychologists, teachers, and paraprofessionals. These professionals could then focus appropriately on providing other psychological, educational, and allied services. Supporting any such efforts requires advancing national policy initiatives that recognize the importance of career development and counseling and promote program development and implementation.

The panelists' individual efforts both supported and advanced the collective mission of the International Association for Educational and Vocational Guidance and the National Career Development Association to internationalize career counseling. Each presenter, without question, whetted our appetite for more exchanges of information and continued dialogue about globalizing career counseling and vocational guidance. In so doing, they contributed to the developing knowledge base of international career counseling fostered by "globalocalization" (Savickas, 2003, p. 95), which involves adapting general career development knowledge to specific countries and regions. Internationalizing career counseling benefits everyone who is concerned with assisting people to develop and manage the role of work in their lives. As A. G. Watts (2004) stated in his address to participants in the symposium, we will do better by working together. We continue this process by emptying our cups and learning from each other.


Athanasou, J. A. (Ed.). (2002). Special thematic issue on: Educational and vocational guidance in Oceania [Special issue]. International Journal for Educational and Vocational Guidance, 2(1).

Collin, A., & Young, R. A. (Eds.). (2000). The future of career. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.

Herr, E. L. (1987). International approaches to career counseling and guidance. In P. Pedersen (Ed.), Handbook of cross-cultural counseling and therapy (pp. 3-9). New York: Praeger.

Herr, E. L. (2003). The future of career counseling as an instrument of public policy. The Career Development Quarterly, 52, 8-17.

Law, B. (1993). Understanding careers work. The Career Development Quarterly, 41, 297-313.

Leong, F. T. L., & Pope, M. (Eds.). (2002). Special section: Challenges for career counseling in Asia. The Career Development Quarterly, 50, 209-284.

Plant, P. (Ed.). (2003). Special thematic issue on the Nordic countries: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden [Special issue]. International Journal for Educational and Vocational Guidance, 3(2).

Savickas, M. L. (2003). Advancing the career counseling profession: Objectives and strategies for the next decade. The Career Development Quarterly, 52, 87-96.

Watts, A. G. (2004, June). Career guidance policy: A report on the OECD, EU, and World Bank review. In International perspectives on career development. Symposium conducted at a joint meeting of the International Association for Educational and Vocational Guidance and the National Career Development Association, San Francisco.

Paul J. Hartung, Department of Behavioral Sciences, Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Paul J. Hartung, Department of Behavioral Sciences, Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine, State Route 44, Rootstown, OH (e-mail:
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Author:Hartung, Paul J.
Publication:Career Development Quarterly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2005
Previous Article:Introduction to the special issue: global perspectives on vocational guidance.
Next Article:Career theory from an international perspective.

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