The 7 Habits of Highly Ineffective Career Counselors

by Evonne D. Olson

"We must constantly evaluate what we do, lest habits and past wisdom blind us to new possibilities." ~Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Identifying habits and practices that sabotage our best career counseling efforts was the focus of a program presented by Lorraine Trujillo, Jeff Maxted and me at the Career Development Across the Lifespan Conference. We presented six bad habits and called upon members of the audience to suggest the seventh. A summary of the habits is presented.

1.Being a know-it-all

I worked with a long-time counselor who generously shared her counseling knowledge and experience but she was not open to learning from others. In mandated continuing education programs she spent her energies finding fault with the presentation and rationalizing her own perspective. She dismissed colleague's differing points of view as uninformed or illogical. Shutting yourself off from new information and learning by thinking that you know it all precludes developing expertise in our evolving profession.

2.Not practicing what we preach

When we as career counselors are not committed to our own positive career development, our effectiveness is diminished in the following ways:




3.Using the "one size fits all" approach

Counseling practice characterized by rigid adherence to a preset agenda fails to address clients' unique needs. In his first counseling job, a colleague strictly adhered to a process mandated by an agency contract. He tested each client for basic academic skills, performed an intake interview, administered and interpreted a career interest inventory and made recommendations for "appropriate" training and careers. He developed proficiency and comfort with this routine and started using it as a "one size fits all" approach for every client with career concerns. Experience proved the limited effectiveness of this practice.

4.Avoiding advocacy

As counselors we are in a unique position to discover the detrimental effects that oppressive policies, procedures and people have on our clients. Too often our efforts become focused on helping clients adjust to bad situations and we rationalize that changing conditions that contribute to clients' problems is someone else's job. When we avoid our responsibility to advocate for change of oppressive practices, we become part of the problem.

5.Imposing the quick-fix

In our quick-fix society there is a demand for easy answers and fast solutions. Institutions want expedient solutions to client's career concerns and clients say, "I want to take a test to see what I should do." Standardized tests are convenient, easy tools to use in these circumstances and we may too readily accept them as authoritative and a quick-fix solution to career dilemmas. Using tests to provide clients with quick and easy answers undermines the client's authority and responsibility to evaluate experience, self assess, explore options and make career decisions. The career counseling profession is trivialized by and often equated to quick-fix solutions. A client told me, "I sought career counseling in high school and it said I should supervise motel maids."

6.Disregarding multiculturalism

Effective counseling with a culturally diverse clientele requires sensitivity to multiculturalism. I use the term multiculturalism to describe a perspective that



Sensitivity to multiculturalism is not implied by the following perspectives:



Continued development as a counseling professional goes hand in hand with a commitment to the challenging, ongoing process of developing cultural competence. To believe that you can disregard multiculturalism and still develop as a competent counselor is to miss the point.

7.These were suggested as the seventh habit:












Dr. Csikszentmihalyi admonishes us to not be blinded to new possibilities by unexamined habits and past wisdom. Awareness of counterproductive habits and practices can open our eyes to new and improved ways to contribute to positive outcomes for our clients.

Evonne D. Olson, MA, LPC, NCC, entered the Counseling Education Doctoral program at University of New Mexico in Fall, 2003. Her previous work experience includes counseling and teaching career related courses at Santa Fe Community College in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Email: evonneolson@hotmail.com

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