A Case Study Approach to Ethics in Career Development: Exploring Shades of Gray

Book Review by Mary Buzzetta

Makela, J.P. A case study approach to ethics in career development: Exploring shades of gray. NCDA, 2009.


Enhance your ethical sensitivity and awareness related to career development by reading this valuable resource. Julia Makela's monograph presents ethical dilemmas faced by career development professionals in their day-to-day work. All career development professionals will find it easy to relate to these dilemmas, whether you are engaging in career planning or employment services. This monograph takes you on a decision-making journey which encourages ethically sound choices. Throughout her monograph, Makela makes this journey enjoyable!

Makela refers to Zoja's (2007) expression of "the mixed and intermediate gray zone" as the reason for titling her monograph "Exploring Shades of Gray." The monograph explores the challenging gray areas faced by career development professionals and identifies ways in which these gray areas can effectively be addressed. The monograph reduces some gray areas by addressing definitions and distinctions between terms such as "career planning" and "career counseling," "code of ethics" and "professional standards," and "ethics, laws, and moral codes."

Makela reviews the purposes and limitations of codes of ethics provided by professional associations, and licensure or certification boards. Nine common components of ethical decision-making models are described, and can help serve as a foundation for resolving your own ethical dilemmas. A brief history of the National Career Development Association (NCDA) Code of Ethics explains how the American Counseling Association (ACA) Code of Ethics was adapted to meet the needs of NCDA's members. While reviewing the nine main sections of the NCDA Code of Ethics, significant language changes are pointed out between ACA's and NCDA's Code of Ethics. The current NCDA Code of Ethics (2007) is included as an appendix.

Makela notes that many career professionals identify with more than one professional association and references multiple ethics resources as a way to enhance ethical sensitivity and awareness. The chapter entitled, "Additional codes of ethics and professional standards relevant to career development professionals" is particularly applicable to practitioners in a varied career development setting as it introduces a variety of resources, including ten professional association codes of ethics and professional standards documents. This chapter provides you with two helpful tables, the first (Table 4.1) documents each of the ten professional organizations and information on how to access them, and the second (Table 4.2) summarizes common components amongst these professional organizations. This chapter also discusses possible sources of action for situations in which you perceive contradictory information between two or more codes of ethics and professional standards documents.

A unique feature of Makela's monograph is the eight case scenarios which resemble situations that career professionals face in their daily practice. Each case is presented in four parts, including a scenario, questions for reflection, discussion, and further considerations. Cases are designed to encourage readers to brainstorm their own response before reading the suggestions provided. The range of cases makes them applicable to many different career counseling settings, including graduate students in counseling, career advisors at community career centers, state licensed career counselors, and high school and college-level counselors providing career counseling services. For instance, "Case 1: More than a typical resume critique," involves a counseling master's student [Joy] completing her graduate assistantship at the university career center, where she completes drop-in resume critiques in an open career library setting. Joy finds herself in a situation that is beyond the scope of her expertise. She has not discussed the limits of confidentiality with her client, when she realizes that the client might be describing thoughts of suicide.

One of the features of the cases chapter is a table that references the NCDA Code of Ethics sections which relate to each case. This table can provide guidance to career development practitioners when you face ethical decisions. As a reader of this monograph, you are encouraged to actively explore these complex situations. Reflective questions are asked to guide your thinking about an appropriate and effective response to each case scenario. You are encouraged to think of your own ideas and strategies for addressing each situation, with questions such as:

These are just a few questions that you may be left to consider. These eight cases could be a helpful resource for undergraduate and graduate career development courses, professional presentations (including conferences, continuing education workshops, and information sessions), and for counselors working in high school, university, and community career center settings.

The resources dedicated to addressing ethics in career development are limited. This monograph is a welcomed addition. It offers a wealth of information and provides you with experiences, ideas, and tools to enhance your ethical sensitivity and strengthen your ability to effectively address ethical dilemmas related to career development. You will be inspired to increase the volume of conversation about ethics and continue your ethical decision-making journey by discussing this material with other career development professionals. This monograph is a wonderful personal library resource for anyone providing career services!



Zoja, L. (2007). Ethics and analysis: Philosophical perspectives and their application in therapy. College Station, TX: Texas A&M University Press.


This monograph is available in the NCDA Career Resource Store.


Mary Buzzetta Mary Buzzetta, M.S., is a Counselor Education and Supervision doctoral student at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA). She is currently completing her doctoral practicum at UTSA's career counseling center. Her research interests focus on college student career development and counseling, with particular focus on the Cognitive Information Processing (CIP) Approach. In addition, she has experience teaching undergraduate and graduate career development courses. She can be contacted at Mary.Buzzetta@utsa.edu



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