The purpose of this assignment is to assess and discuss factors that might affect African Americans’ career development as well as biases and assumptions that might impede the process of career counseling. The paper offers certain strategies to counter these negative aspects from both the client’s and the counselor’s standpoint. The assignment consists of a brief client description, assessment of societal factors, biases, and assumptions, strategies to counter them, and the author’s self-assessment as a counselor followed by the conclusion.
Diversity is a concept that defines societies formed by multiple nationalities, races, and ethnic groups. Each of these groups has a unique physical appearance, history, and views on other groups. Living and working together in one company could pose certain challenges, especially in a highly diverse society such as an American one. The U.S. is comprised of white, African American, Asian, Native American, and Hispanic people. According to the data provided by the United States Census Bureau (2017), African American population amounts to 13.4 percent. Black people despite being the second-largest racial group face serious career issues that are due to multiple aspects. In this paper societal norms, cultural, economic, and social aspects as well as biases, will be discussed in application to career counseling applied to a case of an African American male in order to suggest appropriate strategies and solutions.
The counseling client is an African American male person in his 40s. He is married to an African American woman and has two sons of 14 and 16 years old. His wife works as a cleaning manager in a small company and earns modest wages. The client has a high school education and has been working as a mechanic in a car factory for 20 years. Recently, he was made redundant due to automatization and budget cuts in the firm. He struggles to find a new job, as his skill set is rather narrow and his education level does not satisfy most employers.
Client’s Career Development
Social norms and factors certainly have a sizable impact on the client’s career development opportunities. Age is one of the factors that can significantly curb his career options. On the one hand, middle age can become a bonus to his resume, as age and working experience are often complementary. However, in recruiting agencies and HR departments, age above thirty can also be considered a negative factor. It is a fact that with age, the ability to learn becomes lower in people, which bore an assumption of the lower potential of older workers (Clark, Freedberg, Hazeltine, & Voss, 2015). Since the client worked all his life in one company where he continuously performed the same task, selecting and following a new vector of career development might be difficult due to a considerable age. Even if the client has retained the full potential of acquiring additional skills, perceptions of age in society may still negatively affect his chances of finding suitable employment options.
Among other factors that might influence the client’s career development is socioeconomic status. Since he and his wife occupy junior positions and earn low wages, they may probably demonstrate lower career expectations. This may be evidenced by the fact that the client was employed in the same job for 20 years. Racial prejudice about skills and competencies of working-class African-Americans may also fuel the lack of job offers and, consequently, low identity development in the client (Tovar-Murray, Jenifer, Andrusyk, D’Angelo, & King, 2012). In addition to that, external factors may also contribute to the detrimental effect of being a low-income family. Neighbors, friends, former colleagues are probably representatives of impoverished social strata. Surrounding people and the environment may form a sense of normalcy and sufficiency, which may negatively affect career aspirations.
In a traditional family with an old-fashioned mindset, there might be a gender-influenced income expectation. Being a man, the client might feel a self-induced or society-induced need to provide for his family and earn more than his wife. This might narrow his career choices causing him to turn down jobs and refuse options that promise slightly less income in the short term but solid career growth. In addition to that, working-class men are reported to seek employment options that let them dominate over their female partners classifying them as men’s and women’s jobs (Dolan, 2014). These considerations may impede the client’s success in finding a job that matches his needs and expectations.
All those aspects might have an impact on the client’s mental health. Desperate attempts to find a job together with considerations of possible inferiority to younger and better-skilled opponents may lead to stress and identity crisis. In addition, gender stereotypes of a man’s financial dominance and the recently lost status of a family’s “provider” might add to the number of mental health issues lowering self-esteem. Relationship with his wife may enter a difficult phase with frequent arguments and tensions because of the money problems, and stress caused by the loss of job and identity crisis. The life role of a provider and a parent might be challenging to maintain due to the time and efforts needed to find a new income source.
Biases and Assumptions
Biases and assumptions might be a significant barrier to effective career counseling, especially in the intercultural environment. As counseling involves guiding a person to outcomes preferable to him or her, a provider of guidance might assume himself or herself as a superior individual to those who seek their help. In addition, a desire to assist a person in his misery might result in offering solutions instead of helping the client to find them himself. Therefore, the counselor becomes biased in professional judgment as he or she loses his professional neutrality.
On the other hand, the client might also feel biased against a counselor due to his race difference. Even slight misconduct resulting in cultural incompetence may affect the career counseling and authority of a service provider as a professional. The client may also assume that a professional of a different race might not be aware of all difficulties African Americans face in a search for a job. Due to this factor, the progress of counseling sessions may be hindered.
In order to address these biases and assumptions and establish productive relationships with the client, there are several strategies to implement. One may involve broadening cultural horizons and acquiring knowledge of African American struggles in order to better understand the issues they face and their needs (Lee, 2012). Becoming ethically aware is another step to becoming a culturally competent professional. This development may involve forming a better understanding of a counselor’s role as a guide that is not superior to the client and is in no position to provide solutions to his problems (Lee, 2012). Gaining cultural knowledge through conversation is yet another strategy that is aimed to assist a counselor to provide better services (Paniagua, 2013).
The counselor’s professional conduct involves certain biases and assumptions that might negatively affect practice and the ability to provide services to the client. Firstly, the counselor and the author of this paper assume constant insufficiency of one’s knowledge about the African American population to the extent of providing its representatives with high-quality services. Additionally, the counselor is biased against the majority of working-class African American people being negatively predisposed against white people having into account the history of slavery and human rights violations against their race.
There are certain strategies that could help the counselor address these pitfalls. One of the possible actions might be to learn more about cultural differences and communication tactics that could be effective in conversations between different races. In professional counseling, as Lee (2012) suggests, it is vital to continually increase one’s background knowledge about other races cultures, and behaviors to be able to build a rapport with a client. As it was discussed earlier, a productive conversation might emerge if two sides are communicating their differences and discussing them in order to build mutual understanding. This strategy may help in addressing the counselor’s bias against working-class African Americans.
All things considered, bias and false assumptions impede the work of a counselor and limit the career development of a client. Race, gender, social, and economic status of a client may produce a significant detrimental effect on mental health, life roles, and career, which is why interventions in the form of culturally competent counseling are necessary. Strategies that include gaining a piece of in-depth knowledge about African American race and working through differences in conversation can help make the counseling process smooth and address the personal biases of both the counselor and the client.
Clark, R., Freedberg, M., Hazeltine, E., & Voss, M. W. (2015). Are there age-related differences in the ability to learn configural responses? Plos One, 10(8), e0137260.
Dolan, A. (2014). ‘Men give in to chips and beer too easily’: How working-class men make sense of gender differences in health. Health, 18(2), 146–162. =
Lee, C. C. (2012). A conceptual framework for culturally competent career counseling practice. Career Planning & Adult Development Journal, 28(1), 7-14.
Paniagua, F. A. (2013). Assessing and treating culturally diverse clients: A practical guide (4th ed.). New York, NY: SAGE Publications.
Tovar-Murray, D., Jenifer, E. S., Andrusyk, J., D’Angelo, R., & King, T. (2012). Racism-related stress and ethnic identity as determinants of African American college students’ career aspirations. Career Development Quarterly, 60(3), 254-262.
The United States Census Bureau. (2017). Quick facts: United States. Web.