Professional accreditation is important.
It helps identify practitioners who are capable of delivering minimum standards of quality in regards to service, and it demands the practitioner be regularly self-reflective regarding their own strengths and areas of learning, and commit to a minimum amount of annual professional development.
Ultimately, it holds the practitioner accountable for their actions to a higher body.
In other words, professional accreditation allows the client to feel safe in the knowledge that they are seeking services from a professional who knows what they are doing.
If our car breaks down, we want a trade-qualified mechanic to fix it. If we have children, we want a degree-qualified teacher to teach them. If we need to work through personal trauma, we want a registered psychologist to help us.
The onus is on the practitioner to maintain their professional standing and keep up with industry developments.
I can’t help but hear the deadly serious voice-over from the ad at the cinema about movie piracy, but I am still left to wonder why would career development be any different?
Many career development practitioners would argue that it isn’t. The role of a career practitioner is to assist and guide clients to navigate their own way down their career path.
The quality of the services that we provide can have a significant impact on the choices and outcomes achieved by our clients and we have a professional and ethical obligation to uphold in the provision of our services.
However, our career development profession is not yet widely recognised, it would seem.
Anecdotally, many of the clients I see tell me that they had no idea that “people like me” existed to help grown-ups with their careers – career counsellors are generally associated with high school.
It’s not even clearly recognised by other professionals.
When I was pregnant with my daughter, for example, my OBGYN couldn’t understand why my husband couldn’t just run my business for me while I rested up.
I’ll never forget the look on his face when I calmly asked him whether his wife could take over from him if he was sick. As comical as the conversation was (in hindsight), it highlights the importance of the career development profession being recognised as exactly that, a profession, and in order to do this, we need to have mandatory registration requirements.
It’s not just recognition from other professionals that we need, we also need those who work with us and employ us to understand the importance of accreditation and qualification in our field in order to be appropriately prepared to deliver our services.
Last year, an advertisement for a school-based career counsellor was published, citing no expectations regarding any qualifications whatsoever.
When the advertisement was queried, their response highlighted a lack of belief in there being a candidate who was suitably qualified in the local (regional) area.
In addition to this lack of qualification requirement, the compensatory and status recognition for this position was on par with a Certificate III level role in the public school system.
There is a significant level of responsibility on the shoulders of a school career counsellor as they shape these young people’s vision of their future and I know as a parent (let alone as a career development practitioner), I wouldn’t want my child guided by someone unqualified.
When there is no mandatory registration requirement, the onus falls to the client to ensure that the person that they engage with for career services is appropriately qualified.
When you are looking for someone to assist you in this space, look for practitioners who are registered with the Career Industry Council of Australia (CICA – the peak industry body), or who hold a Professional Membership to associations such as the Career Development Association of Australia.
At the very least, ask them about their qualifications and look for professionals who at least have a Graduate Certificate in Careers Education and Development.
After all, if you wouldn’t ask a courier to cut your hair, why would you want someone unqualified to help guide your career direction?
Zoë Wundenberg is a careers writer and coach at impressability.com.au