Counseling Clients in Niche Tech Fields – Cybersecurity

screen-shot-2017-02-03-at-2-52-31-pmThe term technology can refer to a wide range of ideas, gadgets, interests, and even careers. When clients and students want to explore an emerging field, finding relevant resources can pose a significant challenge for counselors and coaches.

Members of my NCDA network recently reached out with this scenario and question, forwarded from a colleague:

“I’m working with young interns in a cybersecurity company, and am developing a career guidance road map. Can you connect me with coaches, experts, or insights in this field?”

Where to start? I offered up the following:

  • provides a lot of assistance for people in the U.S. who are looking for jobs that require a security clearance. This site includes a lot of helpful articles in related topics, including cybersecurity.
  • is another online community specializing in tech-related jobs and careers. Use their online Skills Center to explore more information about cybersecurity and search their Insights blog for relevant articles.
  • I recently connected with Shane Hartman, an information security instructor at the University of South Florida, on another project. He recommended reaching out to local meetups and groups such as, which coordinates events all over the world. It might be worth reaching out to other schools and faculty members offering related academic programs to find out more about their advice on career road maps and recommended professional associations.

This is just a place to start, however. Are you a career professional who works specifically with cybersecurity (or other niche tech fields)? Please share your ideas for further research and networking!



Top Workplace Skills in 2017

If you aren’t familiar with LinkedIn’s annual list of employable skills, the 2017 edition is now available. Each year this professional social media platform uses the vast data available in the system to inform users about the future of work and what employers are looking for. How do they do it? In short, they organize those skills we all add to our profiles, categorize them, and then compare them to LinkedIn-based hiring and recruiting activities.

So, which skills will be in demand in the coming year? It may come as no surprise that tech-related items are heavily featured. The slideshow below also shows specific skills listed by country, and illustrates how each skill has moved up or down on the list since last year.

Are your students and clients trying to navigate the world of professional development to make themselves more marketable in an upcoming job search? Are you interested in augmenting your career development skills to expand your abilities using technology or even move into a new industry? This LinkedIn resource may be a good place to start.

Tech Tips & Tools for Career Practitioners

How can you use today’s top social media tools to extend and enhance career service delivery? Click below to see our presentation at NCDA’s Career Practitioner Institute in Mystic, CT.

What we learned from the presentation is that we need to explore more creative approaches to using the trending tools for today’s millenneals and Gen Z-ers – specifically, snapchat and instragram. What ideas have you found that have worked?

Teaching Cultural Competency in Career Counseling

The topic of cultural competency has been on my mind the past few days. I was talking with a student the other day who happens to be African American. We were discussing, in general, how to create a more inclusive environment for students of color in our program, our career center (for those who work there specifically as grad assistants, but also diverse staff), and how that also might extend to career service delivery. We talked about how the core value of being both culturally aware and inclusive is evident in our values, but not always in our actions. We decided that through talking with current students, that we could identifying what we are doing well, along with some practical ideas of how we could do better. That’s our plan for this semester – will report back later on what we discover.

Fast forward two days, when I am leading supervision for our master’s interns. We were discussing a client from a diverse background, and the topic of whether a career counselor should bring up the topic of culture or wait for the client to do it. We acknowledged the recent events in NC as a potential entry point into that discussion, and discussed our comfort/discomfort with the topic of racial tension and cultural differences in session. I shared how the student I had spoken to earlier had told me how odd it was that not one person (instructor, supervisor, classmate) had brought up recent riots or their potential impact, and how the lack of discussion sent a confusing message: Was it due to insensitivity? lack of awareness? discomfort? This led us, as a group, to decide that a) we needed to examine ourselves and determine which of these were true for us individually;  b) determine to take appropriate actions relative to our answer(s) to those questions – for example, perhaps purposely learning more about all sides of an issue; and c) acknowledge that we, as counselors are trained to introduce and facilitate difficult discussions – and to put this into practice by asking ourselves, our classmates, our instructors, our supervisors, and our clients, about how culture and current events are impacting them personally and professionally. Finally, we discussed some practical questions and ideas for infusing sensitivity (cultural, ability/disability, orientation, etc.) into our career counseling sessions. Some of these include:

  • What identities are important to you? (Give a personal example: For example, my family is very important to me, so the “daughter identity” would be one identity that is important to me.).
  • Help me learn more about you. How has your background, your family, your culture, contributed to where you are now?
  • Where do you think these negative thoughts are coming from (after completing the Career Thoughts Inventory – to see if there is an identifiable core from which messages are coming).
  • What obstacles do you foresee in achieving your goal? What obstacles have you experienced before? What obstacles have you overcome (and how)? What obstacles do you still struggle with?
  • Tell me about the important people in your life, and how they have helped shape your  vision for yourself.
  • Who else have you spoken with about your career concern? Who have you talked with in the past?
  • How do you think your immediate and extended family will feel about your career goals?
  • What haven’t I asked you about that’s important to you as you think about this decision?

In addition, some tools such as the Decision Space Worksheet that ask clients to identify all the factors impacting a career decision are likely to encourage discussion of topics of special interest and impact to a client. What specific questions have you found useful for discussing cultural differences?

App Review: Unstuck

The career counseling field is dismally behind the times when it comes to career decision making apps. A career practitioner will be hard-pressed to find more than a handful (if even that) of apps designed specifically to enhance the career decision making process. Until that changes, career professionals have to rely on traditional tools of videos, websites, and pdfs, or be creative in finding potential applications of apps designed for other uses to our world. For example, cognitive restructuring is a powerful tool in addressing negative career thoughts, but no career belief cognitive restructuring apps exist. Thus, we have to lean on apps such as stress and anxiety companion and modify our instructions with clients to use them for career-related stress.

Career decision making is a decision making that is applied to career decisions, and involves career-specific information. There are theoretical approaches to career decision making such as Cognitive Information Processing theory and the CASVE Cycle but unfortunately, there is not an app yet for “that.” There is, however a fantastic generic decision making app called “Unstuck.” The app starts with the assumption that a user is stuck in a current decision, and takes the person through various exercises to help them become “unstuck.” These approaches are inclusive of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that are contributing to that stuck experience.

Here’s a picture of what a final profile might look like:

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In addition to helping to analyze the problem from various perspectives, standard advice is given on how to proceed, given the self-described issues. A next step is for career counseling and development researchers to explore the potential usefulness of this tool for career counseling clients. If you’ve used this tool with clients, we’d love to learn from your experience!