Opening the Career Counseling Black Box: Behavioral Mechanisms of Empathy and Working Alliance

Florian Klonek, Theresa Will, Patrizia Ianiro-Dahm, Simone Kauffeld
  • Journal of Career Assessment, July 2019, SAGE Publications
  • DOI: 10.1177/1069072719865159

How to improve career counselling sessions for job seekers

What is it about?

The research investigated how counsellors’ behaviours help them convey empathy towards their clients and improve their working alliance. We find that career counsellors who are empathic, supportive and humorous towards their clients are more likely to see positive outcomes in their sessions. We also found that counsellors who paraphrase their client’s statements, show appreciation, and use humorous expressions, are able to express empathy and uphold a positive working alliance with their client. The research also found that counsellors who interrupt their client or show disruptive behaviours in sessions did not reduce the level of empathy they expressed towards their client. It is possible that such behaviours, rather than being considered as disruptive, are considered supportive if applied in a sensitive way.

Why is it important?

Due to an evolving workforce, the demands on graduates and young adults are increasing and many seek professional help to ensure they are prepared to make important career decisions, develop career-related goals, and improve their overall career planning. It is estimated that professional career advisors make up 0.8 per cent of the workforce, with many having no career-specific training. Our research examined how these professionals help their clients make important life decisions, by introducing a video-based observational instrument to measure their behavioural skills. Our findings are of interest to career counsellors who wish to better understand their own career counselling approach. By using video-based equipment, counsellors can measure their own behaviour in a session and improve their way of working.

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