Using Career Convergence to Engage Career Counseling Students

By Chad Luke

It can be easy to underestimate the wealth of resources contained on the NCDA website, specifically, resources for counselor educators. While virtually innumerable, every one is worth exploring and applying. One truly valuable resource is Career Convergence, NCDA's web magazine. It’s free, web-based, and imminently practical. It's also been online since 2003 and has almost 1000 career-related articles archived.

The Graduate Course in Career Development
Career development is a core requirement for CACREP-accredited counseling programs – one of eight core content areas. In our program, we offer the career development course in a face-to-face format, with numerous online and community-based assignments. Students have many assignments for this course, both to distribute the points for the course, making each assignment lower stakes, in terms of final grade, but also to cover a breadth of topics and materials that we are hopelessly short on time to cover in class. Students read peer-reviewed journal articles, chapter excerpts and other resources. However, some students experience distance or separation from the material, viewing it more as academic in nature and less concrete in application. One assignment intended to bridge the gap is the article critique, this time using Career Convergence as source material because of its excellent balance between scholarship and practice.

The Article Critique Assignment
Rather than assigning a formal critique (like one would do in a research course), students were asked to find an article published in Career Convergence, use the discussion board to post a summary, and then describe how they would incorporate the content into their future practice and how they might use the article directly with clients. Then, as is common in discussion board usage, they were asked to post at least two responses to their peers' article summary/comments.

The (Unexpected) Outcome
As an instructor, assigning discussions based on work outside of class is a gamble: you never quite know whether students will understand what you are looking for, whether they will fully engage with it, or experience something positive from it. In my experience, students at times meet career counseling course activities with reticence. I expected a perfunctory approach, with limited investment. What I found instead was that students exceeded all expectations with the Career Convergence posts, selecting a broad cross-section or articles related to their interests, and doing so energetically! Here’s a sample of the articles they selected:

Skill Use on the Job: Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) Skills and Career Counseling by Jenny Bell Martin and Debbie Corso De Marco
Research Shows Effectiveness of Life-Story Writing for Career Change by George Dutch
The Challenges of Career Counseling with Undocumented Immigrant Youth by Cassie Storlie
Helping Millennials Discover Life Purpose: A Narrative Approach by Danielle Menditch
Wanderlust: Engaging underrepresented students with wandering maps by Tiffany Waddell
Career Retention for Vulnerable Populations: A Relapse Perspective by Shan Johnson

Examples of Student Responses
Here is an opportunity to gauge the impression Career Convergence articles left on this group of students, in the students’ own words:

“Its emphasis on empathy is something that is imperative to all counseling, but is especially significant to a population that feels criminalized and so limited by its career possibilities. What it might be lacking is more detailed use of these approaches; this article only entices one in order to do the majority of the research for oneself. I think that is the point of these short articles in Career Convergence.”

“As someone who likes narrative-based career counseling models, I like the idea of a narrative intervention that catalyzes career change. I like that no matter where the client is developmentally or professionally, the end result of this intervention is a re-authored career narrative. Further, the fact that this intervention speaks to an individual's experience of career, rather than a socio-culturally prescribed course of career, makes it one that fits well with a globalized economy in which career change is not a possibility, but rather an inevitability as de-jobbing continues to result in a professional environment of ’occupational assignments’."

“This was an interesting article and gave specific therapy and skills use from DBT in relationship to career counseling. I appreciated the emphasis on connecting specific therapy based on a theory approaching specific areas of work related issues. The emphasis in coaching in the workplace was dynamic, unique, and interesting approach.”

“I really enjoyed this article and think that using a preventative measure is valuable in working with vulnerable populations. There were two intervention strategies mentioned (teaching the client to recognize the warning signals associated with imminent danger...and then helping the client learn more effective coping skills), but I would have benefited from seeing specific interventions that have been successful.”

The Results
Several lessons emerged for me from my students’ approach to the Career Convergence article review and critique. Graduate counseling students…

  • Are often effective barometers of Career Convergence articles, in that they represent a group who hungers for practical and innovative strategies. As you can see in their feedback, Career Convergence articles truly meet that need: they provide readers with great ideas, but also induce them to learn more.
  • Recognize the limits of a 950-word description, which whetted their appetites to learn more about the topic;
  • Approach research/practice topics and scholarly writing with confidence;
  • Learn specific intervention strategies for certain populations;
  • Recognize that others share their interests in certain populations;
  • Gain an increased appreciation for the connections between career and mental health.

Next Steps
I would like to recommend that other counselor educators consider using a similar assignment to engage graduate students. Then, consider adding to the excellent articles already online, by submitting your own. Lastly, encourage your graduate students’ further engagement by adding an assignment to submit an article!
It has been another year of excellent articles in Career Convergence, across all departments. At this time of year, it is especially appropriate to offer thanks to all of our contributors and to our readers, who fuel this work. Keep submitting and keep reading!


Chad LukeChad Luke PhD, LPC-MHSP, NCC, ACS is a counselor educator at Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville, TN and a clinical supervisor. He holds a PhD in Counselor Education from the University of Tennessee. He teaches courses in neuroscience for counselors, career counseling, theory, multicultural counseling, group counseling, practicum and internship. He has clinical experience with addictions, children & adolescents, the homeless, college students and other adults. He has been a Career Services Director and Associate Dean of Student Development, and has published several articles and book chapters on career, college success, and mental health. He is a Licensed Professional Counselor specializing in career, addictions, and college populations. His most recent book is entitled “Neuroscience for Counselors and Therapists: Integrating the Sciences of Brain and Mind”, published by SAGE.  You may contact him via email at cluke@tntech.edu.

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