By Aaron H. Oberman
Career counseling may not be the most exciting topic for many counseling graduate students; however, as counselor educators it is our job to show them the importance of each piece of the counseling process. Career counseling is an important part of the counseling curriculum because many of the issues faced by clients often relate back to career concerns. For example, the client who is having marital or relationship issues could be connected to job dissatisfaction, recently being fired, etc. While this issue may not be the only concern, it is important for counseling professionals to be aware of these career related issues that can lead someone to seek out counseling.
Career Collage Goals
In my experience as a counselor educator, I have found the career collage to be one of the best initial strategies to engage students in the discipline of career counseling. This approach helps students to immediately see the value of career counseling by making connections between their life experiences and career development. This method has worked well in face-to-face, blended, and 100% online class formats. In fact, the online students are generally the most eager to participate in this assignment because many of them may have never met their fellow classmates in a traditional classroom environment. This assignment serves many purposes as students are beginning to learn about the importance of career counseling. Students will:
- create a collage and be able to effectively share it with their classmates
- reflect on their own career path so they are better prepared to help their clients/students in the career development process
- compare their collage with classmates and make connections between their career paths.
The collage activity is generally completed during the first class session as part of the introductory procedures and fits well with a course overview. The activity requires about an hour and half for a class of 20 students, and the only materials needed are a computer for each student (preferably a computer lab) with a program such as Microsoft PowerPoint and Internet access. It is helpful if the classroom has a projector and screen for the students to share their collage with the class.
Career Collage Process
To begin the activity, instruct students that each of them will create an online collage as an introductory activity that will help them to get to know their classmates, and reflect on their career paths that led them to aspire to be a professional counselor. Before the students begin to search for images, encourage the group to take a few minutes of self-reflection to focus on the information they want to share through the collage medium. Next, ask each student to open up a single PowerPoint slide on their computer screen and to open https://images.google.com/ or a similar website to locate images to include as part of their collage. Each collage should contain the student’s first name (or nickname, if appropriate) and a minimum of five images that show the student's career development and experiences that led them to pursue a counseling degree. These are the only instructions needed so that each student can use his or her own creativity in putting together the assignment. Give students approximately 30 minutes to reflect, complete the collage assignment, and submit to the instructor or course website, such as Blackboard. It is helpful if the faculty member has already created a collage in order to answer any questions and to help any students having difficulties. It is recommended that the faculty member share his or her collage first as an example to the students of the presentation expectations. Once all the students have submitted their collage, the instructor should create a random order for students to share their collage with the class. Each presentation takes about 3-5 minutes depending on the student’s experiences and number of images included (some students include more than five images). It is helpful for the instructor to share any comments or connections when the students present each collage, and to also encourage other students to share comments as they make connections with their classmates. In a 100% online class, this assignment would be modified by students posting the assignment during the first couple days of class and encouraging the students to post reflections and comments to their classmates during the first week of class to help promote a sense of community.
In order to help the students to make the connection between this assignment and career counseling, the instructor should also share how this activity can be used in a counseling session with clients. The counselor can use this activity to help the client reflect on his/her own career development, similar to a career lifeline but in picture format. This activity will help the client to think about his/her various careers, past and present, and make identify similarities and differences, as well as likes and dislikes that relate to their various career paths. This collage assessment could be conducted as part of the counseling session, or given as a homework assignment and brought in the following week to help the client reflect and begin to think about the potential for new/different career paths.
Overall, students have found this assignment to be very helpful as they begin to think about career counseling and the important role career development plays in our lives. While clients bring in many different presenting problems to the counselor, many of these initial concerns tie back to career development and planning. Students are able to reflect on their own career path and are able to comprehend how this information can help them in their future counseling sessions with clients.
Additional information related to this activity can be found at the reference and link below:
Oberman, A. (2011). My career journey. In M. Pope, C. Minor, & T. Lara, Experiential Activities for Teaching Career Counseling and for Facilitating Career Groups (Volume III), 271-272. Available in the NCDA Career Resource Store.
Aaron H. Oberman, Ph.D., NCC is an associate professor and program coordinator for the counselor education programs at The Citadel. He has prior experience as a career counselor, and has worked as a counselor educator and supervisor for 10 years. His research interests include school counselor supervision, job satisfaction, and best practices in teaching. Dr. Oberman may be contacted through e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.