Peer Consultation: A Best Practice for Career Development Professionals
By Lanie Damon and Kim Meredith
Peer Consultation in Action
During the 2017 NCDA Global Career Development conference, authors Lanie Damon and Kim Meredith each visited the NCDA publications exhibit booth to learn about guidelines for submitting articles. With the goal of co-authoring a career development article, they agreed to meet soon after the conference to brainstorm topics and begin writing.
Being 35 miles apart in a metropolitan area and working full-time in busy career centers at research institutions of higher education, they decided to leverage their distance counseling expertise by holding regular phone and teleconference meetings to accomplish their assignment collaboratively. They scheduled meetings on their work calendars for 30-60 minutes each, brainstormed topics, and discussed career development dynamics. The rapid advancements of career development and the changing landscape of the job market were consistently coming up for both authors in their work, causing conversations to free-flow from the minute of connection until the end of each call. While fulfilling their commitment to author an article together, they were also benefiting from checking in with each other about client services and issues in their respective work settings.
After nearly six months of meeting, Damon and Meredith realized a parallel process was evolving. The real story at hand was what they had begun calling “peer-iodic” consultation. With a look back into the American Counseling Associations’s historical articles, the authors found a 1994 article citing a name for their enthusiastic exchange of ideas and challenges: peer consultation. Peer consultation is defined as a disciplined process of mutual benefit for helping professionals to provide critical and supportive feedback and to help each other function more effectively in their professional roles (Benshoff 1994).
Encouragement for This Practice
With the goal of sharing with and inspiring colleagues, Damon and Meredith later submitted a presentation proposal to the Georgia Career Development Association board for inclusion in the Spring 2018 mini-conference. Fitting in well with the conference theme of “Reimagining Career Development: New Trends and Best Practices,” their proposal was accepted. They spent the next two and a half months in more frequent peer consultation, creating the presentation and supporting documentation that would lead to a call-to-action to their state association. During the conference presentation preparation, two additional colleagues coincidentally reached out to the duo for peer consultation. This reinforced their message, gave them a collaborative opportunity to bring others into their presentation, and highlighted the fact that professionals do not have to be geographically proximate to practice peer consultation.
Besides the obvious benefits of discussing ideas, issues, challenges, and cases with colleagues in the field, key reasons to engage in this practice include the ability to:
- Inform modern career development practices
- Empower and activate growth in self and peers
- Enhance counselor self-efficacy and professional identity
- Adhere to the NCDA Code of Ethics mandate.
The NCDA 2015 Code of Ethics, Section D, entitled Relationships with Other Professionals, states “Career professionals recognize that the quality of their interactions with colleagues can influence the quality of services provided to clients. They work to become knowledgeable about colleagues within and outside the profession. Career professionals develop positive working relationships and systems of communication with colleagues to enhance services to clients.” In addition, code C.2.d states “Career professionals continually monitor their effectiveness as professionals and take steps to seek peer supervision, as needed, to evaluate their efficacy as career professionals.” Codes of Ethics for other credentialed career practitioners are very similar.
Implementing Peer Consultation
Unlike peer supervision, peer consultation is voluntary and does not focus on evaluation. It allows the practitioner to self-select who to go to for on-going support. There could be one particular person that a practitioner routinely communicates with or it could be a group or association of professionals. The authors recommend the following for putting this idea into practice:
- Consider level of trust, availability of the peer practitioner, theoretical orientation, and work setting
- Explore using technologies like Skype, Zoom, Webex, GroupMe, Slack to facilitate your connection, especially at a geographic distance.
- Find a mutually agreeable and easy way to stay connected, perhaps setting a reasonable frequency and who should take the lead on scheduling and following up after each session.
- Make sure to put the time commitments on the calendar. Busy seasons will come and it is important to honor peer consultation commitments. Even (and perhaps especially) at peak times, it is an incredibly helpful resource for practitioners who want to do their best work.
- Be willing to both give and receive constructive feedback, investing in growth and progress for each person. This concept is at the heart of effective peer consultation.
Call to Action
While not a new concept, peer consultation is truly a best practice for career development professionals. There is a growing collection of articles, research, and data emphasizing career development and career outcomes in the United States and beyond. As career practitioners consider skills, presence in the market, and impact in the lives of clients, they should concurrently consider their own self-efficacy, career development, and professional identity. Peer consultation is not only an ethical mandate, it is also an investment in each other and the profession.
Benshoff, J. M. (n.d.). Peer consultation as a form of supervision. Retrieved from https://www.counseling.org/resources/library/ERIC Digests/94-20.pdf
Carlson, S. (2017, April 16). The future of work: How colleges can prepare students for the work ahead. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from https://www.chronicle.com/specialreport/The-Future-of-Work/108
Kautzman-East, M. (2016). The relationship among personality, professional identity, self-efficacy, and professional counselor advocacy actions. (Electronic Thesis or Dissertation). Retrieved from https://etd.ohiolink.edu/
Littlefield, L. J. (2016). An exploratory study of career counselor professional identity. (Electronic doctoral dissertation). The University of Georgia, Athens, GA. Retrieved from https://getd.libs.uga.edu/pdfs/littlefield_lisa_j_201605_phd.pdf
National Career Development Association. (2015). Code of ethics. Retrieved from: https://www.ncda.org/aws/NCDA/asset_manager/get_file/339
Woo, H. R. (2013). Identity construction and initial validation: Professional identity scale in counseling (PISC) (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA. Retrieved from http://ir.uiowa.edu/etd/2663
Lanie Damon, M.S., NCC, LPC, CCC, DCC, BCC, has worked in career management and development for more than 20 years, counseling adults and students to career decision making and career transition. Her professional background includes teaching at the undergraduate and middle school levels, recruiting, sales, consulting, supervising career counselors, and counseling. She has worked in small entrepreneurial environments, for major Wall Street firms, in for-profit and private educational settings, the federal government, and in public universities. Her experience from these varied work settings and roles creates a broad base from which to ask probing questions and make suggestions for exploration. She particularly enjoys working with clients around values and values clarification. Lanie holds an M.S. in counseling and a B.S. in secondary education from the University of Kansas. She certified as a Distance Credentialed Counselor, a Licensed Professional Counselor, Certified Career Counselor, and Board Certified Coach and to interpret the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, the Strong Interest Inventory and the Birkman First Look, has worked with the DISC, and is a Highlands Company affiliate, certified to interpret the Highlands Ability Battery. She is a member of the American Counseling Association, and the National and Georgia Career Development Associations. Lanie can be reached at email@example.com.
Kim Meredith, M.S., NCC, LPC, DCC, CFCC, is a Licensed and Nationally Certified Professional Counselor, a Distance Credentialed Counselor and a Certified Federal Career Coach. She is in her twenty-second year of work in higher education with appointments spanning across Enrollment Management and Student Affairs. She is currently working as the Assistant Director in Mercer University’s Center for Career and Professional Development. Kim has a Bachelor of Science in Service Learning and a Master of Science in Community Counseling (CACREP). Empowering people to find gratifying careers and live confidently and authentically is Kim’s calling. Her specialty is working with adult learners in higher education helping them to explore and discover their next career step and inspiring them to align that step with their personality, values, skills and interests. She is an advocate for U.S. Veterans, Mothers and professional career development counseling. Kim has been an active member of the GA Career Development Association (GCDA) since 2006. She has served on the Board of Directors for multiple terms and is currently the Database Manager for GCDA. She has been a member of NCDA since 2006, has attended three recent conferences, and is currently an active member of the NCDA Veteran’s Committee. Kim can be reached at Meredith_kc@mercer.edu.