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February 7, 2020
Career professionals need to consider how the online world affects clients in terms of their data, social equity, privacy and access

By Tom Staunton

The internet and its effects on society are rarely out of the news. From the impact it has on young people, to its place in fostering extremism, to how big tech firms do (or don’t) pay taxes, the internet is continuously the subject of debate. Despite such controversies, it is ingrained in our everyday lives. This means that, as careers practitioners, we can neither just get on with using the internet without asking any ethical questions, nor can we assume that the right thing to do is to retreat from technology. The world we live in means we have to use the internet, but as career practitioners, we still need to engage with associated ethical questions. This article will explore several ethical considerations related to the internet from a career guidance perspective.

vector illustration for personal identity recognition and access authentication
Interactional ethics

Medical ethics is governed by the principle of doing no harm or “nonmaleficence.” This means the first duty of someone working in medicine is to not harm anyone under their care. I think this is a helpful starting point for thinking about career guidance practice. Career guidance practitioners need to make sure that their use of the internet does no harm to their clients or any third parties.

The internet’s potential for harm is often connected to data. The same data that makes the internet’s existence possible also makes the individuals who use it vulnerable. Data that is created through Skype interviews, online forums, message boards, online courses and even email exchanges is often sensitive and can leave clients vulnerable to having their private information made public. These are vital ways individual practitioners and careers services should be thinking about data:

  • Security: Is the data the career professional/career service generates about clients/students kept secure?
  • Transparency: Do clients know what data is collected about them and how it will be used?
  • Platforms: Increasingly, the online world is mediated by platforms (eg, Facebook, Skype, Dropbox, etc.), so career professionals need to know and communicate to clients how these platforms may make use of data.
Equity ethics

Career professionals also need to be concerned with how the online world affects our clients in terms of social equity. While the internet may appear free and easy, career professionals need to think more critically about whom it includes and excludes, and how they can help individuals make use of it.

Firstly, we should be cautious about lauding the benefits of technology to people who might be excluded from it. People who are economically disadvantaged may be able to afford less technology, both in the form of hardware and in the form of data and internet access. Similarly, some people with disabilities may find it harder to access the internet without assistive technology. Talking about the internet as essential to a career may end up excluding these populations. This observation might also encourage career professionals to consider advocating for increased technological access for clients with whom they work.

“Career guidance practitioners need to make sure that their use of the internet does no harm to their clients or any third parties.”

Secondly, we need to remember what the internet costs people. Though online tools may often be free (which is a significant part of their attraction), at point of access they often require individuals to subject themselves to surveillance. This is worth reflecting on, partly because we increasingly live in a society where individuals’ data is the means by which companies make profit. Career professionals might find that their actions do more to facilitate private profit than benefit their clients. This is not a straightforward issue but it’s helpful to recognize some of the ethical complexities that are at stake.

More significantly, career professionals need to think about the consequences of surveillance for their clients. Platforms such as LinkedIn and Facebook can be used by recruiters to screen candidates. This can lead to individuals being assessed based on their beliefs, their politics, their social life or even aspects of their identity such as their gender, age or ethnicity. Importantly, digital technology enables this discrimination. Though this discrimination is not created by technology, it can make it harder to combat and counter.

Radical ethics

Radical career guidance looks at how careers practice can engage with transforming and changing society. This argues that ethics does not just involve avoiding negative actions, but includes proactive positive actions to make the world more ethical. We can see the influence of the internet as a place to engage with social change in examples from outside of the world of career guidance, such as the Arab Spring or the #MeToo movements.

The internet can allow individuals to develop relationships and access information that they would not have had access to before. People are often bound by their family backgrounds and their locations when it comes to accessing career-related support and information. The internet has the potential to transform what individuals can access and make use of for their careers. Career practitioners can pursue ethical agendas by helping clients make use of the internet to overcome disadvantages they might face.

From a more radical point of view, the internet can also create spaces where careers work can engage with issues that might improve individuals’ working lives, such as highlighting poor conditions, unethical working practices or discriminatory recruitment policies. The internet can spread stories and allow people with shared interests to network and organize around issues. Career practitioners should think through how they can develop skills to support these sorts of activities or equip their clients to do the same.

In conclusion, these three positions create different but overlapping starting points for individuals approaching how the internet and ethics interact within career development.

Tom Staunton is a Lecturer in Career Development with the International Centre for Guidance Studies based at the University of Derby. His main teaching and research interests are career guidance theory, technology and career guidance, use of LMI and social justice. 

February 7, 2020
When encouraging client self-advocacy or advocating on a client’s behalf, it is vital that career professionals be aware of ethical considerations such as informed consent

By Andrew Bassingthwaighte

While career development practitioners (CDPs) help clients navigate their career journeys, often we are also called upon to help these individuals deal with other issues that may impede them on their path. These issues can range from housing to immigration support to discrimination, to name a few; in each case, there is often a desire either from within us or from the client to act as an advocate.

Woman Helping Retired Senior Man Attending IT Class In Community Centre

Advocacy is a long-recognized concept in career development, and many professionals are aware of the value of this process, especially when the goal is to help clients access supports and resources that will further their economic and social well-being. Many of us engage daily in promoting self-advocacy – or the ability of our clients to make choices and decisions that affect their lives. Sometimes, though, there is a need to engage in further advocacy work on behalf of a specific client or community.

No matter the type of advocacy that we engage in, it is essential for CDPs to recognize two issues when engaging in this type of work. The first is to respect the dignity of clients with whom we work. The second is to be aware of any ethical considerations that could affect our work or profession.

Forms of advocacy

Advocacy looks different depending on the client or community that we are supporting. There are four main types of advocacy that could intersect with career practitioners’ work:

  • Self-advocacy: This involves empowering the clients with whom we work to make choices and decisions that affect their lives. Self-advocacy is regarded as an ideal form of advocacy as well as one that CDPs are most trained to engage in (Cadenas, 2018). Supporting clients in this type of advocacy requires establishing trust between the career practitioner and the client. This approach should incorporate cultural humility and sensitivity (Anderson et al., 2012, Cadenas, 2018).
  • Professional advocacy: Career practitioners serve as a bridge between their client and those in positions of power – such as people working in housing organizations or disability services – to make them aware of the client’s needs. It is essential when engaging in this type of advocacy to recognize that we are working with the client and give them space to speak and be heard (Mitcham et al., 2012).
  • Citizenship advocacy: Career practitioners expand their roles beyond the services they offer and act as a resource to communities that may face marginalization or discrimination within different sectors. The goal of this advocacy is to be a resource to those in the community and support their efforts. Community organizations such as immigration employment councils can support this work.
  • Public advocacy: In what is seen as the final level of advocacy (Cadenas, 2018), career practitioners work with both institutions and groups to draft public statements and inform policy processes. CERIC, for example, seeks to catalyze conversations around the economic and social impact of career development at a national level.

What all these advocacy models have in common is that they encourage practitioners to go beyond their typical daily tasks and engage in the process of challenging social justice issues that many of their clients face daily.

Engaging in advocacy: What to be aware of?

For those wanting to engage in advocacy efforts, the Canadian Standards & Guidelines for Career Development Practitioners – Code of Ethics highlights several areas that practitioners should be aware of in their work. Chief among these is the notion of informed consent.

Informed consent

The Code of Ethics framework (CCCD, 2004) prioritizes informed consent in several areas concerning how information is collected and used, but also with respect to the individual and their rights. At all times within our advocacy efforts, we need to ensure that we are putting the rights of the client first and taking the time to engage them in the process to identify their level of comfort with any steps taken.

However, there are times when, despite a client’s insistence on confidentiality, action is required (for example, where there is evidence of imminent danger to the client or others) (CCCD, 2004). In a CERIC blog on “The Ethics of Advocacy,” Roberta Neault (2012) gives a compelling overview of the debate that practitioners face when dealing with these concerns, which I encourage all practitioners to review.

Your comfort level

Further to recognizing the client’s comfort level when engaging in advocacy, as practitioners, we need to be comfortable in our abilities to do this type of work. The national Code of Ethics (CCCD, 2004) is clear that we must recognize the boundaries of our competencies, especially when dealing with issues that involve legal or other advice that may be outside of our areas of expertise. Alongside this, though, are personal competencies and boundaries. In becoming involved in advocacy work, we need to recognize our capacity and resilience when dealing with potentially stressful or traumatic issues.

Conflicts of interest

Our efforts may come into conflict with the agencies, organizations or funders that we work with each day. In some cases, this can be beneficial, as our advocacy work might identify opportunities to fill gaps or provide tailored services to individuals or groups. In other cases, though, our work may come in direct conflict with organizational policies or the practitioner’s personal beliefs or value systems.

It is vital that practitioners inform clients up front about the limitations of our services, alongside disclosing any potential conflicts of interest that might arise. In instances where a conflict arises and we need to step aside from the process, it is imperative to work with the client on what happens next (ie, referral to another organization), so the client is not left struggling with a lack of agency.


Engaging in advocacy is a critical but also enjoyable element of a career practitioner’s work. While there are several ethical considerations to bear in mind when engaging in this work, we need to understand that we are not alone. Not only are there groups and organizations that can help support the clients we work with, but as practitioners, we can also access these groups to learn from them, the issues that they face, and how we can support and walk alongside them as allies.

Andrew Bassingthwaighte is a Talent Development Specialist and Master of Arts – Social Justice and Equity Studies candidate at Brock University in St Catharines, ON. Having worked for almost 20 years in the UK and Canada providing employment counselling, training and mentoring to individuals from different socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds, he now has the privilege of serving on Brock University’s President’s Advisory Committee on Human Rights, Equity and Decolonization (PACHRED).


Cadenas, G. (2018). Advocacy in career development with immigrants. Career Planning & Adult Development Journal34(4), 7–20.

Mitcham, M., Greenidge, W., Bradham-Cousar, M., Figliozzi, J., & Thompson, M. A. (2012). Increasing career self-efficacy through group work with culturally and linguistically diverse students. Journal of School Counseling10(22).

Anderson, S. K., Peila-Shuster, J. J., & Aragon, A. (2012). Cross cultural career counseling: Ethical issues to consider. Career Planning & Adult Development Journal28(1), 127–139.

Canadian Council for Career Development. (2004). Canadian standards and guidelines for career development practitioners: Code of ethics. Retrieved from

Neault, R. (2012, October 31). The ethics of advocacy: A Canadian perspective. [Blog post]. Retrieved from ceric.ca/2012/10/the-ethics-of-advocacy-a-canadian-perspective/