Career Work is Justice Work

Listen to this welcome message from your instructor!

Career Work is Justice Work is a course born from my experiences working in St. Louis and Ferguson, MO from 2009-2017. For many of you, my mention of Ferguson automatically brings up memories of great turmoil as shown on the news across the world after Michael Brown, Jr.’s death in 2014. I was immediately contacted by groups such as Ferguson-Florissant School District, Ritenour School District, the Organization for Black Struggle, Hands Up Coalition and more because of the work I had been doing in Ferguson and North City St. Louis from 2009 up until that time. My team and I worked in Ferguson Schools and at protests on the streets for much of the next year. If you are interested in learning more about some of this work (NOT required for this course), please view two stories in Counseling Today at and

“What does this have to do with career work?” is a valid and important question. As a practicing career services professional and career counselor educator, I had my antenna up the entire time to witness the impact that just/ unjust conditions had on protestors’ lives. Whether it was the man recently released from prison after 35 years who could not protest because it violated his parole, to the young man who drove from Memphis, TN to protest for the first time in his life, to the children whose lives were disrupted by helicopters, marchers, and sirens for weeks… there was a career story to tell each and every time. It was these career stories that resonated most with me as they described the personal, lived experiences as People of Color, economically depressed persons, and persons of privilege who viewed the window of opportunity for change through the lens of their work lives.

My goal for this class is to give you a different on-line course experience. One that encourages you to ask questions that have remained unasked, to think deeply about your own experiences of work as they form the spectrum of privilege and opportunity you have in your life, and to shift your career services practice to better incorporate ideas of justice for all workers.

The primary audience for this course is any career services professional (e.g., coaches, facilitators, human resource professionals, counselors, psychologists) working with those less privileged in the workforce as well as you that work with those more privileged. The principles and achievements of justice through work must be inclusive of all across universal work environments if we envision a just world-of-work.

At the conclusion of the course, you will be able to:

1.      Better understand your own experiences, thoughts, and beliefs about work and justice.

2.      Think about work and how it is valued in our society.

3.      Define social justice and apply its tenets to professional career services work.

4.      Identify your own experiences of boundaries and freedoms within your educational and work history.

5.      Describe critical consciousness as a goal of coaching and counseling.

6.      Employ 5 self-care/ self-exploration activities to do your own work around social justice.

7.      Employ 5 activities/ interventions into your career services practice that enhance critical consciousness within the career domain.

This course has five major sessions (or classes). In each you may be asked to read text or documents, access web links, view videos, listen to audio, internalize what you are learning, and answer questions about the course content. When you are asked to perform any of these activities, this will be listed in redYou have 30 days to complete the requirements of the course.  Please record the amount of time you spend in each section of the course. We need this for documentation purposes.  The materials are copyrighted and are not to be shared with any others.

Download the Worksheet and save it to your computer. As you move through the course, you will track your progress by answering questions on a worksheet. This worksheet will be submitted to the instructor at the end of the course to verify your earned continuing education units. Once the worksheet is submitted and determined to be complete, I will ask that your certificate of completion be sent to you.

Let me close by sharing that much of the work in Ferguson and St. Louis that has happened in the subsequent years has been work/ career oriented. While you likely know about the young activist who continue to do justice work today through organizations such as Black Lives Matter you might not know about the handful of protestors who became politicians, or the multitude of social entrepreneurs who have opened business designed to benefit the community, or the community cooperative house that spreads food, joy, and art throughout its North City St. Louis neighborhood. Each of these dozens of changed people are enacting their changed identities through community-centric work today.

This course is dedicated to them.

I believe you will find it helpful to keep a journal or log throughout this course using either a Word document you keep open on your computer or a notebook/ journal. If you choose not to journal, you will need scrap paper and pen/ pencil at specific times.

Let’s begin the course…

 Getting in the Mental Space

Mindset, and more specifically attentional focus, is something that I think matters greatly in our work. This is born from my social justice/existentialist roots having been deeply influenced by the written expressions of lived experiences from Elie Wiesel, Audrey Lourde, Steven Biko, Victor Frankl, bell hooks, James Baldwin and others. This first session is designed to prompt your thinking and reflection.

To begin, I would like you to read Adrienne Rich’s speech “Claiming an Education” from the 1977 convocation at Douglass College.

In your reading and reflection, I encourage you to think about the idea of “claiming” in the context she describes (education and work for women) while also expanding this view to those, including women, who experience the current world-of-work from a “less-than” or marginalized perspective.

Read and enjoy this powerful 6 page reading. 

Now that you have completed the reading, please spend 5 minutes in reflection Rich’s powerful speech. Which parts did you identify with personally? Which did you embrace easily? Which did you feel yourself (your inside, inner world self) want to push away?

This last question might serve as a beacon to the type of information or persons whom you wish to spend more time reflecting about through this course.

Now, I would like to guide you through the first dialogue for the course. I use the term dialogue versus lecture or presentation because I hope to engage you in a dynamic process of personal exploration and learning. We will see if this works as you watch the video below.

As a reminder, please have a writing utensil and a blank sheet of paper with you before you begin.

Now that you have finished with Class 1, answer questions 1-3 on your worksheet. Once finished with that, you can go to Class 2!

Valuing Work in the World

How are you thinking about your professional career services practice after the Class 1 session? Has anything shifted for you? Are you more aware of the processes by which you form thoughts, beliefs, and opinions? Are there aspects of your work life that you must “claim?”

Let’s begin Class 2 with a second graduation speech, one of my all-time favorites. This one is a video created using David Foster Wallace’s famous speech This is Water which has been presented in a short movie format I think you will enjoy. Watch the video below.

Hopefully that got your brain juices flowing! The call to action from Mr. Wallace echoes the call to action I hope you take from this class! I want you to choose; to choose to notice and think differently about your work as a career services professional. During class 1 we revealed the way that your brain is wired with a default process that causes you to miss things and create thoughts and beliefs that are not accurate and thus not helpful.

For this Class 2 session, I want to expand your thinking to the way we value work in our social systems. This is important because the value we implicitly or unconsciously assign to work is related to the value we assigned to the worker who does that work! This valuing structure within the world-of-work is essential to understanding and addressing issue of social justice through professional career services practice.

Please read a redux of an old blog post I recently wrote here:

Take a moment to write in your journal (remember from class 1 when I asked you to keep a journal… you thought I would forget didn’t you?) about a time that you demonstrated valuing for someone who worked in a job that fell on the bottom of the work valuing hierarchy we are describing. [JOURNAL FOR 2 MINUTES]

Now, let’s explore some information that signifies the way we have socially constructed the way work is valued in society.

Read this USA Today article from 2014 identifies the emerging then and continuing today trend of  growth and opportunity in the Blue Collar sector.  Despite this continuing trend and alternative messages beginning to be magnified in media, there remains a distinct bias towards four-year universities and white-collar jobs in society.

White-collar bias extends beyond traditional blue-collar jobs. This bias is seen in our research (as identified in Torlina’s 2011 book Working Class: Challenging Myths about Blue Collar Labor), educational systems (see Chronicle of Higher Education 2017 video to watch at  and dominant media narratives to read (McGarvey’s 2016 article on HuffPost addresses this topic).  


If we can see that this system of valuing work and resulting bias against certain types of work and workers, consciousness of this alone will shift your perspective and career services practice. Let’s dig a little deeper in this next video presentation. Watch the video below. 

Today we began with your reflection on broader issues of the system of work and how we socially construct the value of that system. We began to transition from personal reflection to more concrete content with some aspects of the Psychology of Working model/theory. In Class 3 we will tie this directly into social justice.

All the while remember this is water, this is water…

Complete items 4-6 on your worksheet before going on to Class 3.

Multicultural and Social Justice Framework

Welcome to Class 3 where we get over the hump of Career Work is Justice Work! How is this course for you thus far? Are you spending the necessary time to self-reflect? Can you find movement in your own thinking and perspective? Keep working at it either way…

I do not have a third keynote speech to share today but will kick this session off with a cartoon to direct our minds to a useful place. View The Unequal Opportunity Race below.

Let’s take 2 minutes and submit an entry to your journal. What aspects of the cartoon did you connect/engage with? Which did you mentally push away/reject? In what circumstances would you use this cartoon with a client in your practice?

ACA/ AMCD’s new Multicultural and Social Justice Competencies provide the counseling profession’s “industry standard” for assessing and operationalizing social justice work in a helping relationship. Read the introductory article found here.

Of particular interest to us today, are the four quadrants that help us better understand the career services professional/ client dynamic. These are:

Quadrant I: Privileged Counselor–Marginalized Client
Quadrant II: Privileged Counselor–Privileged Client
Quadrant III: Marginalized Counselor–Privileged Client
Quadrant IV: Marginalized Counselor–Marginalized Client

Helping professionals can use the conceptual framework to identify the relationship dynamic and predict potential communication disruptions, belief system differences, and outcome expectations and plan accordingly.

Furthermore, your review of the four domains below will hopefully illuminate the structure of this course. I have changed the terms specific to counseling to be inclusive of career services professionals (any person who delivers these services including coaches, facilitators, consultants, human resources professionals, counselors, psychologists, and workforce educators). These are:

1.      Career services professional self-awareness.

2.      Client worldview.

3.      Career services relationship.

4.      Intervention and advocacy choices.

This framework is a useful place to begin thinking about the relationships we maintain with our diverse, multi-identity clients. The reality is that the career service profession draws from research, theory, and information that represents more narrow perspectives than this framework. View the video below to dig a little deeper into this history.

This content rich class session comes to a close now. For the final two sessions we will give you things to try out in your own personal work (Class 4) and with your clients (Class 5). I believe that we have now laid the foundation to do this work by deeply considering ideas such as claiming what is yours by human right (Session 1) and thinking about the structure we have constructed around the world-of-work (Session 2) while providing several important elements in this session including Four Quadrants for understanding difference between career services professional and client, four domains for understanding inclusivity in our work, Blustein’s 3 needs that are met by work from the Psychology of Working, and the concept of alterity or otherness.

You will have a lot of things to try after Session 4!

Complete items 7-11 before going on to Class 4.

Take 5, Self Practice Tips for Change

Take 5 is the term I use for the five take-home ideas, skills, techniques, etc. that I wish for students/ participants to leave with when they attend any of my presentations/workshops/ courses. I am excited to help you take 5 techniques for self-practice home with you today.

To begin our Take 5 session, please remember that these 5 techniques are designed for you to apply to yourself; to foster your own growth and development as a career services professional.

Our opening video is my favorite TED talk of all time. It has gotten some acclaim in recent years but even if you have watched it before you might, like me, enjoy watching it time and time again (I think I have seen it at least two dozen times and learn more each one).

Watch The Danger of a Single Story by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie below. 

Let’s take 4 minutes and submit an entry to your journal. Which story about another do you most wish to learn? Which single story about you needs to be retold to others?

I think it important to address one more aspect of client psychology, the psychology of inequality, before exploring the Take 5 Self Practice Tips for Change. The sense of “deficit” or inequality most often addresses economic disadvantage with is a cooccurring problem with all marginalized populations. Please read The Psychology of Inequality by Elizabeth Kolbert at

This class session is about you. The Take 5 techniques are designed for you to apply to yourself so that you can avoid danger of single stories in your own work.  With this in mind, please watch this video where I coach you through five Take 5 techniques:

I want to close this class session with my favorite commercial from The Philippines that makes me laugh and cry thinking about the danger of a single story in terms of our children’s moral development.

Watch it below. 

Complete items 12-16 before moving on to the last class.

Five Practices for Working with Clients

Take 5 is the term I use for the five take-home ideas, skills, techniques, etc. that I wish for students/ participants to leave with when they attend any of my presentations/workshops/ courses. I am excited to help you take 5 techniques for working with clients home with you today.

Is anybody out there? Have you made it to the fifth and final class session? If so, welcome to what I hope is the big payoff for this course. We will be walking through five Take 5 techniques for working with clients from a justice perspective.

The end of last class has me connected to my penchant for global commercials so let’s begin by watching my favorite commercial from Singapore, Dream for My Child. You will notice that it has a compelling work/career element as we learn about this father’s most salient value.

Am I the only one with tears in their eyes? The question before us is how would we work effectively with the father as a client? Or anyone who may share different lived experiences and identities than ours?

Having a point-of-view based on an overarching framework is important to understanding the career service professional’s position in the helping relationship. The point-of-view from which I will be sharing today is that of Advocating Workers-within-Environment (Hutchison, 2015) which uses Albert Bandura’s work as its basis. To further clarify the foundation of Bandura’s Agentic Theory of Self read   

And now with a primer video describing how I use the Agentic Theory of Self to build my Advocating Workers-in-Environment approach, I ask you to view:

From the foundation described above, and using the guidelines shared, I would like you to view the following video where I introduce the important concept of creative uncertainty before sharing two techniques that I find most helpful in the beginning of career services relationships.

Please take 3 minutes to write in your journal one last time. Think about the way you currently complete intake or process your clients into your practice. What aspects of this might focus clients onto a single story?

Now that you have finished journaling for this course, I do hope that it is something you might continue as your justice-oriented practice develops or at least refer to at points in the future when it might be helpful.

In my reflection of intake/ processing in of clients I think about intake forms and the questions they ask, I think of many ways that this communicates a bias towards a single story such as:

  • Gender? If only two options are given, non-binary individuals may be excluded.
  • Married? If you work in a state where same sex couples cannot get married, LGBT partners may be excluded.
  • Race/ Ethnicity Pick One? May exclude multiracial individuals.
  • Employer? May trigger those who are unemployed, underemployed, or gigging their way through this world-of-work.

I am sure if we were to meet as a group, we could come up with dozens of such examples.

Let’s roll forward now to later sessions with diverse clients. I would like to share 3 final techniques that have worked in my practice over the years.

 View the video below.

So, that is what I came here to teach you in this course Career Work is Justice Work. My sincere hope is that you found it compelling, useful, and most importantly engaging of your will to change your practice in fundamental ways.

I leave you with one last 90 second commercial from the United States to view below.

Be well and strive to be just!

Please complete items 17-18 on your worksheet and submit to the instructor as noted below.

The Ending

Congratulations on completing this course!!  Please submit your completed worksheet to Brian Hutchison for review.  When your worksheet is determined to be complete, he will recommend that you receive the certification of completion with 5 clock hours for your certifications.

As is required, please complete this short evaluation for our records. It is required by the National Board for Certified Counselors.

Thanks for your work in this course and thanks for your support of