My Thoughts at the Beginning of a New Year on the Way Career Counseling Should be in Times of COVID-19 Pandemic: In Commemoration of the Milestone of JCDA’s Membership Reaching 20,000
President , Japan Career Development Association (JCDA)
Celebrating the arrival of the year 2021, or Reiwa 3 in the Japanese calendar, I wish to extend my new year greetings to all of you. Let me express once again my heartfelt appreciation for the great support and cooperation JCDA members kindly extended to us over the last year. I am hoping that our wonderful cooperation with you will continue to thrive this year again!
Before anything else, I must talk about the impact we had suffered from the outbreak of COVID-19 infections over the last year. As you all know, the COVID-19 pandemic has dealt a serious blow to politics, economies, businesses, and workers around the world. Under such circumstances, we, as the ones that constitute the today’s environment, have been forced to reconsider the ways we used to live and drastically change our lifestyles. According to the results of the Survey on the Status of JCDA Members’ Professional Activities and Sentiments during the COVID-19 Pandemic conducted by JCDA from July through August 2020, it was revealed that an increasing number of clients sought to discuss overarching topics including their workstyles and ways of life during counseling sessions. Living in today’s world of uncertainly where our ways of life and career paths have become non-linear and what we are doing now would not necessarily lead to the next step, I imagine that everyone has been forced to think about “what we should be doing” amid this crisis. I believe that the survey results reflected such underlying feelings of uncertainly commonly shared by our members. The results also revealed that there has been a rise in the number of clients with mental health issues stemming from the increasing prevalence of online communication and dilution of social ties among people.
To help contain the spread of COVID-19 infections., JCDA decided to cancel the Career Festival event that we had planned to hold last year to commemorate the 20th anniversary of our organization. Under these circumstances, it has become a major mission for career counselors like us to consider, as a group of professionals, “what” we should encourage the society to do and “how” we should do that. Just as the first outbreak of COVID-19 swept across Europe, I happened to see on TV an interview with a producer of the 100th Salzburg Festival who had decided to hold the festival in Austria despite setbacks from the outbreak. In the interview, I remember him saying that “music gives people hope in any period in history. Now that we are in the middle of the COVID-19 outbreak, there is a responsibility for us to fulfill as musicians.” Hearing this statement, I felt that the producer wanted to say that they must send their messages across to people of their time about what they value in their roles as artists and go ahead to embark on their professions.” If my interpretation of the statement is correct, as we are living in a time like this in which the past ways of living and working are being reviewed, I believe that we would have to help our clients to live their lives in ways that allow them to “be true to themselves” by harnessing our expertise and professional skills.
For the January issue of the JCDA Journal, I wrote an article tracing the 20 years’ history and development of our organization. As I mentioned in the article, we held the JCDA Conference to Commemorate the CDA Membership Reaching 10,000, and, some 10 years after that, the number of JCDA members has reached 20,000 this year. I think that Japan Career Development Association, as the biggest association of career counselors in Japan, will become increasingly required to contribute to society in ways that match its scale. These social expectations, I believe, will help us achieve the goal of “developing career counseling services as a social infrastructure” that we have upheld as a mission of JCDA.
Summary of Our Activities over the Last Year
The COVID-19 pandemic significantly affected events and projects all over, including the ones by JCDA. We managed to hold the JCDA Annual Conference by allowing only 50 participants to attend the conference venue, recording the content of the Conference, and letting other members to see the video. As for Career Consultant certification exams, we postponed the exams scheduled in June and July, and canceled some certification renewal training and skill enhancement courses. We then began providing certification renewal training courses online and significantly changed the internal structure of JCDA to accommodate the transition to online learning. The number of JCDA’s branch and area meetings as well as peer-training sessions held has also declined significantly. Nevertheless, let me emphasize that these changes have also brought about positive consequences. Firstly, going online made it easier for people living in remote, rural areas to receive certification renewal training courses. Secondly, some of our members volunteered to launch our peer-training and other training programs to go online, which has allowed so many members to embrace online learning opportunities. We are truly grateful for these developments.
◆ Holding the Online Events: Project to Contribute to the Future and JCDA Online Career Counseling
As an event to commemorate the 20th anniversary of JCDA, we held the online event called Project to Contribute to the Future on October 31, 2020, in collaboration with the Yomiuri Shimbun, a major newspaper company in Japan. The theme of the event was “What It Means to Us to Coexist in Today’s Society: Consider Ways of Working and Living in the New Normal Era.” The event was watched by over 1,600 people. Mr. Tatsuru Uchida, a philosopher and martial artist, delivered a keynote speech under the title of “Coexisting with the COVID-19.” Then, I gave a presentation on the topic of “to live a life in ways that are true to yourself and what career counselors can do to realize it.” Then, we had a panel discussion, the last program of the day. The moderator of the discussion was Yoko Kurogi, Director of JCDA , and the panelists included Mr. Tatsuru Uchida, mentioned earlier, Osamu Yamada, Executive Vice-President of cybozu, Mr. Toshiya Tanaka, Director of Nippon Manpower Co., Ltd., and me. We talked about various issues including changes to emerge in society and businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, what it means to coexist, and answering questions received from the vertical participants. The discussion, I believe, turned out to be quite interesting and informative. And then, on November 14, we held the JCDA Online Career Counseling event. For this event, we had some 260 volunteers who sought to receive career counseling. It was the first attempt for us in JCDA’s history to provide counseling to over 200 clients across Japan on the same day. The attempt turned out to be a success in which many of the clients said they were satisfied with the counseling they received. The event also turned out to be a great success for those in charge of organizing and operating the event, because they succeeded in providing pre-event training and building the online environment which will be helpful for them to proceed to the next step. I also want to take this opportunity to express my deepest appreciation to many JCDA members who helped us to conduct this online career counseling event. Thank you so much. Your help was invaluable.
◆ Creation of the Report of the Study Group on the Mechanism for CDAs to Receive Career Counseling Regularly
We established the Study Group on the Mechanism for CDAs to Receive Career Counseling Regularly for the purpose of expanding opportunities for CDAs to have first-hand professional experience and improving their professional capabilities. The Study Group conducted a survey on CDA-certified professionals to find out the actual status of their career counseling activities and their thoughts about receiving career counseling themselves. Based on the survey results, the Study Group made recommendations regarding a mechanism to allow CDAs to receive career counseling.
Major initiatives to be Undertaken in This Year
We are planning to undertake the following initiatives, again with the aim of “letting career counselors design and lead a better society.
◆ Holding JCDA Online Career Counseling Sessions on a Continued Basis
As the Report from the Study Group on the Ways of Future Hunan Resource Development Policy issued by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare highlighted “the necessity of promoting the use of remote counseling opportunities that enable people to receive career consulting at any time and place,” we are fully aware that it is an important and urgent task to promote wider use of online career counseling services. As I mentioned earlier, this year marks the second year since we started providing online career counseling and, in this year, we will work to achieve such goals as: (1) selecting and training CDAs for online career counseling; (2) establishing the operating structure for online career counseling services; and (3) driving concrete measures to promote comprehensive career check service called Career Dock.
◆ReVola(Rehabilitation Volunteer) Project to Help Cancer Patients Return to Work while Supporting SMEs
Last year, JCDA was selected as the organization to manage Japan Cancer Society’s Project to Support Cancer Patients by Utilizing Dormant Deposits. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has prevented us from taking specific actions for the Project. To make up for the delay, this year we will focus on completing our originally planned tasks at a fast pace, including (1) creating a web-based platform for the Project; (2) developing our program for ReVola Project that integrates career counseling service as a main component and implementing the program on a trial basis; and (3) conducting PR activities to publicize the ReVola Project.
◆Activities Based on the Results of JCDA Member Survey
Based on the results of the Survey on the Status of JCDA Members' Professional Activities and Sentiments during the COVID-19 Pandemic that I mentioned earlier, we are planning to put together the Survey Report and hold an on-line workshop to share its findings with our members to follow up on the survey results. Specifically, we will have an interactive discussion to discuss roles to be played by career counselors and issues they are likely to encounter while trying to improve their abilities.
I want to emphasize that, precisely because we are in the period of uncertainty in which we have no idea how much consequences will be brought about by the pandemic, we are determined to focus our efforts on making people more aware of benefits of career counseling by putting our internal energy into external endeavors. I ask all of you to work together with us to create an environment in which we can help people by harnessing our expertise and skills as career counselors. I look forward to working with you again this year. Let’s move on together!