Remembering Dr. JoAnn Harris Bowlsbey

   - By Ryoji Tatsuno, Chairperson, Japan Career Development Association (JCDA)

It is with deep regret that I inform you of the passing of Dr. JoAnn Harris Bowlsbey on April 2022 (in Japan time). Please allow me to call Dr. Bowlsbey “JoAnn” in this article, which is how we always called her. JoAnn died peacefully at the age of 89 at a hospital.


For us, JoAnn will always be the mother of Career Development Advisor (CDA) certification and of career counseling in Japan.

In this article, let me look back upon our journey of some 25 years we had together with JoAnn, who was the greatest benefactor for us at JCDA, and share with you our fond memories of her.



It all started about 30 years ago. In those day, I was working for Nippon Manpower Co., Ltd., my former employer, and there was a time when the sales of Nippon Manpower dropped significantly. The company’s president at that time, who took the reins of the company only a few months ago, asked the employees in managerial positions above division heads to propose what could be done to recover the lost sales. As a possible sales recovery measures, I suggested the idea of developing a Japanese version of the career assessment tool which was developed by an American organization   and being used widely in career counseling. The president and other attendees in the meeting liked my idea and approved it to go ahead.

Following this decision, a team of five people comprising I, Mr. Ohara who is the incumbent Representative President of JCDA, a member of Nippon Manpower who was then in charge of assessment-related projects, and two members of a consulting firm that our company hired for this project was abruptly established and sent to ACT, Inc., the organization in Iowa which developed the career assessment tool, to have discussions concerning the conclusion of a contract about the development of the Japanese-version of the tool. Despite some unexpected events we encountered during this trip and the fact that we had little idea about how to have business negotiations with a non-Japanese organization, our team managed to have, miraculously, productive discussions with the representatives of ACT about our intention, although feeling completely nervous and as if our lifespans were shortened by intense pressure, and succeeded in striking a contract that was agreeable for both of us. After that, we visited the headquarters of ACT in Iowa several times to have further discussions. I first met JoAnn on one of those visits. She was then serving as an executive officer of ACT.
Needless to say, the most important purpose of our visits to ACT was to develop a Japanese career assessment tool based on the career assessment of ACT. However, through these visits, I also wanted to know what “career counseling” was really like. Therefore, I sent a request to ACT about my wish to receive career counseling. They kindly accepted the request and agreed to arrange an opportunity for me receive career counseling on my next visit to Iowa.

Iowa is blessed with rich nature across the state and the surroundings of the headquarters of ACT were no exception. The building was surrounded by lush greenery with an extensive forest in its backyard. It was a two-storied building with an underground floor. The underground floor had several meeting rooms and I was introduced to JoAnn in one of the meeting rooms.
There, a representative of ACT introduced JoAnn to me. It was the first time for me to meet JoAnn and also to receive career counseling. I still remember vividly the scenes of our first encounter and first career counseling session. 
I had long wanted to talk about these fond memories with JoAnn. I kept thinking I would make time to have this opportunity on my next visit but, now that she has passed away, this opportunity has become unable to come.  

At that time, JoAnn was probably about 60 years old and looked as tall as me. She was wearing a black long dress up to the ankles. At the first glance, she looked like a school principal who is serious and strict. I might have felt a bit scared by the whole situation.
In a big meeting room on the underground floor, two chairs were placed in a square-shaped space surrounded by long rectangular desks. After I, as the client, sat on one chair and JoAnn, as the counselor, on the other chair, the career counseling session that I had really wanted to receive at first hand finally began with other meeting attendees watching the two of us. If my memory serves me correctly, the first question JoAnn asked me in the session was, “Of all the jobs and projects you have worked on, which is the one you now remember most vividly?”
In response to this question, I told her about a project in which I helped develop a gamekit-style tool for new employees. About this project, JoAnn asked some more questions consecutively to which I managed to answer at first but, in the end, became stuck for an answer. Thus, this session ended in a very short time, probably after only 10 or 20 minutes.

After this not-so-successful session, JoAnn and our team moved to a different room and discussed about various topics. In Through this discussion, we came to know a professional organization called National Career Development Association (NCDA). Although NCDA has now become a very well-known organization among career professionals in Japan as well, virtually nobody in Japan knew about it at that time.
As I look back on the memories of that day of our career counseling session and ensuring discussions, I can’t help being surprised by how drastically our social environments have changed from those days and how time has flown. I still cannot believe that JoAnn is no longer with us and that I am writing this article now in remembrance of her.
JoAnn talked about NCDA and said “I serve as an executive officer of ACT, Inc. and also as President of NCDA.” It was probably in the NCDA Conference held in summer of that year when Dr. Nancy Schlossberg succeeded JoAnn as President of NCDA. Our relations with Dr. Schlossberg and with other well-known practitioners and scholars in the career counseling field have all stemmed from this first meeting with JoAnn and our ties with her that had grown after that.
This encounter enabled us to develop the CDA certification and many CDAs and opened the door for career counseling to enter into Japan. JoAnn was the very person who made all these happen.

In addition to developing a Japanese version of the ACT’s career assessment tool, I had another goal in mind: to put together a career counselor training program and introduce to Japan. The fact that we got to know NCDA and then became acquainted with the practitioners and scholars of prominent career theories in the U.S. greatly helped us realize these goals.

We then developed the career assessment tool and began conducting promotional activities to promote its sales. As part of these activities, we invited JoAnn and held a 4-day seminar called “Career Counselor Training Seminar in which JoAnn served as an instructor.
On the fourth day of the Seminar which was the last day, right before the end of the day’s final lecture, she talked about how the Clinton Administration had developed and promoted the concept of One-Stop Career Centers as a part of its labor policy and how a training program for Career Development Facilitators (CDF) was developed as the program for training personnel for these Career Centers.
When I heard this, I immediately thought that this was the training program for beginner-level career counselors that I had been looking for.
“This is it!” I said to myself and asked JoAnn questions about CDF one after another while completely forgetting the fact that I was on the management side of the seminar. She seemed to be taken aback by my enthusiastic, out-of-place questions focused only on the CDF certification but kindly said to me that she would send me more information on CDF from the U.S.
Our current CDA training program has become something very much different from the one for CDFs of that time. Yet, the reference JoAnn made to CDF in that seminar undoubtedly prompted the birth of our CDA certification and training program.
In those days, Japan was going through a serious economic depression called the Heisei Depression following the collapse of the Bubble Economy. As the unemployment rate across the country surpassed 5%, the Japanese society started to call for fundamental measures to address the worsening labor market, which included not only straight-forward measures to increase employment opportunities but also more fundamental measures to address wide-ranging work-related issues including the one concerning work motivation.

Under these social circumstances, Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare of the time announced, in response to a question posed by a Diet member of Komeito Party, a plan to develop 50,000 career consultants in Japan
This plan, generally called “50,000 Career Consultant Development Plan,” was also recognized within the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW) as a massive project of major significance and scale equivalent to the ground-breaking Equal Employment Opportunity Act, which was long awaited since the inauguration of the Act. As such, the meetings of the Career Consulting Study Group   held in 2002 were chaired by Dr. Yoshio Higuchi   (currently serving as President of the Japan Institute for Labor Policy and Training and the then Professor & Dean of the Faculty of Business and Commerce of Keio University) and attended by so many people each time including observers from MHLW and Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT). I also attended the meetings as a member of the Study Group.

Through the meetings of this Study Group, we came up with a plan to invite seasoned career counseling scholars or practitioners from the U.S. and, for this purpose, JoAnn and another person from the U.S., who was a representative of an upper organization in the career counseling field in America, were invited to one of the meetings based on the recommendation of me and JCDA. They each delivered a lecture about career counseling-related developments in the U.S. and answered questions asked by the Study Group members.

Earlier in this article, I said that JoAnn was the mother of career counseling in Japan. Reflecting what she did in the early years of the history of career counseling in Japan makes me realize once again how generously and enthusiastically she had mothered it.

After that, we embarked on many initiatives related to career counseling one after another, including the inauguration of CDA certification and CDA training program. JoAnn helped us in developing the CDA training program. In one video-based teaching material for our early CDA training program, in the part about our career assessment tool developed together with ACT that I talked about earlier, JoAnn played the role of counselee in a mock career counseling session. I believe that some of the CDAs who obtained their certifications in the early years remember seeing JoAnn appearing in the video.

While filming the video, JoAnn said one of her lines wrong and the person playing the role of counselor pointed out her mistake jokingly, which made all of us burst into laughter. I still remember how JoAnn was laughing together with the rest of us.

After this, we continued to have many opportunities to get together with JoAnn including several NCDA Conferences and at the Special Conference to Commemorate the Achievement of 10,000 Members of Japan Career Development Association (JCDA)   to which we invited her as our honored guest. The last time we met JoAnn was at the NCDA Conference held in Huston in 2019  . When I saw her in that conference, she looked a bit shorter than I had remembered. Despite that, she told us about what she had been up such as receiving visitors from Middle East, which made us happy to know that she continued to be actively engaging in career counseling-related initiatives (The photo of JoAnn shown in this article was taken in the NCDA Huston Conference).  

All of us at JCDA will never forget what JoAnn did for us and believe that she will always be warmly watching from heaven what JCDA and CDAs are doing and how we will grow in the future. JoAnn, thank you so much and we all love you!