Ethical Foundations and Social Technologies in Career Services

By Julia Panke Makela

Social technologies have dramatically transformed the way that people communicate in both their personal and professional lives. Career professionals, regardless of how deeply they have chosen to engage social technologies, are continuously pulled into technological circles by clients and employers who interact online and experience the many advantages and challenges presented by this media. The need for career professionals to understand available technologies has never been greater. Career professionals are called to think carefully about if and how to use social technologies in their practice, as well as to be prepared to support and educate clients, employers, and other related service providers who have embraced social technologies. As eloquently stated by Maheu, Pulier, McMenamin, and Posen (2012), career professionals and our professional associations have a responsibility to: “recognize the nature, advantages, and dangers inherent in [technology] changes, anticipate how technology will continue to transform practices, and prepare for the expected opportunities and challenges” [pp. 613, italics in original].

The NCDA Ethics Committee has dedicated considerable time and attention over the past three years to this task. Our team has conducted an extensive literature review synthesizing current professional writing (e.g., journals, association newsletters, website postings) about the use of social technologies by career professionals and those in related helping professions. We have reviewed more than 30 social networking and social media statements, guidelines, and policy documents put forth by a variety of professional associations and organizations. We conducted nine focus groups with career development professionals at the 2012 NCDA National Conference to learn from the experience, impressions, concerns, and curiosities of our membership. Finally, we have presented on this topic at conferences across the country to engage in dialog with a wide variety of career and counseling professionals, welcoming their input and insights into our considerations.

As a result of this work, the NCDA Ethics Committee recently released several documents to guide our membership in the ethical and practical use of social technologies in career services. These include:

NCDA's Career Developments Magazine, September 2014
Ethics in a Nutshell: “Stepping Up to the Plate” on Ethics and Social Networking Technologies
This brief article highlights the importance of reflecting on the use of social networking technologies in career services, considering advantages, concerns, and potential ethical challenges. It illustrates the reasons why career professionals are potentially drawn into the use of social networking technologies in a different manner than other helping professions, which creates an increased urgency for attending to issues raised by technology.

2015 NCDA Code of Ethics, Spring 2015
Section F7. Social Media
The most significant changes in the 2015 NCDA Code of Ethics (from the previous 2007 version) occurred in the technology section, which is titled Providing Career Services Online, Technology, and Social Media. Social media guidelines are embedded within the online and technology section of the Code of Ethics in order to acknowledge that considerable overlap exists with issues and experiences related to other forms of technology that have been available to career professionals for some time (e.g., distance counseling, email, electronic records systems, job posting and searching databases). However, a section dedicated to social networking and social media is also provided to recognize the unique issues and challenges that these resources present. Section F7: Social Media in the 2015 NCDA Code of Ethics provides a resource to which career professionals can turn to understand the ethical implications of integrating social technologies into their work, as well as to help them navigate ethical questions and dilemmas that arise in practice. This document is available on the NCDA website under Standards.

Literature Review, Fall 2015
Ethical Use of Social Networking Technologies in Career Services
This paper shares the results of the NCDA Ethics Committee’s comprehensive review of literature about the use of social networking technologies in practice by career professionals and those in related helping professions. The paper served as a foundational resource to inform the guidelines that are now a part of the 2015 NCDA Code of Ethics. We are now sharing the document with the NCDA membership to encourage additional reflection on the benefits and challenges of using SNTs in career services practice, and to encourage conversations about strategies to enhance career services and experiences for clients. This document is on the NCDA website under Standards.


The provision of these resources to the NCDA membership signals an opportunity for a new chapter in the NCDA Ethics Committee’s work in exploring social technologies in career services. We took the time to carefully research the topic, dialogue with and listen to our members, and benchmark against our peers. Now, we have put forward our best thinking on the topic to date. Yet, we also recognize that ethical guidelines and Codes of Ethics are “living documents which evolve over time as professionals encounter new challenges” (Makela, 2009, p. 10). We look forward to the NCDA membership’s responses and reflections as they use these resources to inform their practice. We welcome continued conversations and educational exchanges. What do you find most helpful about these resources that we have put forward? What could be clarified or strengthened? What would you like to explore next? You can contact the Ethics Committee via the website under About NCDA: Committees. Our ultimate goal is to work with the NCDA membership to continuously enhance the services and experiences that we, as career professionals, create for and with our clients.

Maheu, M. M., Pulier, M. L., McMenamin, J. P., & Posen, L. (2012). Future of telepsychology, telehealth, and various technologies in psychological research and practice. Professional Psychotherapy: Research and Practice, 43(6), 613-621.

Makela, J. P. (2009). A case study approach to ethics in career development: Exploring shades of gray. [Monograph]. Broken Arrow, OK: National Career Development Association.

Makela, J. P. (2014, Fall). Ethics in a nutshell: “Stepping up to the plate” on ethics and social networking technologies. Career Developments Magazine, 30(4), 23.

Makela, J. P. (2015). Ethical use of social networking technologies in career services. [Technical Report]. Broken Arrow, OK: National Career Development Association. Retrieved from http://www.ncda.org/aws/NCDA/asset_manager/get_file/110167?ver=53186

National Career Development Association. (2015). 2015 National Career Development Association Code of Ethics. Retrieved from http://www.ncda.org/aws/NCDA/asset_manager/get_file/3395?ver=738700


Julia Panke MakelaJulia Panke Makela, PhD, NCC, is the Associate Director for Assessment and Research at The Career Center at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Julia has served as a member of the NCDA Ethics Committee since 2005, as the Ethics Committee Chair from 2009–2012, and led the Ethics Committee subcommittee to research and develop guidelines on the use of social networking technologies in career services from 2012–2015. She is the author of A Case Study Approach to Ethics in Career Development: Exploring Shades of Gray and is working on the second edition of the same monograph. Correspondence regarding this article may be directed to Julia Panke Makela, the NCDA Ethics Committee’s Social Technologies Subcommittee-Chair, at  jpmakela@illinois.edu

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