Latinos are a diverse group of individuals with ancestry in Spanish-speaking countries in Central and South America as well in the Caribbean. Currently Latinos are the largest ethnic minority group in the United States; government projections estimate that in 2050 almost 25% of the total U.S. population will be Latinos.
Career counseling with Latinos requires counselors to move from traditional frameworks of career counseling, for there are unique issues that arise from Latinos’ experiences that may influence career development. When providing career counseling services to Latinos, counselors must embrace a broader perspective that takes into account personal and social contexts.
Knowledge is a key component to culturally competent practice, and understanding issues that are central to Latinos’ career development process can facilitate effective career counseling. Historical (discriminatory policies), sociological (immigration factors, networks, socioeconomic status), sociocultural (acculturation, ethnic identity), and psychological (self-efficacy) factors may interact to influence the differential social, educational, and occupational experiences of Latinos. Competent career counselors should be informed about the roles these factors play in shaping the career opportunities and decisions of Latinos, while incorporating this information with appropriate theoretical frameworks to develop a plan for effective career counseling.
Latino Issues in Career Development
Many factors are important to the career development of Latinos; this entry highlights a few salient factors that may either influence or impede Latinos’ career development, focusing particularly on the role of culture.
Among the self-beliefs that are important to evaluate in career counseling with Latinos are aspirations, expectations, and self-efficacy or confidence in their abilities. Research indicates that Latinos have high career aspirations, but are less likely to believe that they will achieve these goals. Some have conjectured that the discrepancy between aspirations and expectations may be attributed to the presence of real or perceived career barriers. In addition, a limited exposure to a wide range of activities may restrict their development of career-related self-efficacy beliefs, likely to influence interests and goals in particular career fields. A lack of confidence in abilities can hinder career achievements, for some may aspire to specific career fields but not pursue them due to low self-efficacy beliefs for related activities. Conversely, some Latinos may not even consider certain careers (particularly high-status, high-paying careers in which other Latinos may be underrepresented) simply because they have had limited exposure to learning activities that can give rise to their self-efficacy beliefs in specific career activities.
Career counselors have the opportunity to intervene with Latinos to optimize their career potential. Professionals should assess Latinos’ aspirations and goals, as well as explore career expectations to ensure that lowered expectations for success are not inhibiting potential. It is also important to provide access to information about the world of work, to increase clients’ self-awareness of interests, values, and skills, and to help clients identify opportunities for increasing their confidence in their abilities to succeed in the world of work.
Family is a core value for Latinos and thus influences every aspect of their life, including careers. For Latinos, being part of the family unit may be far more important than individual needs (i.e., seeking careers that match personal interests); thus their career decisions may take into consideration how their choices may affect their family. Latinos may also make major life decisions, such as career choices, in consultation with family members and may sacrifice personal needs for the family’s welfare. It is important not to judge this Latino cultural value as negative or deviant, but to simply be aware and recognize the role of the family in career decisions. Furthermore, the support of the family for career endeavors and decisions is invaluable and provides encouragement in the face of adversity. Numerous recommendations emphasize the need to incorporate the family, including supporting Latino clients’ discussions about careers and career-related decisions and possibly inviting family to counseling sessions.
Mentors can be a facilitative factor for Latinos’ career development by helping Latinos confront and navigate career-related barriers and by countering negative career-related messages that Latinos receive. Mentors may also be able to provide support and access to information, resources, and networks. Mentors may be able to aid in exploring career options, aid in making progress in career decision making, and affirm career self-efficacy beliefs. Mentors or role models of the same cultural background may be especially important in implicitly conveying the message that, like them, they too can succeed.
Environment-related factors that influence the career development and opportunities of Latinos include social class and experiences of discrimination and prejudice. In particular, social class influences career development in myriad ways—from the exposure to career options to the quality of education one receives. Whereas Latinos with more financial privileges are likely to have more flexibility and access to pursue career options, Latinos are highly concentrated in the working class and may not have the financial resources to pursue a wide range of options. In addition, discrimination and prejudice are real factors that influence Latinos’ career development, acting as barriers related to race-ethnicity that eliminate the career possibilities.
The importance of culture cannot be ignored in career counseling Latinos. Culture influences how individuals view themselves and the world around them and also influences how career is constructed and given meaning. Specifically, the influence of self-beliefs, family, mentors, and the environmental context is greatly shaped by acculturation, generation status, cultural values, and racial/ethnic identity. Thus, the individual and additive effects of these variables may vary from one Latino to another; that is, not all Latinos are affected by the same forces or have the same experiences.
Career Counseling Theories and Models for Latinos
In comparison to the past, more research is being conducted on career counseling with diverse populations, but relatively few studies have been conducted with Latino samples. As a result, limited empirical information is available to use for creating new theories to describe Latinos’ career development and to develop frameworks for effective career counseling. Consequently, few career theories and models have been developed specifically for Latinos; career counselors often utilize and adapt theories that have been developed to explain the career development of women, persons of color, or individuals in general. When utilizing these theories that were originally designed for the general population and that do not include sociohistorical-contextual considerations or those that have been primarily validated on non-Latino samples, it is important to take into account culturally relevant variables and to understand how culture influences other person-level career factors in conceptualizing and strategizing a plan for career counseling with Latinos.
Rivera and colleagues created a developmental career model for Mexican American women. Central components to this model are values (e.g., family harmony), social issues (e.g., discrimination), and culture (e.g., family) as they relate to the career choice process. Implications for career counseling practice includes structuring interview questions according to the three foundational components to better understand the internal cognitions that may direct Latino clients’ decisions. Gomez and colleagues developed another Latino-specific model that depicts the career path as a nonlinear process that is influenced by a series of four interactive concentric life spheres consisting of the self; culture, family, and personal background; context; and sociopolitical conditions. Each sphere consists of various dimensions that help to shape the individual’s career development. Thus, a Latina’s career development is conceptualized as an interaction of the person’s identity, values and life goals, her cultural and gender role socialization, family’s aspirations for her, the opportunities, barriers, and resources within her immediate environment, and the historical context in which her life is taking shape.
Gloria and Rodriguez developed the psychosociocultural model that focuses on individual, environmental-social, and cultural factors simultaneously in counseling Latinos. Specifically, they argue that it is the contextual interaction between these factors that provides more accurate perspectives of Latinos. Using this framework in career counseling would provide culturally relevant career information to Latinos in the world of work. Furthermore, Blustein’s psychology of working provides a framework for career counseling with Latinos. In this framework, work perspectives and experiences may vary depending on the individual, while dimensions of race-ethnicity and social class are also included. Implications for career counseling include discussing perceptions and meaning of work, barriers to work, and discrimination at work with Latino clients.
Major theories have been tested, and in some cases altered, for use with Latinos. For example, social cognitive career theory, typology theories, and developmental theories have demonstrated support for use with Latinos ranging in age from adolescents to adults. Research continues to be conducted to expand and refine the use of these theories and other career models for use with Latinos.
Career Assessment with Latinos
Important contributions to career assessment with Latinos have identified psychometric concerns that career counselors should be aware of when utilizing traditional career assessment instruments, such as language equivalence, conceptual equivalence, and normative reference data.
The multicultural guidelines offer guidance for providing culturally competent career counseling practice. In terms of working with Latinos, career counselors need to recognize personal attitudes and beliefs that may negatively influence their assessment of and work with Latinos. If left unexamined or unchallenged, even well-intentioned attitudes can impede the career counseling process. In addition, career counselors need to understand the Latino client within the cultural context in which her or his life has taken shape. In particular, career counselors must be aware of and sensitive to a family’s history of living in the United States and past and current experiences in educational and work systems. Finally, career counselors must utilize intervention strategies that are culturally appropriate and sensitive. Utilizing theories, models, and tools that are sensitive or adaptable for understanding Latinos’ career development is important. In summary, assessing personal attitudes, understanding the life experiences of their Latino clients and the factors that combine to shape their career paths, and implementing culturally sensitive intervention practices will ensure the effective delivery of career counseling services with Latinos.
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