Career Counseling Is Helping Young Widows Seeking Career Reentry

Wednesday, November 02, 2016 @ 3:51 PM

Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) March 2011 data indicate that the majority of women participate in the labor force, 29.1 percent of women with children under 18 years of age and 35.8 percent of women with children under 6 years old do not (BLS, 2013). Additionally, the BLS data reflect that 81.6 percent of widows did not participate in the labor force (BLS, 2013). Young widows, similar to other career reentry women, are more likely to have opted out of the labor force to care for young children. Unlike other reentry women, young widows are more likely to have left the workforce to care for their late husbands. The unemployed young widows more likely need to immediately reenter the paid workforce to meet their household and family financial obligations than older widows and married reentry women. These statistics reveal the significance of developing decision-making models and interventions for employment counselors working with young widows considering workforce reentry.

The mental health professional fails to consider referring a young widow (defined as under 50 traditionally) for career or employment counseling, instead focusing on Grief Counseling. It is important to also consider and lay out how career counseling may support the unemployed young widow, who has by choice or by force, found herself now in a position to support herself and possibly her family.

Recent research suggests numerous interventions for employment counselors working with reentry women that are equally relevant for reentry young widows. Employment counselors may support reentry young widows in the following ways:

* Career counseling would support women with the choice to opt out and remain at home to rear children, through reframing the stay-at-home choice as a career with its own skills, talents, and goals, as a way to challenge the external pressures of devaluing unpaid work (Ronzio, 2012).

* The career counselor would refer women for untreated mental health and complex bereavement issues, since one or both will impact their ability to be adaptive and open to the decision-making and job entry process, implement interventions, and be successful in a new paid or unpaid position or training program (Ronzio, 2012).

* Career counseling specifically supports single-parent women by providing information about reputable and affordable childcare options (Coogan & Chen, 2007).

* Career counseling supports women by providing referral information about bereavement and mental health counseling, financial and legal support services, and encourage women to attend to their own physical health needs (via medical check-up, exercise).

* Career counseling assists reenty women to form realistic expectations on returning to the workplace and the job search. Chae relayed that reentry women face lower earning potential, and discrimination and prejudice in the workplace based on their gender and usually older age (Chae, 2007). Ronzio suggested preparing women for the time and effort the job search may take, and the rejections (Ronzio, 2012). Coogan and Chen suggested “educating women about the impact of early gender-role orientation” (2007, 199), and teaching them strategies to overcome these issues (Coogan & Chen, 2007).

* Career counseling assists women in raising their aspirations on the return to work given research suggests that reentry women have lower levels of aspiration. Chae suggests that counselors may achieve this by reinforcing positive feelings about their self-worth (Chae, 2007).

* Career counseling supports women balancing life roles in her reentry process, through helping clients “define and priorities the dimension of each role and search for more optimal role combinations in order to achieve balance in life (Coogan & Chen, 2007).

* Career counseling supports women in enhancing a sense of self-efficacy and self-concept in various roles, career choice, and decision-making (Chae, 2007; Coogan & Chen, 2007). Chae suggest mentoring the client as a role model, job coach, and adviser (Chae, 2007). Coogan and Chen suggested women build the following coping skills to build self-efficacy: negotiation skills, access roles models and mentorship, eliminating unsupportive relationships (Coogan & Chen, 2007).

* Career counseling supports women coping with existential and identity concerns during a time of career transition through: asking existential questions, discussing ways to reevaluate the meaning of unemployment, focus on their accomplishments, suggesting ways to maintain generativity while unemployed and prior to returning to the workforce (Ronzio, 2012).

* Career counseling supports women overcoming anxiety and resistance to change through “reframing uncertainty as a new experience and an opportunity for growth” (Ronzio, 2012, 77).

* Career counseling facilitates resilience through exercises, such as encouraging clients to write down times they were successful and enjoyed themselves, and probing what factors enabled them to accomplish a goal (Ronzio, 2012).

In summary, there are numerous reasons for young widows to seek career counseling, in addition to grief counseling. A trained counselor, such as myself and others in the counseling profession, are able to support your career reentry goals and work on barriers you face.


Chae, M.H. (2002). Counseling reentry women: An overview. Journal of employment
counseling, 39,146-152.
Coogan, P.A. & Chen, C.P. (2007). Career development and counseling for women: Connecting
theories to practice. Counseling psychology quarterly, 20(2), 191-204.
Davis Ginsburg, G. (1997). Widow to widow: Thoughtful, practical ideas for rebuilding your life.
Cambridge: Da Cappo Press.
Erickson, K.S., Jurgens, J.C., Tlanusta Garrett, M., & Swedburg, R.B. (2008). Should I stay
home or should I go back to work? Workforce reentry influences on a mother’s decision-making process. Journal of employment counseling, 45(4), 156-166.
Ronzio, C.R. (2012). Counseling issues for adult women in career transition. Journal of
employment counseling, 49, 74-84.
Sharf, R.S. (2010). Applying career development theory to counseling (5th Ed.). Belmont, CA:
Sullivan, K.R. & Mahalik, J.R. (2000). Increasing career self-efficacy for women: Evaluating a
group intervention, Journal of counseling & development, 78, 54-62.
U.S. Department of Labor. (2013). Women in the labor force: A databook (Bureau of Labor
Statistics Publication No. 1040). Washington, DC: Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Zunker, V.G. (2012).Career counseling: A holistic approach (8th Ed.). Belmont, CA: