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Migracode supports migrants refugees and asylum seekers in gaining IT skills, building employability, and finding job and work experience opportunities. In addressing the employability support needs of this group it is important to recognise the specific challenges that come from the identity of ‘refugee’, ‘migrant’ or ‘asylum seeker’.

Employment outcomes for refugees in particular lag behind those of other migrant groups (OECD, 2016). Refugees often face uncertainty and limited opportunities in their country of resettlement (Obschonka, Hahn & Bajwa, 2018). The career counselling that Migracode offers to its graduates should be designed with the contextual challenges of the identity of ‘migrant’ or ‘refugee’ in mind.

Career Adaptability

Career Adaptability is a psychological construct which identifies personal attributes, as well as the interaction between the individual and their environment. It provides a qualitative measure of fitness to adapt to changes in work life (Knasel & Super, 1981). Quantitative studies have correlated CA with coping and positive adjustment in the workplace (Johnston, 2016), and the Migracode Identity Informed Career Counselling Model helps the practitioner to support their client through the 4 dimensions of Career Adaptability, also known as ‘the 4 C’s’:

The 4 C’s



how motivated the individual is to think about their work future


the degree of influence an individual feels they have on their work situation


the ability of the individual to mentally map out possible work/career scenarios, and changes to self-concept


the belief that they are in command of the resources required to implement the work demanded by their self-concept

Psychological Safety

As somebody who is working with people belonging to a potentially vulnerable group, it is important that you are aware of the importance of psychological safety in your interactions, and how to foster a sense of safety and trust. You may do some of this naturally, but it’s good to develop your awareness nonetheless.

Informational Support

There are informational needs that job-seekers or career changers have, and which are particularly difficult to access for people who have recently arrived from other countries, or have limited networks. The unspoken codes relating to how one finds new information is also often another missing piece of the employability skills picture for migrants. The career counselor will need to be a guide, without taking on the actual work of information-finding themselves.

Meaningful Conversations

As a career counselor it is important to keep focused on your clients needs. While the focus of the conversation might wander while you strengthen the relationship and build trust, it is important that you are able to bring the focus of the conversation to your clients needs. Asking questions can help you to do this, and below is a list of questions which demonstrates how questioning can be used to help your client build their Career Adaptability. You can use these questions, or formulate your own. What is important is that you develop your awareness of how your questions influence the outcomes of the conversation.

Category of need

Ask about….

Informational Needs

  • Labour market information

Do you know where to find job vacancies in this field?

What kinds of job use the skills you have/want to develop?

What kinds of skills will you need to work in this field?

  • Application/recruitment practices

How do you apply for this kind of job?

How do they (employer) choose the successful candidate for jobs like this?

  • Constructive feedback (a critical friend)

Would you like some feedback on your approach so far?

  • Contextual Awareness (e.g. structural inequality etc)

What are some of the challenges you think you’ll face in achieving those goals?

Psychosocial or Relational Needs

  • Psychological safety/trust

  • A ‘go to’ person

Is there anyone who might be able to help with this?

  • How they are feeling?

Developmental Needs

  • Technical skills

Can you tell me a bit about your skills, and the things you’re good at?

  • Application/job-hunting skills

How confident are you to write an application for this job?

  • Networking skills

So how might you get to know someone who can help with X?

We don’t know the answer to that question. Is there anyone we can talk to who does?

  • Career planning skills

Can you tell me about the steps that you’ll need to take to achieve that goal?

Aspirational Needs

  • Career-related goals

Can you tell me about what your work goals/priorities are at the moment?

The table above shows some questions that can help you to find out about your clients needs. They are just suggestions, you can also just come up with your own, of course! Note that there are some needs (above) that you will need to identify without asking directly, such as psychological safety. There are no suggested questions, but there are signs you can look for.

Career problems and competences

In the process of exploring needs and building a relationship, you may sense the existence of a ‘career problem’. Some of the major types of career problem are listed below. You can see which dimension of Career Adaptability they connect to, and most importantly you can see the competence which you can help them develop to overcome the problem. If they seem stuck, but don’t know why, one approach is to ask what is stopping them from demonstrating the relevant competence. So: ‘What is stopping you from planning/exploring?’. At the same time, the career counsellor can ask themselves: ‘Is my client aware/involved/preparing?’


  • Set expectations and boundaries

  • Make sure both sides are clear that you are not a counsellor or mental health professional

  • Make sure that you know who your safeguarding lead is, and that you can inform them of any safeguarding concerns you may have.

  • Make sure that you have read the safeguarding information in the Volunteers Handbook, and know who to bring safeguarding questions and concerns to.

Continuous Improvement

The Migracode team are committed to learning as we go, and improving. Please do bring any feedback you have on the suitability of this career counseling model, whether positive or criticism to the author of the model, Jalal Afhim. You can reach him at: jalal@openculturalcenter.org.

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