Competency Category:

3.1 – Establish and Sustain Working Alliance

Purpose & Context

Career Development Professionals (CDPs) establish and sustain a working alliance with clients to ensure ongoing identification, monitoring and achievement of client goals remains the focus of all interactions. Appropriate attitudes and communication skills are essential to building a relationship of respect and trust. CDPs work with the client to ensure that all professional behaviours and actions are focused on meeting the unique needs of the client.

Effective Performance

Competent career development professionals must be able to:

  • P1. Interact respectfully:
    • Be punctual, e.g. start appointments on time
    • Be truthful
    • Respect client’s uniqueness, e.g. values, preferences, autonomy, ethnocultural beliefs, expressed needs
    • Be open-minded, e.g. avoid individual biases, manage role perceptions, avoid stereotyping, be willing to
      accept new ideas
  • P2. Prepare welcoming environment, for example:
    • Tidy meeting space, e.g. keep desk clutter to a minimum, store materials in their proper place, wipe down
    • Provide comfortable seating
    • Reduce noise and eliminate distractions, e.g. turn off radio, store handheld device/phone, set telephone calls
      to voicemail, close office door
    • Welcome client by name
    • Introduce self by name
  • P3. Identify possible barriers that limit ability to establish rapport or working alliance, e.g. language, cultural
    factors, ability to access services, mental health concerns

    • Work with client to identify and implement strategies to overcome barriers
  • P4. Discuss roles and responsibilities of CDP and client
  • P5. Confirm agreement to work together
  • P6. Respond to client’s needs in a responsive manner:
    • Focus full attention on client
    • Seek input and feedback to develop clear understanding of needs:
      • Listen actively, e.g. allow silence, seek clarification as required
      • Allow client to lead conversation, e.g. avoid dominating the discussion, avoid interrupting
      • Allow client the time needed, i.e. don’t rush the conversation
    • Adapt/tailor approach to fit client’s needs considering cultural factors, cognitive status, literacy level,
      religious and other requirements:

      • Adjust way of communicating, e.g. use language appropriate to client
      • Accommodate requests, as needed
  • P7. Encourage self-confidence, self-sufficiency, and self-determination:
    • Describe client’s responsibilities and rights, e.g. human rights, service rights
    • Reach shared understanding of respective roles in making decisions and completing tasks
    • Help client take active role in achieving goals:
      • Provide information, tools, and resources to help client make informed decisions
      • Seek agreement on next steps towards meeting goals
    • Recognize efforts, e.g. acknowledge progress towards goals
  • P8. Ensure follow-up and next steps are clear before end of appointment
    • Encourage check-ins between appointments for additional questions, concerns, or supports, e.g. by phone,
  • P9. Check on progress outside of scheduled appointments

Knowledge & Understanding

Competent career development professionals must know and understand:

  • K1. Communication strategies
  • K2. Interpersonal skills
  • K3. Attitudes underpinning the working alliance.:
    • Empathy, i.e. ability to understand and share feelings
    • Authenticity, i.e. expressing self truly and genuinely
    • Respect, i.e. acceptance of others’ feelings, rights, or customs regardless of agreement
  • K4. Client’s service rights

Contextual Variables

Competent career development professionals must be able to perform this competency in the following range of contexts:

Competent career development professionals must be able to perform this competency in the following range of contexts:

Glossary & Key References


Industry-specific terms contained in the standard defined here, where applicable.


Information Sources and Resources for Consideration

The Working Alliance – Training Workbook. Ottawa: VOCO Training Centre, 2019.

Context Rating Scales


Q: What is the consequence of a professional being unable to perform this skill according to the standard?

Moderate risk: CRITICAL


Q: How frequent and under what conditions is this skill performed?

Routinely, regular course of procedure

Level of Difficulty

Q: Under routine circumstances, how would you rate the level of difficulty in performing this skill?

Moderate difficulty or complexity

Time Required to Gain Proficiency

Q: What is the average length of time or number of repeated events that are minimally necessary for an individual to become proficient in performing the skill to the standard?

To become proficient in establishing working alliances, a career development professional requires a minimum experience of working with 20 clients.


Practitioners typically perform this competency without supervision, and alone.


It is unlikely that this competency will automate.

Requisite Work Aids, Tools, Equipment or Materials


Career Development Professional Centre

Help us cultivate a community we all enjoy by reviewing and following the Code of Conduct.  

Our Purpose  

Thank you for being a part of the online CDPC social learning community. To ensure that all members have the best possible experience, we have a few ground rules that we ask everyone to adhere to. This code of conduct applies equally to every person in the community and is intended to foster an online space that is inclusive, safe, and welcoming to all. 

Community Rules 

Be welcoming 

We strive to be a community that welcomes and supports people of all backgrounds and identities. We aim to create and facilitate a community that promotes excellence and innovation in career and workforce development. Please extend respect to all members; we all come from different backgrounds and levels of knowledge and there is no such thing as a stupid question. 

Be respectful 

We won’t all agree all the time, but when we disagree don’t let those disagreements turn into personal attacks. A community where people feel uncomfortable or threatened will not be a productive one. Instead, when having discussions in the online community, create productive conversations around the content being presented, not the person behind the content. Any post that is determined to be “hate speech” towards any individual or group will be deleted, and the user account may be locked until an investigation regarding the post has been concluded. The user may be given a written warning or removed from the CPDC community platform depending on the findings of the investigation.  

Hate Speech could include and is not limited to:  

  • Violent threats or language directed against another person 
  • Discriminatory jokes, language, or materials 
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A good rule of thumb is to never post anything that you wouldn’t be comfortable with the world seeing or that you wouldn’t want anyone knowing came from you. We ask that you keep in mind the focus of this community, which is building excellence and innovation in career and workforce development for all individuals.  

Be considerate of the purpose of the community 

This community will be focused on building excellence and discussing innovation in the career and workforce development field. The goal of this community is to communicate goals, challenges, constructive feedback, and questions in relation to career and workforce development. The community should be a place for continued learning and development as well as a place to discuss the future of our field (solicitation without written consent by the Project or Advisory team, is strictly prohibited). Any post that is determined to be soliciting any individual or group will be deleted, and the user account may be locked until an investigation regarding the post has been concluded. The user may be given a written warning or removed from the CPDC community platform depending on the findings of the investigation. 

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Make reasonable efforts to ensure that posts and materials are allocated to the appropriate group or topic. This will prevent cluttering the community and make it easier for everyone to find the information that they are seeking. Individuals who do this repeatedly will be contacted by one of the group admins and asked to follow these guidelines.  

Privacy and Release of Information  

CDPC-CEDC will not release your information to any third-party agencies.  

Group Admins 

There are four group admins who are available to you. Below are their names and their spoken language. 

Heather Powell | Anglophone 

Gabrielle St-Cyr | Francophone/Anglophone 

Florence Desrochers | Francophone/Anglophone

Muriel Andoblé-Yao | Francophone

Thank you and welcome to the CDPC Community!