Professional BehaviourOverview

An individual who shows consideration and respect to others and for the work itself, demonstrates a commitment to professionalism.

CPD Assessments
Professional Behaviour Overview

Professional Behaviour Overview

This competency enables Career Development Practitioners (CDPs) to:

  • Develop a client management system;
  • Maintain client records;
  • Understand the boundaries and limitations of his/her scope of practice;
  • Develop and maintain professional working relationships;
  • Engage in lifelong learning to continually improve skills and knowledge;
  • Use planning and time management skills;
  • Be able to evaluate one’s personal performance and/or career practice;
  • Access a database of stakeholder networks;
  • Develop a network of stakeholders who can be approached when in need of assistance, advice or information;
  • Develop and maintain a database of stakeholder networks at national, regional and community level;
  • Evaluate the service provided to clients;
  • Follow case and/or project management procedures;
  • Organise and manage services provided; and
  • Supervise staff as appropriate.

Case Study

Let us take a brief look at the case study to find out what was wrong with the CDP Mr. Jones’ conduct and how several aspects of his behaviour are considered unprofessional. We hope you will rather strive to conduct yourself professionally. There will be some questions relating to this case study, so bear that in mind as you continue.

Mr. Jones is the CDP at a local high school. Recently several students have come forward with complaints against Mr. Jones’ conduct. A few parents of the students also asked for Mr. Jones to be removed from his position at the school. It has come to the attention of the principal that Mr. Jones’ conduct has been wildly unprofessional and inappropriate.

Students have complained that Mr. Jones speaks to them in a very degrading manner, often calling them, “dummies with no future”, “waste of space”, and “cretins” among other names. In addition to these allegations, Mr. Jones is said to have struck a male student who tried to defend a female student whom Mr. Jones was harassing. Other female students have also stated that Mr. Jones would try to initiate “hugs” from them and went so far as to tell a female grade 9 learner that she was “sexy” and wanted to “take her out sometime”. 

Mr. Jones has disappeared and no longer comes to school, since these incidents were reported. Upon searching, it was noted that Mr. Jones did not have a single student record, or any career development material in his office. 

Later it was also discovered that Mr. Jones has had similar allegations against him from his previous school. He had never become a member of a professional body and had not collected any Continual Professional Development (CPD) points since he started practising in this field.   


Professionalism has to do with the way a person conducts themselves in the work environment. An individual who shows consideration and respect to others and for the work itself, demonstrates a commitment to professionalism. Mr. Jones’ conduct was highly unprofessional as he was harassing students, was violent toward them and tried to be demeaning and insulting towards students.

Develop a client management system 

As a CDP client information is one of your most valuable assets. This asset contains data and information and it is critical that both are stored in a way that keeps the data and information safe and readily available by the CDPs that work with it. Unauthorised staff are not allowed to have access to the data and information. In most contexts, case information will be locked with only authorised staff having access. This is critical to keeping the integrity of the system. 

Each CDP team will work out the best way to keep client data and case information private. Client files will need to be coded and numbered so that they are easily found. Remember names on files are not enough, because people can have the same name. Some projects may require some unique identity codes for client files. In most cases, data and information must be kept for 5 years. 

Maintaining client records 

Practitioners maintain accurate and current records of services provided. Client records are maintained mainly for the client. Conscious recording of current client needs, support and intervention forms part of the practitioners’ duty. Records provide a history of status of the client, if a client for example seeks services from another professional. Practitioners maintain accurate records, as the records may be required for legal purposes. Client records assist the practitioner in reviewing the services that were provided. 

Customer relationship management (CRM) software is software that automates and manages the customer’s lifecycle in an organisation. Companies use CRM to manage interactions with clients. This helps to build relationships and improve customer service with client.  From the study above, another competency area where Mr. Jones failed as a professional practitioner, was in keeping client records in a sensible manner. 

Boundaries and limitations of their scope of practice 

Maintaining professional and ethical boundaries requires self-awareness. Each CDP must know exactly what services they can provide and what services need to be referred to other professionals.  

The best way of ensuring clients have received quality service is to have a referral network that you may refer clients to when they request a service that you are not trained or registered to provide. This creates a professional environment for CDPs to show respect to each other and honour other professionals for their skills and services.

Professional boundaries are essential in career development, as discussions can easily uncover issues that the CDP is not trained or registered to support. These boundaries also provide structure necessary for clients to feel safe engaging in the career development process. Setting professional boundaries involves providing clients with informed consent, as well as clarifying the rights and responsibilities of the CDP and client. 

During sessions, CDPs should monitor their personal reactions and should not impose their values upon clients. Appropriate boundaries enhance the CDP’s empathy for clients, which in turn strengthens the career development relationship between the CDP and client. From the case study above, Mr. Jones disregarded the need for professional boundaries completely, thereby creating an environment that was hostile and where students felt unsafe.

Developing and maintaining professional work relationships

It is important to safeguard the integrity of the practitioner and client relationship. This includes avoiding actions that cause harm and instead establish a relationship in which the client is able to trust in the role maintained by a CDP. A good CDP facilitates client growth and development in ways that foster the interest and welfare of clients. This promotes a healthy relationship.

Remember to follow up with clients. This fulfils the clients’ expectations and you will be labelled as ‘good and reliable’. Follow-up enhances communication and assists the client to engage effectively. Working with others like colleagues and supervisors requires various skills, coping mechanisms and the ability to deal with difficult people. Some career development projects may require multi-disciplinary teams. Team building exercises help to build relationships and can also help reduce pressure in workload and other performance related issues. Mr. Jones failed dismally in this area as well. His behaviour and conduct brought nothing but fear to the students and mistrust in his colleagues and principal.

Lifelong learning and improving skills and knowledge  

Lifelong learning is described as a deliberate and self-initiated quest for knowledge. It is not only about acquiring information for academic or vocational development, but focused on learning about non-vocational ideals. There are two main reasons why we encourage professionals to learn throughout life. 

The first benefit of practising lifelong learning as a professional, is for personal development where you seek to realise your full potential as an individual. This is done through increasing your knowledge or skills around an area that you enjoy, or perhaps you want to develop a skill that will in some way enhance your life. All this is done, so you can attain meaning in your life.

Secondly, lifelong learning is applied in one's life for professional development, where one develops a vision of where they want to see themselves and determine the qualities they need to develop. Therefore, some employers of today look for people with transferable skills as they give an indication of one's zeal to learn and develop.

Technical skills become outdated as fast as we obtain them, especially with the rapid change in technology these days. This makes lifelong learning more important than ever! It has become vital to stay committed to lifelong learning habits. 

The overall habits of lifelong learning encompass the following three principles:

  1. Professionals must develop career goals and strategy: It is imperative for professionals to understand their lifelong learning career goals, which are guided by their personal development needs. Even if it means going back to high school and doing your matric (grade 12) at the age of 60, that is also part of lifelong learning.
  2. Professionals must stay up to date: Creating a habit of reading and understanding what's going on in the world around you, will keep any professional abreast with what is happening and possible gaps within different markets. Various mediums such as newspapers, online sources or social networks for example, can help you start this process. This will assist you to open your worldview and gain global understanding of how world events impact our lives and therefore anticipate trends.
  3. Professionals must be in touch with what is happening in their environments: Information is available all around us; we just must keep our eyes and ears open. The contexts people exist in contain various opportunities of learning. These contexts have various information sources, problems that need to be solved, opportunities to connect with the environment itself and practise what has been learned.

The professional designation of CDP remains valid if members comply with the required number of Continuous Professional Development (CPD) points per year. This is a structured form of lifelong learning. If new opportunities arise that enhance your skill, such as projects or study opportunities, grab them!  

Supervising Staff 

General performance agreements are set up to agree expectations and requirements. Performance is then monitored in cycles using those agreements. Being a good supervisor means you can lead a team to deliver results. It is always good to build the team using team building mechanisms. When monitoring performance, it is always good to lead by example and not expect others to do what you don’t do e.g. if you are late, it will not be good to instruct others on time keeping.

When giving feedback on performance, be developmental – this means you show the person where their strengths lie, where their limitations are and how to turn the limitations into a strength. It is better if they come up with how to bring the desired change.  Feedback must also be given against expected goals, outcomes and criteria.

Planning and time management

Effectively managing your time means being able to make good progress in less time and effort. Too often people waste time without even knowing it. Planning is necessary to achieve goals effectively. Prepare and be well organised. Keep notes and make lists of things you need to do. If not on paper then save information on the computer. 

The act of writing encourages us to think longer as the memory depends on you making a mental record of the event. Make appointments in a diary and provide time between each appointment. Schedule appointments so that you can have time for preparation and for reporting on each case. Have a clock visible or watch time on your phone or other devices that help make others and yourself aware of time. Use soft alarms to help you create breaks. You need time to debrief, unwind and reflect on meetings, sessions and all work. 

Evaluate own performance

Its good practice to stop and look at your own performance in an organised and on a regular basis. Look at your work from another’s point of view. Being a good worker is only complete with a good attitude, so attitude must also be assessed. Being friendly and having a pleasant attitude will earn the practitioner the reputation of someone with a good attitude. Practise the habit of reviewing and reflecting on your performances at least once a week. This assists in growth and helps enhance performances. Use feedback to inform your performance review.

Stakeholder network

A stakeholder is any person, organisation, social group or society at large, that has a stake in a business. Stakeholders can be internal or external to the business. Developing a network of stakeholders and maintaining a database of stakeholders is necessary, so that they may be approached when assistance is needed. Make sure that you have a contact person and update the details regularly. One example can be a contact list of organisations that assist persons with disabilities, in terms of transport, work experience, reasonable accommodation etc.

Read the below document on the Framework for Cooperation in the provision of Career Development (Information, Advice and Guidance) Services in South Africa.

We have a Framework for Cooperation in the provision of Career Development (Information, Advice and Guidance) Services in South Africa. In this document you can explore the roles, responsibilities and mandates for the various stakeholders in this country. Many networking possibilities are presented in this document, which any CDP can explore. This document discusses the mandates of various government entities and describes how civil society and government act in the career development space on a regional, national and community level.

Evaluate service provided to clients

Evaluation is a thorough analysis of all the information collected.  This assists the CDP to assess how effective their service was. Use completed client feedback forms to inform your client service review. This way you will know what clients expect. If you do not ask clients how they experience your service, you will not be able to improve. Once you know what works, you can keep practising it and discard or change what does not work. 

Case and project management procedures

A case is the actual service that is provided by the CDPs. One example is the Danish model of career services, which is a provided in 45-minute sessions. Within those 45 minutes, the CDP covers four core aspects, namely contacting, contracting, communicating and conclusion. This whole process would be considered as a case. Firstly, the contact step covers the initial contact and opening of case. Secondly, the contract phase identifies the most important needs that can be addressed within the 45-minute session. Thirdly, the communication phase covers the actual process of working through the needs. Finally, the conclusion phase focuses on closing the case through agreeing with the client that the contracted needs have been addressed.

Project management is the process of achieving set objectives within a given timeframe and budget. To ensure success, the project manager will separate objectives into smaller deliverables which can be achieved in logical steps. This assists the project manager to manage each step in a more focused manner, as opposed to trying to manage the entire objective at once. The project manager will use a logical framework to manage the deliverables to completion. 

Logical frameworks or logframes, come in different shapes and forms but essentially are tables that enable you to identify the relationships between your overall goal, activities, timelines, resources and costs. 


Looking at the competency areas a professional CDP needs to be proficient in, we can judge whether the conduct of Mr. Jones qualifies him as a CDP. He must re-evaluate his status as a CDP. His conduct is a disgrace to both him and the career development practice because he has disregarded rules and regulations meant to safeguard his clients. 

Mr. Jones’ conduct is a perfect example of extreme unprofessional behaviour in career development. Before appointing him, the principal should have verified his track record and checked his references to find out more about him. The principal should also have conducted performance management on Mr. Jones and been more proactive to protect students.

Now that you have worked through all the information, move on to answer the questions to test if you understood.

Shared under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 South Africa (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 ZA) 

This means you can share and adapt this work but not for commercial purposes. You will only need to include the following reference to the original content in all shared works.

Kindly attribute as follows:

Beukes, C. J., Mahadave, K., & Kanhai, K. (2023). Professional Development Portfolio for Career Development Practitioners (1st ed.)CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 ZA, 


Karuna Mahadave

Christopher John Beukes

Assessment Reward

You can earn 2.00 CPD point/s by completing and passing the self-assessment questionnaire for this article.

Take the Assessment