That often means deflecting personal questions firmly and politely. Causing embarrassment or hurt feelings might prevent the client from getting the full benefit of your services. My standard response is always a variation of this statement:
You are ______ (fill in a positive quality here) and will easily find many _____ (friends, girlfriends, co-signers) here. You only have one Employment Specialist – me. Your friends/girlfriends/co-signers can’t always give you honest advice that is not influenced by their feelings for you. My job is to help you find a job and achieve success. I can do that better if we keep a professional relationship so that my feelings don’t prevent me from giving you the best advice. Also, this is a policy of my agency and I can lose my job if I don’t follow the rules.
Self Disclosure vs Professional Boundaries
There are times when “self-disclosure” or sharing some personal information can be helpful, though. Sharing a story about your own experience can help clients relate to you or better understand a point you are trying to make. Here are a couple of examples:
“My first job was frying taco shells at Taco Inn for minimum wage. In the summer it was so hot that I fainted once and the uniform was really ugly and uncomfortable, especially the no-slip work shoes.” Clients always laughed, but the story helped them see that taking a starter job is very common for all U.S. workers.
“Even after a great job interview, I was really disappointed when I didn’t get the job. They told me it was because I didn’t ask them any questions so they thought I wasn’t really interested in their company.” Sharing this story in job readiness class helped clients understand why we were spending so much time practicing questions to ask in English in their own job interviews.
How to Decide if Self-Disclosure is The Right Approach
Here’s a test to help you decide when to use self-disclosure in client job readiness preparation. Ask yourself this question. “Is this story beneficial for the client, or my own ego?” If talking about yourself is better for you than the client, don’t do it.
Share examples of how you use self-disclosure to help your clients succeed at firstname.lastname@example.org