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Career and
Part 1
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Career Development Theories
and Decision-Making Models
In order to understand career development
theories and decision-making models, it is
important to be familiar with the basic terms
used in this field.
Although different theories and models may
put a specific "spin" on a particular term, a
common understanding of terms has evolved
over the years that allows professionals to
communicate effectively irrespective of the
theory or model they use in practice.
Beginning counselors and the general public
are often imprecise in their use of terms.
For example, the terms "occupation,"
"job," and "position" are sometimes
(erroneously) used as synonyms.
To avoid confusion and miscommunication
with clients or each other, counselors need
to use terms that accurately reflect the
aspect of the career development process
that they are describing.
Following are common terms used in discussion
of career development. By viewing the "big
picture," the reader can be better prepared to
understand the use of specific terms.
Career - The interrelationships among an
individual's paid work, unpaid work, leisure,
family, education, and training that evolve
over time. Often defined previously as the
sequence of occupations held by an individual
over a lifetime, now the term is typically
viewed in a broader, more holistic manner.
Career counseling - A process where a client
and counselor identify a career problem, set
goals for resolving the problem, and then use
a variety of assessment, information, and
instructional resources (within the context of
a helping relationship) to resolve the problem.
Career counseling is one component of a fully
functional career guidance program and is
used most cost-effectively for clients with
limited readiness for career choice or with
complicated career problems.
Career decision making - A process of
identifying that a decision needs to be made,
generating options, examining self and
options, selecting an option, and planning
needed action to follow through with the
Career development - The internal and
external factors that influence a person's
career development over time.
Career development can be planned,
purposeful, reactive, or random.
Career guidance, career education, career
counseling, career interventions, and career
management are intended to help individuals
have healthy, successful careers by proactively
dealing with the factors that influence career
Career education - An education-community
partnership to integrate assessment,
information, and instructional resources for
students at developmentally appropriate
times, from elementary school through
postsecondary education, to proactively
influence students' career development.
Instruction is a key element of the career
education process.
Career guidance - A comprehensive strategy
(including career education and counseling,
self-help resources, and job placement)
designed to help individuals access and use
assessment, information, and instructional
resources in a developmentally appropriate
manner to enhance career development.
Although the focus shifts to career
management once an individual becomes
employed, career guidance services may be
sought as individuals negotiate ongoing
employment, education, and training
Career intervention - The use of assessment,
information, and instructional resources to
solve a career problem, with or without the
assistance of a practitioner.
A career intervention can be as simple as an
individual's use of self-help career information or as complex as the exploration of
interrelated work and family problems in
individual career counseling.
Career ladder - A series of jobs within an
organization with increasing complexity and
diverse skill requirements designed to prepare
workers for upward mobility and greater
Career lattice - A series of jobs within an
organization that allow upward or lateral
transfers. It can include a number of career
ladders, thus allowing workers to transfer
laterally, and help them to continue to
develop skills and remain motivated when
upward mobility is limited.
Career management - Actively assuming
responsibility for one's ongoing career
development by proactively using
supervision, career resources, and educational
and training opportunities to maximize career
Individuals seeking to manage their careers
may make use of career counseling, career
guidance, career interventions, or job
placement assistance to help them make
career, occupational, educational, training, or
employment decisions.
Job - A paid position held by one or more
persons requiring similar attributes in one
Occupation - A group of jobs with similar
characteristics that can be found in different
employing organizations. A “professional”
also will have common training and
experience requirements for entry.
Leisure - Self-determined physical, social,
intellectual, volunteer, or creative efforts and
experiences that allow the pursuit of
interests and the use of abilities.
Job placement - A process of translating career
aspirations into employment within an
Components of job placement services typically
include job-search training and access to
position openings.
Ideally, job placement efforts are built upon
the foundation of earlier learning and problem
solving promoted by the use of assessment,
information, and instructional resources
provided in career guidance.
Position - A group of tasks performed by one
individual in an organization.
Work - Paid or unpaid effort to accomplish a
goal valued by the individual or others. The
purpose may include the inherent satisfaction
of completing the tasks involved, the
structure it provides for living, and the
economic benefits.
Numerous internal and external factors
interact to influence career development
and career decision making.
These factors often make the process of
career decision making seem overwhelming
to clients (and sometimes to counselors).
Theories of career development and decision
making help to make the process manageable.
Career theories have been developed by
theorists to accomplish various goals.
Some career theories are closely related to
another theory (e.g., social learning theory)
and seek to explain career events using the
other theory.
Others are constructed to help explain a
particular issue or problem (e.g., underrepresentation of women in particular
Some theories integrate elements from several
theories, e.g., Super, while others are more
narrowly constructed, e.g., Holland.
Career theory provides counselors and clients
with tools for understanding and managing
career choice.
Career theory clarifies factors that influence
career development, which helps counselors
respond to client questions about career
No one single theory has been recognized as
adequate for all clients and counselors.
Counselors select career theories that are
congruent with their own views of career
development and that have evidence of
validity and utility.
While some counselors are guided by a single
theory, more often counselors integrate
several different theoretical principles into
their career work with clients.
Some theories are important for historical
reasons, while other theories are currently
popular in guiding practice.
Frank Parsons initiated the practice of career
guidance at the turn of the century, and his
ideas became the basis of Trait-and-Factor
theory developed by E.G. Williamson.
Parsons believed career choice involved
knowledge of self and occupations, and
analyzing the fit between the individual and
the occupation (Parson’s "true reasoning").
Trait-and-Factor theory involved matching
traits (most often aptitude and interests) with
the requirements of a specific occupation. The
use of assessment instruments is a major
resource in this theoretical perspective.
Roe, Ginzberg, and Tiedeman also made
important contributions to the understanding
of career development.
Roe explored family influences on career
development and developed a schema for
categorizing occupations by type and level.
Ginzberg and his associates created a
developmental theory with specific sequential
periods and stages that describe the process
of career development.
Tiedeman created a developmental theory
focused on anticipation or preoccupation
(exploration, crystallization, choice, and
clarification) and implementation or
adjustment (induction, reformation, and
These theories are less popular today, but
have had an important influence on
understanding the nature of career
New career theories continue to emerge.
Constructivist and cognitive-based approaches
are common current trends in career theory.
A common criticism of the research upon
which much career theory is built is that the
subjects were white, middle-class males,
which actually reflected the labor market of
those times (1930s - 1950s).
While agreement exists that white middleclass males were overrepresented in the
research, disagreement exists as to whether
the theories created at that time can be used
successfully with women, people of color, or
persons of low socioeconomic status.
Some have argued that the unique
experience of specific groups requires
specific theories in order to best help those
individuals with career choices.
Others have argued that the process of career
exploration, the negative influence of
stereotyping, and the process of decision
making are common enough across groups to
make career theory generally applicable.
Remembering the purpose of using career
theory (i.e., helping counselors and clients to
understand and manage career choice), the
counselor is responsible for selecting one or
more theories that are appropriate for the
characteristics of the client.
The popularity of various career theories can
be judged in two ways.
First is the number of citations in the
literature where the theory is used to (a)
explore various aspects of career development
or (b) as a basis for service delivery with
various populations.
Second is the availability and reported use of
theory-based assessment, information, and
instructional resources in practice.
By these two criteria, the work of Holland,
Super, Krumboltz, and Dawis and Lofquist are
currently four of the most popular career
Holland stated that both individuals and work
environments can be categorized as realistic,
investigative, artistic, social, enterprising, and
conventional. This model is represented as a
hexagon, with individuals and work
environments commonly categorized by the
three most similar codes.
Satisfaction and success in work is strongly
influenced by the congruence between the
personality of the individual and the
characteristics of the work environment.
Several important constructs influence an
individual's career decision making. These
constructs, which include consistency,
differentiation, identity, commonness, and
coherence of aspirations, can be used to help
the client and counselor better understand the
nature of the client’s career problems and how
much help the client is likely to need.
Holland and others have created assessments
related to interests, vocational identity, career
attitudes and strategies, and employment
positions based on this theory.
Super stated that the implementation of selfconcept is a key factor that influences career
development over the life span.
Individuals cycle and recycle through the
developmental stages of growth, exploration,
establishment, maintenance, and decline.
Individuals also progress through the
developmental tasks of crystallization,
specification, implementation, stabilization,
and consolidation.
Research by Crites and others helped to
establish that the career maturity of
adolescents and the career adaptability of
adults are useful constructs in identifying who
is more likely to experience problems in
completing career development tasks.
Super's life rainbow can be used to help
clients understand evolving interaction among
the life roles of child, student, leisurite, citizen,
worker, spouse, homemaker, parent, or
These concepts are especially relevant as
adults attempt to maintain balance in life
roles as various work and life changes occur.
Super and others created assessments relevant
to career maturity, values, work salience, and
adult career concerns.
Krumboltz stated that career decision making
is influenced by the following factors: genetic
endowments and special abilities, environmental conditions and events, learning
experiences (instrumental and associative),
and task approach skills (such as problem
The outcomes of these factors include selfobservation and worldview generalizations,
and actions.
Beliefs about self or the world in the form of
private rules can either help or hinder the
process of career decision making.
Challenging the validity of inappropriate
private rules is an important role for the
counselor in career counseling, as is
promoting information-seeking behavior in
career exploration, including modeling and
Krumboltz created a measure of career beliefs
that counselors can use to facilitate clients'
career decision making.
Dawis and Lofquist stated that job stability
and satisfaction are a function of the
correspondence between the individual and
the work environment. The individual must
successfully fulfill the requirements of the job,
while the work environment must fulfill the
needs of the individual.
A variety of occupational reinforcers in the
work environment contribute to the work
adjustment of individuals. Job satisfaction
is also a significant indicator of work
Dawis and Lofquist created assessments, such
as a measure of work values, to aid the
translation of their theory into practice.
Career Information
and Resources
Information resources need to reflect the
broad definition of career described
previously (i.e., the interrelationships among
an individual's paid work, unpaid work,
leisure, family, education, and training).
While occupational and educational
information is the most commonly available
information source for career decision
making, information related to leisure and
family issues is needed to support an effective
career guidance program.
Information can be used to motivate individuals
to engage in career exploration (e.g., an
engaging biography or presentation of a work
environment may motivate an individual to
explore potentially satisfying occupations).
Information can be used to clarify or raise an
individual's occupational aspirations (e.g., a
presentation of the relationship between
educational level and earnings may cause an
individual to reconsider dropping out of school
in favor of training necessary for a high-wage
Information can be used to clarify an
individual's perceptions of his or her values,
interests, and skills (e.g., reading descriptions
of the leisure time associated with occupations
can cause an individual to increase the value
of leisure in evaluating career options).
Information can be used to narrow the
range of options being considered (e.g.,
potential employment opportunities for a
spouse can be used as a factor in evaluating
job offers).
Information can be used to support the job
placement process, e.g., individuals may prepare
for job interviews by reviewing occupational
information to better understand the
recruitment materials.
It is important to understand the purpose of
using information resources in the careerdecision making process before recommending
specific information for client use.
After determining the types of information
needed by the client, it is important to consider
the type of media that will promote the best
learning outcomes for the client.
Media sources can be classified as noninteractive or interactive.
Noninteractive media are generally linear in
nature, with their structure influencing the
selection and sequencing of information
presented. Noninteractive media typically
provide extensive information at a moderate cost.
Examples of non-interactive media include:
Print (books, pamphlets, brochures, and files);
Microform (microfiche, microfilm, and
Audio (commercial or locally produced audio
tapes or broadcast radio programs);
Audiovisual (commercially and locally produced
videotape programs and broadcast
television); and
Public presentations (speeches and panel
discussions with audience participation).
Interactive media is generally non-linear in
nature with the individual maintaining at
least partial control over the selection and
sequencing of information dissemination.
Most interactive media are motivating for
the individual to use, but often are more
expensive than noninteractive media.
Examples of interactive media include:
Computer-assisted career guidance systems or
computer-based career information
delivery systems (include assessment,
search for options, and information
dissemination elements);
Computer-assisted instruction (instruction in
resume preparation);
Videodisks or CD-ROMS (interviews with
employed workers for individuals with
limited reading abilities);
Programmed instruction (job experience kit
that provides the opportunity to perform
actual job tasks);
Structured interview (interviewing a currently
employed worker at the job site or at a
career day);
Role playing or games (guidance activity that
allows students to try out career and life
Instruction (classroom activities that allow
individuals to try out various work
behaviors, e.g., accounting);
Direct observation (shadowing a worker for a
day or taking field trips to places of
employment); and
Direct exploration (volunteer work, cooperative
education, internships, work-study
programs, or part-time employment).
There also are numerous public sources
of career information, such as State
and/or National Occupational Information Coordinating Committees and
state and U. S. Departments of Labor.
In many cases, multiple information
resources are relevant to a client's needs.
The learning potential of a resource often can
be enhanced by proper sequencing.
For example, it is best to use the information
interview to ask questions not typically
provided in occupational descriptions or
questions uniquely related to an individual's
Some clients may need assistance in actually
locating information in a career center library
or on the Internet; therefore, counselors need
to be familiar with the location of commonly
used information resources.
Counselors also need to be aware of options
for delivering information resources in
alternative formats for individuals with a
Individuals with high decision-making
readiness (high levels of career maturity,
vocational identity, or decidedness) will need
less assistance in using information
resources than individuals with low
decision-making readiness.
Individuals with low decision-making
readiness (low levels of career maturity,
vocational identity, or decidedness) will
generally need more careful introduction
and follow-up to information use.
Occupational information often is easier to use
when the occupations are organized according
to a classification system.
Examples of classification systems include
Holland types, the ACT World-of-Work map,
and worker-trait groups.
Occupational information should meet a
specific need and be valid, current, understandable for the intended client population,
easy to use, and free of stereotypes.
Career Development
A career (development) program is a system
of interrelated resources and services
designed to help a defined group of
individuals solve career problems and make
career decisions effectively.
Developing a career program includes the
following steps:
Establish a need for the program.
Establish a conceptual basis.
Establish goals and objectives.
Select career resources and services that
are likely to assist individuals in achieving
appropriate goals and objectives.
5. Select strategies to evaluate the effectiveness
of the program.
Several sources of information can be used to
establish a conceptual basis for a career
First, career theory can be used to suggest
program goals and objectives appropriate for
various populations and guide the selection of
theory-based resources and service delivery
Second, descriptive research data can be used
to better understand the career development
needs of various populations, understanding
which, in turn, can be used to establish
program goals and objectives that better meet
the needs of individuals.
Also, outcome evaluation data from prior
career programs can be used in selecting
resources and services that have been
demonstrated to be effective with specific
Third, existing standards can be used to
identify developmental outcomes for
individuals at various ages, which helps in
establishing program goals and objectives.
The ability of individuals to benefit from
career resources and services depends upon
the level of staff support provided being
congruent with individuals' needs.
An effective career program is organized to
deliver a combination of self-help, brief,
staff-assisted, or individual, case-managed
The following factors often influence the
success of career programs:
Staff participation in decision making;
Support from senior managers;
Effective communication among staff;
Efective integration of the new program
with existing career resources and
5. Effective staff training; and
6. Integration of program evaluation data
for continuous improvement.
Program administration requires a number of
skills that are not typically emphasized in
counselor training programs, such as
budgeting, personnel regulations, non-clinical
supervision, etc.
The delivery of quality career counseling
services to clients, however, requires that
someone in the organization attend to these
This concludes the Part 1 of
presentation on