Three Approaches to Identifying a Career Path

-*What’s the best way to find your professional path?

Mark Savickas

Mark Savickas

Career interventions have evolved over the past 70 years from individual differences assessment to occupational development to current emphasis on life planning.
Vocational guidance was supplanted by “career education,” focused on fulfilling developmental tasks and adapting to occupational requirements.
More recently, “career counseling” built on the preceding approaches by considering each individual as the designer and author of a career path.

Mark Savickas of Northeast Ohio Medical University traced this incremental change, and noted that “each time that society has changed the prevalent form of employment, psychology has changed its methods of career intervention to help people deal with new identity issues and lifestyle problems.”

John Holland

John Holland

Early attempts to help people find their occupational paths focused on matching six personality prototypes incorporating six related value types with six associated vocational categories, thanks to John Holland of Johns Hopkins, who developed the Self Directed Search assessment.

Holland's Six Career Themes

Holland’s Six Career Themes

Individual were seen as “actors” who needed to match individual differences with occupations that best fit these characteristics.

John Crites

John Crites

Next came an emphasis on careers as a developmental challenge that requires adaptation and training to develop new attitudes, beliefs, and competencies that foster their vocational adaptation.

Donald Super

Donald Super

People were seen as “agents” striving to develop into an occupational role, with insight from assessments including the Career Maturity Inventory by University of Maryland’s John Crites and Career Development, Assessment, and Counseling (C-DAC) conceived by Donald Super of University of Connecticut.

Careers are currently seen as a “narrative construction” or a “life design project” drawing on emotion valence, autobiographical career stories and life themes that suggest professional construction and reconstruction.

Individuals are seen as “authors” of their career narrative in context of a life story.
Savickas developed this constructivist perspective to serve “workers in societies that have de-standardized the life course and de-jobbed employment” after applying Holland’s individual differences approach and developmental views of Crites and Super.

Three Career Development Approaches

Three Career Development Approaches

Paul Hartung

Paul Hartung

To enable this career narrative, Savickas and Northeast Ohio Medical University colleague Paul Hartung developed a structured career interview.
This “Autobiographical Workbook” asks people to share stories about self, identity, and career, including inquiries about role models, favorite magazines, how they made important decisions, and what their parents wanted for their lives to uncover prevailing interests, values, concerns, and precipitants to action.Career Construction Interview

Ludwig Wittgenstein

Ludwig Wittgenstein

This approach helps people “envision how to use work to actively master what they passively suffer” and “fit work into life rather than life into work” by collecting stories about “…how a person constructed a career, then deconstructs and reconstructs these stories into an identity narrative, and finally co-constructs intentions that lead to action in the real world.
Narrative Construction and Life Design perspectives echo Ludwig Wittgenstein’s observation that problems are solved not by giving information but by rearranging what we already know.

In this collection and rearrangement process, Savickas sees the individual as a career architect whereas a career consultant is like a carpenter who suggests recombinations in light of current needs and future goals while respecting interests, values, and strengths.

This process also enables new perspectives on more productive approaches to past challenges when encountered in future contexts, working around obstacles, and drawing on past examples of competence and self-efficacy.

  • Which perspective on career development most guided your selection of work paths?

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