With a wide scope of existing career development theories and emerging ones, how can we tell which career development theory works best? What do they all mean and why do we need to investigate career development theories in greater detail?
Understanding and evaluating career development theories can offer us clues and insights into our own career development. We can understand ourselves in a deeper way, including our strengths, unique pattern of traits that make up our interests, values, abilities, and personality characteristics. Career development theories can empower us with a unique perspective about our learning experiences while taking into consideration the various influences that shape our career choices (i.e. upbringing, value system, genetic influences, environmental conditions and external unplanned events.
Dispelling the Common Myth
Let me clarify a common myth. Career development theories are not meant to solve the career puzzle for us or supply us band-aid solutions to the right career path for us or the “right occupation.” Career development theories cannot guarantee a panacea for our career woes.
As career practitioners, career development theories can enforce us to examine the career development of our clients within the larger context. The ironic part about career development is that we never stop developing in our careers – career development is a lifelong process.
According to Super’s Life-Span/Life-Space Theory, career development occurs through major life stages and shapes the changes and decisions that we make. Not everyone goes through each of these stages in the same way. When we can accept the fact that we are anything but static and that personal change is continuous, we can then embrace the ever-changing aspect of our non-linear careers with objectivity. We can then choose a path of self-exploration and discovery in a spontaneous and free-flowing way that will lead us towards achieving growth.
A Unique Lens to View Career Development
What all the different career development theories from Parsons to Maslow, Holland, Krumboltz and onward theories have in common is that they each give us a different lens to understand career development.
The reality is that no career development theory is absolutely correct or incorrect – just unique. With each perspective offered there are strengths, limitations, and biases because our clients are unique. Jobseekers have individualized needs and varying career goals and interests that are not accounted for in those theories. Many theories fail to account to include specific groups of people or diverse cultures.
The Search for Existential Meaning
The clients that I serve often are searching for a new role or transitioning to a new career striving for a greater sense of meaning and purpose. We can see this schema revealed through the Constructivist Theory coined by two thinkers, M.L. Savickas and Vance Peavy. This theory posits that there are no fixed meanings or realities in the world, but multiple meanings and realities. We attempt to create or construct our own meaning or reality of the world through our experiences and schemas.
Some clients are dissatisfied with their work environments, which often relates to a conflict with their values and the values of their organizational culture. Our values guide our decision-making and actions, helping us determine what elements are essential for us to thrive in our workplace. Values change over time and through experience and life events.
As career practitioners, we can best employ a holistic approach by drawing from a combination of theories that best suit our personal style as well as the unique needs of each client. Our clients can benefit from viewing career development theories as a valuable tool for discovery and self-growth without relying on these theories to provide them with ready-made answers.
As supportive advocates of our clients' career development, we can help them uncover certain truths and dissect the meaning of certain patterns through career coaching, career exploration, observation and self-reflection, and storytelling. Through sharing stories and leveraging chance events, change, and meaningful connections, the answers are often discovered.
We are faced with a competitive labour market and changing world of work among external forces such as globalization, technologies and others. According to Donald E. Super’s theory, career choice is affected by complex and multifaceted biological, psychological, sociological, and cultural factors.
"We need to consider multiple perspectives in order to see our clients’ situation clearly and objectively using a holistic approach in order to foster sound decision-making."