Module 2 Discussion

Please see attached document. Refer to Ch 3-6.

Module 2 Discussion

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1. Read Chapters 3-6 and respond to the questions below:

a. Contrast the impact of culture, family, and neighborhood on career choices of the following groups:

1. Average middle class, American family.

1. Urban single parent, low-income family.

1. Recent Asian American immigrant family.

1. Wealthy suburban professional family.

1. African American youth (middle class)

1. Native American woman (rural)

1. Recent Mexican American immigrant (undocumented)

. Based on your studies in Module 2, which of the theories is hardest to comprehend? Why?

. Adherents of postmodern theories claim that these theories are better than traditional theories for use with minorities. Do you agree?

Chapter 3 Person-Environment Congruence (PEC) Theories: Frank Parsons, Theory of Work Adjustment, John Holland, and a Values-Based Approach

Things to Remember

Major historical events in the history of career development theorizing

The major tenets of TWA and Holland’s theory of vocational choice

Cultural values, their role in human behavior, and Brown’s values-based theory

Similarities and differences between the theory of work adjustment and Holland’s theory

O*NET applications of Holland’s and TWA theories

The theories presented in this chapter are traditional theories; they were once characterized as trait and factor theories, because needs, values, and personality types were derived via statistical techniques known as factor analysis.

Buford Stefflre, a counselor educator at Michigan State University for many years, is reputed to have coined the phrase, “There is nothing as practical as a good theory.” When this statement is conveyed to students, they are at best skeptical. Isn’t using theory and practical in the same sentence oxymoronic? Theories are obviously not fact, and what most students want are proven practices that they can use to help their clients. The problem is that many of our practices have not been investigated to a degree that will allow us to say unequivocally that they work. A good theory provides a framework for designing practices. I believe that Stefflre was right!

The Purposes and Evaluation of Theory

In Chapter 1, career development was defined as a lifelong process involving psychological, sociological, educational, economic, physical, and cultural factors that influence individuals’ selection of, adjustment to, and advancement in the occupations that collectively make up their careers. Career development is, to say the least, a complex process. Theories provide us with simplified pictures or, as Krumboltz (1994) prefers, road maps to the career development process.

There are “good” theories and “bad” theories. Krumboltz (1994) states: “Our psychological theories are as good as we know how to make them so far, but in all probability they are far short of being accurate” (p. 11). However, good theories have distinct characteristics—such as well-defined terms and constructs—that can easily be interpreted by practitioners and researchers. Just as importantly, the relationships among the constructs in the theory are clearly articulated. If the terms are clearly defined and logically interrelated, practitioners can use them as guides to practice, and researchers can generate research to test the assumptions of the theory. Moreover, good theories are comprehensive in that they explain the career development process for all groups, including men and women and individuals from various cultures and from all socioeconomic strata.

Well-constructed theories also serve other purposes. For example, they help us understand why people choose careers and then become dissatisfied with them. They also allow us to interpret data about career development that have been generated in the past, are being generated in the present, and will be generated in the future. Researchers and practitioners have long been aware that children and adults sex-type careers and that these stereotypes influence career choices. In Chapter 4, Gottfredson’s theory (1981, 2002) helps us understand why this occurs. Well-developed theories also help us account for all internal and external factors that influence career development, including cognitions about careers and affective responses to various career-related events (Brown & Brooks, 1996; Krumboltz, 1994; Savickas, 2013). Well-constructed theories are also parsimonious, which means that they are set forth in the simplest, most succinct fashion necessary to describe the phenomena involved. To summarize, theories of career choice and development serve three functions:

Facilitate the understanding of the forces that influence career choice and development

Stimulate research that will help to better clarify career choice and the development process

Provide a guide to practice in the absence of empirical guidelines

A History of Career Development Theorizing

One aim of this chapter is to provide an overview of the history of theorizing about career choice and development. It is generally recognized that the forerunner of modern theories of career development appeared in 1909 in Choosing Your Vocation by Frank Parsons. Parsons’s tripartite model—understanding one’s self, understanding the requirements of the jobs available, and choosing one job based on true logic—underpinned career counseling and career development practice into the middle of the twentieth century.

Parson’s model had a number of problems given the time in which it was published. Perhaps the major issue confronting practitioners of the time was that there were no tools that could be used to measure the personal traits of their clients. Similarly, there was no single source of occupational information other than personal exploration to aid counselors and psychologists in helping their clients to find suitable occupations. Therefore, the matching process that Parsons envisioned was not well informed. It was not until World War I—when a committee of psychometricians headed by Ralph Yerkes developed the Army Alpha—that instruments that could be used to measure human traits such as intellect and personality began to become available. The Army Alpha test measured verbal ability and numerical ability (scholastic aptitude) as well as ability to follow directions and general knowledge. Yerkes and his committee’s work stimulated the testing industry, and after World War I literally dozens of psychometric instruments became available to practitioners. In 1938, the Dictionary of Occupational Titles—which emphasized blue collar jobs—was published by the Department of Labor. This closed Parson’s loop of (1) identifying personal characteristics and (2) matching them to jobs.

Today, we understand that the idea of using “true logic” to make choices to match personal characteristics to jobs is an unrealizable pipe dream, because the decision-making process is filtered through myriad factors, including self-confidence, role relationships, sex-role identity, values, and so forth. Perhaps because there were no other options, the person-environment congruence (PEC) model held sway until well past the middle of the twentieth century. Moreover, as we shall see, the trait and factor model is still very much a part of the contemporary career development scene.

However, in the 1950s and 1960s a period of intense theorizing about career development occurred, resulting in eight new theories of career choice and development, many of which are still viable today. From 1970 to 1984, six additional theories of career choice and development were advanced, three of which focused largely on women’s career development. Another intense period of theorizing began in 1991, and since 1991 five new theories of career choice and development have been presented. A chronological account of these events can be found in Table 3.1.

Table 3.1 A History of Career Development Theorizing

Year Event

1909 Parsons’s book, Choosing Your Vocation, is published posthumously.

1951 Ginzberg and associates publish Occupational Choice: An Approach to a General Theory, which outlines a developmental theory of career development.

1953 Super publishes “A Theory of Vocational Development“ in American Psychologist; his article outlines a second developmental theory of career development.

1956 Roe publishes The Psychology of Occupations, which contains her personality-based theory of career development.

1959 Holland publishes “A Theory of Vocational Choice“ in the Journal of Counseling Psychology; his article sets forth some of the propositions of his theory of vocational choice.

1963 Tiedeman and O’Hara publish Career Development: Choice and Adjustment, which contains a theory rooted in the idea that careers satisfy needs.

1963 Bordin and associates publish “An Articulated Framework for Vocational Development” in the Journal of Counseling Psychology; their article sets forth a psychodynamic framework for career development.

1967 Blau and Duncan publish The American Occupational Structure, which sets forth the premises of status attainment theory, a sociological theory of career development.

1969 Lofquist and Dawis publish Adjustment to Work, which outlines the premises of a trait-factor model of occupational selection and adjustment.

1976 Krumboltz and associates publish “A Social Learning Theory of Career Selection” in The Counseling Psychologist.

1981 Gottfredson publishes “Circumscription and Compromise: A Developmental Theory of Occupational Aspirations“ in the Journal of Counseling Psychology; her article focuses on how sex-role identification limits occupational aspirations.

1981 Hackett and Betz publish “A Self-Efficacy Approach to the Career-Development of Women“ in the Journal of Vocational Behavior.

Chapter 4 Developmental Theories: Donald Super and Linda Gottfredson

Things to Remember

The stages in development as outlined by Super and Gottfredson

The major tenets of Super’s theory of vocational choice

How circumscription and compromise work together to limit occupational choices

Similarities and differences between Gottfredson’s and Super’s theories

Developmental theories focus on the biological, psychological, sociological, and cultural factors that influence career choice, adjustments to and changes in careers, and withdrawal from careers. These theories focus on stages of development (e.g., childhood and adolescence). The first developmental theory was presented in 1951 by Ginzberg, Ginsburg, Axelrad, and Herma, but their theory has been overshadowed by Super’s lifespan, life-space theory, which is discussed ahead. Another developmental theory was presented by Gottfredson (1981, 1996), who focused on circumscription and compromise. Although her theory is not as comprehensive as Super’s theory, it examines an extremely important aspect of the career development process: the impact that sex-typing occupations has on career choice.

Super’s Lifespan, Life-Space Theory

Probably no one has written as extensively about career development or influenced the study of the topic as much as Donald Super. His writing on career development is so extensive that even a highly motivated student faces a major challenge in reviewing all of his work. The references cited here provide considerable depth but are not intended to be all inclusive. (See the references at the end of this chapter for a listing of several works by Super.)

Super’s earliest theoretical statements were influenced by researchers in differential psychology, developmental psychology, sociology, and personality theory. Super has often stated that his view is a “segmented” theory consisting of several related propositions, out of which he hopes an integrated theory ultimately emerges. He has, from time to time, restated these segments, broadening slightly earlier statements and on two occasions adding more segments. His 1953 article presented the initial 10 postulates. He added two more in the 1957 book written with Bachrach. His 1990 article expands the list to 14 propositions that are the basis for the following consideration of Super’s lifespan theory. In this sequence, the original 10 propositions fall under items 1–6 and 9–12, and the additional propositions are identified by items 7, 8, 13, and 14. Super’s 1990 statements are italicized, followed where appropriate with a brief discussion of the proposition.

People differ in their abilities and personalities, needs, values, interests, traits, and self-concepts. The concept of individual differences is so widely recognized and accepted that no one seriously challenges it. The range of personal characteristics varies widely both within each individual and among individuals. Within each person are traits or abilities so pronounced that often they seem to caricature the individual. At the same time, in other areas each person is relatively weak or inept. Although most of us are more or less like other people in many traits, the uniqueness of each person is apparent in the individualized combination of strengths and weaknesses.

People are qualified, by virtue of these characteristics, for a number of occupations. The range of abilities, personality characteristics, and other traits is so wide that every person has within his or her makeup the requisites for success in many occupations. Research in the field of rehabilitation has demonstrated that even individuals with severe disabilities have the choice of many occupations in which they can perform satisfactorily. For people without serious physical or emotional impairment, the gamut of possibilities is wide indeed.

Few occupations require special abilities, skills, or traits in excessive quantity. Just as most athletic activities involve only certain muscles or muscle groups, so too most jobs require only a few specific characteristics. A person can thus perform successfully in any occupation for which he or she has the qualifying characteristics. The lack of a certain skill or its presence in minute quantities excludes the person from an occupation only if that skill is important in meeting the demands of a particular job.

Each occupation requires a characteristic pattern of abilities and personality traits—with tolerances wide enough to allow both some variety of occupations for each individual and some variety of individuals in each occupation. For each ability or trait required in the performance of a particular occupation, we might expect to find a modal quantity that best fits the nature of the work. On either side of this amount, however, is a band or range of this characteristic that satisfactorily meets the demands of the work. For example, picture an extremely simple task that requires, hypothetically, only a single characteristic. In studying this task, we might ascertain the quantity of this trait that would best meet the requirements of the job. We would also expect that a person could perform satisfactorily even though he or she possessed less than the ideal amount of the trait, as long as the person surpassed the minimum demanded by the job. However, we could also expect satisfactory performance even if the worker possessed more of the trait than was required for optimum performance.

Because the patterns of abilities required in various occupations are rarely unique, we can expect to find considerable overlap. Thus, a number of occupations exist in which a particular distribution of assets can result in satisfactory performance, just as a number of patterns of ability exist that can result in satisfactory performance in a given occupation.

Vocational preferences and competencies, the situations in which people live and work, and, hence, their self-concepts change with time and experience, although self-concepts—as products of social learning—are increasingly stable from late adolescence until late maturity, providing some continuity in choice and adjustment. As individuals exercise certain skills or proficiencies, they may increase or expand them to a higher level. As these higher-level skills develop, workers may be drawn to occupational outlets that provide opportunities to use them. Similarly, as workers perform successfully in given work situations, they may realize that participating in more rewarding or more responsible positions may result in even more satisfaction. However, work situations may be so demanding on some workers that they may look for positions that do not tax the pattern of abilities so heavily.

Because the pattern of skills and preferences, as well as the work situation, undergoes constant change, it is likely that a job a worker once found entirely satisfactory is no longer viewed that way. The individual whose self-concept changes may also find that a once-satisfactory job is no longer so. Either of these changes may result in the worker seeking a new work situation or attempting to adjust the current position in some way so that it again becomes comfortable and satisfying. Because neither the worker nor the job is static, either change or adjustment is necessary to keep the two in balance.

Super (1984, 1990) emphasizes that self-concept should be defined broadly to include not only an internalized personal view of self but also the individual’s view of the situation or condition in which he or she exists. This is a significant factor, because the situation surrounding the individual always bears on the person’s behavior and self-understanding. Super suggests that personal-construct might be a more useful term than self-concept, because it permits this broader definition.

This process of change may be summed up in a series of life stages (a “maxicycle”) characterized as a sequence of growth, exploration, establishment, maintenance, and decline, and these stages may in turn be subdivided into (a) the fantasy, tentative, and realistic phases of the exploratory stage and (b) the trial and stable phases of the establishment stage. A small minicycle takes place in transitions from one stage to the next or each time an individual is destabilized by a reduction in force, changes in type of personnel needs, illness or injury, or other socioeconomic or personal events. Such unstable or multiple-trial careers involve new growth, reexploration, and reestablishment (recycling). If the minicycle is not disrupted, the stage of maintenance also reoccurs.

The growth stage refers to physical and psychological growth. During this time, the individual forms attitudes and behavioral mechanisms that become important components of the self-concept for much of life. Simultaneously, experiences provide a background of knowledge of the world of work that is ultimately used in tentative choices and in final selections.

The exploratory stage begins with the individual’s awareness that an occupation is an aspect of life. During the early or fantasy phase of this stage, the expressed choices are frequently unrealistic and often closely related to the play life of the individual. Examples can be seen in young children’s choices of such careers as cowboy, movie star, pilot, and astronaut. These choices are nebulous and temporary and usually have little, if any, long-term significance for the individual. Some adolescents and even some adults, of course, have not advanced beyond the fantasy phase. Often, the understanding of themselves or of the world of work needed to make more effective choices is either missing or disregarded.

In the tentative phase of the exploratory stage, individuals narrow choices to a few possibilities. Because of uncertainty about ability, availability of training, or employment opportunity, the list may contain choices that later disappear. The final phase of the exploratory stage, still prior to actual entrance into the world of work, narrows the list to those occupations that individuals feel are within reach and provide the opportunities they feel are most important.

The establishment stage, as the name implies, relates to early encounters within actual work experiences. During this period, the individual, at first perhaps by trial and error, attempts

Chapter 5 Learning Theory–Based and Socioeconomic Theories of Career Choice and Development and Their Applications

Things to Remember

The major propositions of Krumboltz’s Theory of Happenstance

The importance of self-efficacy and outcome expectations in decision making

The steps in the CIP model of career counseling

Chapter 5, like Chapters 3 and 4, is devoted to career development theory and its applications. I hope you have accepted the hypothesis that there is nothing as practical as a good theory. I also hope you have identified your own beliefs about human behavior and the process of career choice and development. That discussion will be taken up more fully in Chapter 8.

The career development theories based on learning theory presented in this chapter, particularly the social cognitive career theory (Lent, Brown, & Hackett, 2002), have become increasingly popular. As you read this section, try to guess why the cognitive perspective is receiving increased attention. Keeping in mind that about 30 percent of your potential clients are likely to be from minority groups, which theory best provides an explanation of their choice-making processes and the means of helping them?

In Chapters 3 and 4, five theories of career choice and development were discussed and examples of how they could be applied were presented. In this chapter, a diverse set of models and theories is presented. The final section in this chapter deals with socioeconomic theories of career attainment.

Career Choice Theories Based in Learning Theory

Krumboltz’s Theory of Happenstance and Decision Making

Later in this section, I will ask you to think about happenstance events, defined here as unplanned and unexpected events that have influenced the course of your life. I will begin by sharing two happenstance events that changed my life in very dramatic ways.

I was a rising senior in a small high school, happily on my way to graduation and a life as a career military enlistee, factory worker, or share cropper. The school principal called me aside for the following two minute “counseling session.”

Have you ever thought about going to college?


You should. You can do the work.

I was finishing my master’s degree in vocational education. I needed an “inside minor,” which was scheduled to be education leadership. The courses I needed were unavailable. I went to my advisor, who scanned the course listing and said:

Why don’t you enroll in two school-counseling courses [one of which was occupational and vocational guidance]?

What is school counseling?

I don’t know, but the courses will help your teaching.

In 1979 and several times thereafter, Krumboltz (e.g., 1996) introduced a theory rooted in instrumental conditioning and the first iteration of Bandura’s (1977) theory, which Krumboltz labeled associative learning. Of these two types of learning, associative learning and its cognitive component was given a preeminent place in the theory. Later, Bandura’s (1986) ideas about the acquisition of behavior and the importance of self-efficacy beliefs and outcome expectations changed. Krumboltz (2010) did not alter his theory any significant way until 2008, when his changes were published online, followed by a print version in 2009. The foundation of Krumboltz’s theorizing has not changed. However, the decision-making model in Happenstance Learning Theory varies greatly from the one he posed in 1979 when he suggested a fully rational model of career decision making. However, Krumboltz’s thinking about the importance of dealing with happenstance seems to have begun much earlier (Krumboltz, 1998).

Krumboltz (1979) identified four factors that influence individual development and ultimately the career decision–making process and choice:

Genetic endowment and special abilities. Krumboltz recognizes that certain inherited characteristics can be facilitative, and restrictive influences on the individual’s functioning genotype or inheritance, at least in part, may set limits on intellectual development and various special abilities, such as eye–hand coordination, musical and artistic ability, and physical coordination. Krumboltz (2009) does not include the influence of inheritance on the development of interests, values, and personality traits such as introversion, although research supports the point of view that inheritance plays a major role in the development of personality traits (Betsworth et al., 1994; Jang, Livesly, & Vernon, 1996).

Environmental conditions and events. This factor includes those cultural and sociological influences that may lie outside of the control of individuals but that bear on them through the environment in which they exist. Some influences may be synthetic in the broadest sense; others may be a result of natural forces. These human or natural elements may cause events to occur that also bear on the individual in the educational and career decision process. Examples of influences of this type include the existence of job and training opportunities, social policies and procedures for selecting trainees or workers, wages for various occupations, labor and union laws and regulations, physical events such as earthquakes and floods, the existence of natural resources such as oil and gas, technological developments, changes in social organizations, family training experiences and resources, educational systems, and neighborhood and community influences.

Learning experiences. All previous learning experiences influence the individual’s educational and career decision making. Recognizing the extreme complexity of the learning process, Krumboltz identifies two types of learning as examples: instrumental learning experiences and associative learning experiences. He describes instrumental learning experiences as those situations in which the individual acts on the environment to produce certain consequences. Associative learning experiences are described as situations in which the individual learns by reacting to external stimuli, by observing real or fictitious models, or by pairing two events in time or location.

Task approach skills (TAS). These skills include performance standards and values. The individual applies task approach skills to each new task or problem. Examples of TAS include work habits and perceptual and cognitive processes, such as attending, selecting, symbolic rehearsing, coding, and so on. The application of these skills affects the outcome of each task or problem, and, in turn, the TAS is modified by the results.

Krumboltz sees the individual as constantly encountering learning experiences, each of which is followed by rewards or punishments that in turn produce the uniqueness of each person. This continuous interaction with learning experiences produces three types of consequences, which Krumboltz labels as (1) self-observation generalizations (SOG), (2) task approach skills (TAS), and (3) actions. A self-observation generalization is an overt or covert self-statement that is an evaluation of one’s own actual or vicarious performance in relation to learned standards. The generalizations that result may or may not be accurate, just as one’s self-concept may or may not coincide with the perceptions others have of an individual. Task approach skills are thought to be used by the person to project future self-observation generalizations and make predictions about future events (I am interested in math; therefore, I should major in engineering). As noted previously, TAS include work habits (I am reliable), mental sets (I respond quickly to expectations), perceptual and thought processes (I can visualize and build), performance standards and values (I am a skillful teacher and I can use my skills to teach art), and the like. Actions are implementations of behavior, such as applying for a job or changing a major field of study. Actions (behavior) produce certain consequences (self- or extrinsic reinforcement or punishment) that affect future behavior.

In summary, an individual is born into the world with certain genetic characteristics: race, gender, physique, and special abilities or disabilities. As time passes, the individual encounters environmental, economic, social, and cultural events and conditions. The individual learns from these encounters, building self-observations and task approach skills that are applied to new events and encounters. The successes and failures that accrue in these encounters influence the individual in choosing courses of action in subsequent learning experiences, increasing the likelihood of making choices similar to previous ones that led to success and of avoiding choices similar to those that led to failure. The process is complicated by aspects of instability, because the individual changes as a result of the continuous series of learning experiences; the situation also changes because environmental, cultural, and social conditions are dynamic (Mitchell & Krumboltz, 1990, 1996).

In Happenstance Learning Theory (HLT), Krumboltz (2010; Krumboltz, Foley, & Cotter, 2013) extends his concept of learning experiences to include unplanned (happenstance) events, which is a departure from his earlier thinking, which was quite rational. For example, examine his earlier decision-making model and contrast it with Happenstance Learning Theory (Table 5.1).

Status and Use of Krumboltz’s Theory.

Krumboltz’s early theoretical statement (Krumboltz, 1996; Mitchell & Krumboltz, 1996) attracted only a modicum of attention from

Chapter 6 Theories and Application of Contextualism and Chaos Theory to Careers

Things to Remember

The importance of context in the development of self

Differences between modern and postmodern theories

The language of contextualist and chaos theory theories

The process of postmodern career counseling, particularly assessment tools

Four theories of career development and counseling will be discussed in this chapter. The discussion begins with the contextualist theory developed by Young, Valach, and Collin (2002) and expanded by Young, Marshall, and Collin (2007). It continues with the most recent elegantly rendered theory developed by Savickas (1995, 1997, 2013). Savickas’ contextualist model is well created, but his theory is a bit more complex. It may be hard to grasp at first reading and could easily be dismissed for that reason. If you are considering a postmodern underpinning for your practice, dismissing Savickas would be a mistake. Importantly, Savickas builds bridges between traditional, modern approaches and his constructivist ideas that may help the reader develop a better understanding of both views.

In Chapter 1, I began a discussion of the differences between modern and postmodern thinking. I continued that discussion into Chapter 3 by laying out the assumptions of modernism. At this point, the basic tenets of postmodern thinking will be reviewed.

Postmodern theories, often referred to as constructivist theories, are a relatively new addition to the theories of career choice and development. These theories depart radically from the assumptions of the theories based on positivist philosophy. The following assumptions underpin these theories:

Human behavior is nonlinear and thus cannot be studied objectively.

Cause-and-effect relationships cannot be determined.

Individuals cannot be studied outside of the context in which they function.

Research data cannot be generalized to other people or groups.

Research is not a value-free process. The researcher’s values should in fact guide the research process.

The stories (narratives) that students tell are legitimate sources of data.

Research is goal free: It is a search for actual effects based on demonstrated needs. Random samples are replaced with purposeful sampling—that is, studying individuals who can respond to the research in a meaningful manner. For example, to understand sex-role stereotyping of occupational choice, a researcher might select subjects who knowingly chose careers because of stereotypes rather than selecting a random sample that included people who made decisions based on other variables.

Career counselors focus on the stories (narratives) of their clients, use qualitative assessment procedures, and help clients construct career goals based on their perceptions of the context in which they function.

The self develops in continuous interaction between the individual and her or his contexts.

Some postmodern theorists accept the idea of an objective self, that is, one that can be observed, measured, and compared to others (e.g., interests and aptitudes). Others reject this idea.

As was suggested in the opening paragraph, not all theories in this chapter stem from postmodern philosophical thinking per se. Bloch (2005) and Bright and Pryor (2005) used chaos theory as the springboard for their theorizing. However, all of the models discussed in this chapter reject the idea of linear thinking and cause-and-effect relationships. The principles of chaos theory, which originated in the minds of several physicists, will be explored later in the chapter, but it is important to note that chaos has a different meaning in physics than it does in common parlance. Chaos is generally assumed to mean “wildly out of control.” To a physicist, chaos—when applied to an open system, such as a family—means dynamically unstable but not necessary out of control. The final model we will examine, Brief Solution-Focused Career Counseling, was generated by de Shazer (1985) and embellished by Amundson (2003) and is not a theory of career development. Rather, it is a postmodern counseling/decision-making model that can be used as a standalone approach to career counseling or to supplement some of the other suggestions contained in this chapter.

Young, Valach, and Collin: A Contextualist Theory of Career

The first of two contextualist theories of career was authored by Young, Valach, and Collin (2002). Contextualism for these theorists is the process of weaving parts of one’s contexts (environments, reference groups, etc.) into the structure of the self. The weaver who uses multiple, interlocking threads to form a magnificent tapestry or a Persian carpet is an apt metaphor for individuals as they interact in their families, communities, peer groups, and work environments. The problem with the weaver metaphor is that the weaver completes a product (project). The actor who is creating a foundational metaphor, a worldview, never completes the process. The self is created in an ongoing, goal-directed pattern that must be understood in the present. For this reason, career counselors must seek to understand the individuals as they experience their environments and try to understand the meaning of their experiences.

Young et al. (2002) theorize that the actions of individuals are not caused by past or present events; causality is eschewed. Career-related behaviors are goal-directed results of the individual’s construction of the context in which she or he functions. To understand an event, one must start with the event, determine the individual’s view of it, and proceed from that point.

Young et al. (2002) also maintain that actions taken with regard to a career involve a goal-oriented series of behaviors that is guided simultaneously by individuals and the social contexts in which they are participating. They break action into three parts: (1) observable behavior, (2) the internal processes that cannot be observed, and (3) the meaning or results as interpreted by the individuals and others who observe the action. A person may go to work and experience the job as boring and unworthy of her labor. The pay that she receives each week may be viewed by the individual as sufficient rationale for keeping the job. Her children and out-of-work spouse may judge her work as heroic, meritorious activity.

Joint actions, such as those in career counseling, occur between people. In this process of meaning making, joint goals, which emerge spontaneously out of the process, are formed, and the players engage in joint actions (a client interviews workers in an occupation of choice, and a counselor helps them explore the meanings he or she found in the interviews) that also have personal and social meaning. Projects are longer-term joint or individual actions, such as preparing for a career (going to community college). When people construct meanings among actions and projects, they can engage in endeavors such as careers.

Actions take place in a series of sequential steps that occur in a social context from which the actor cannot be separated. The meaning associated with career-related actions and projects is interpreted not only in terms of its immediate context (client, friends, and parents are satisfied with the choice) but also in terms of the long- or short-term goals (Young et al., 2002). Interpretations are also influenced by the gender and culture of the actor because of the variations in perceptions that develop as a result of interaction with their contexts. Interpretation occurs at two levels: in the present context, which is built on a stream of actions, and in the anticipated context of the future. To describe these events, individuals construct narratives, which are temporal interpretations of career events that use the present to anticipate the future. If individuals are asked, “Why did you enter your present career?,” they construct fictional narratives based on their interpretations of the events that led to their careers as well as their interpretations of what the person who asked the question needs or wants to know. Through recursive questioning and interpretation, the career counselor helps the client develop an understanding of self in context. Another role of career counselors is to assist clients to project their narratives (life stories) into future contexts (roles such as work). Because the future is unknowable, this part of the counseling process is actually a preparation for what the individual hopes will be predictable events as well as unpredictable events. This concept is entirely compatible with the views held by Savickas (2013), Bloch (2005), Bright and Pryor (2005), and other postmodern theorists.

Young and his colleagues (2002) indicate that an essential aspect of career counseling is interpretation, which involves making sense of the client’s experiences. As clients tell their life stories, the counselor and the client spontaneously interpret the story in a meaning-making effort. For the counselor, the purposes of the interpretive process are (1) to become aware of the clients’ worldviews; (2) to help clients become aware of their conceptualizations and how these are workable within the life space; (3) to support clients’ applications of their constructs; and (4) to help maintain clients’ constructions of self and not abandon them in favor of more scientific ideas, such as traits and personality types. This process should enable clients to identify constructs that are related to his or her career choices. Often, these constructs will have meaning beyond the narrow confines of vocation. As the constructs are identified and valued or rejected, successful clients prioritize and integrate the constructs around certain themes,

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