Career Development Theories

Career Development Theories
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  • 0:01 Career Theories
  • 0:40 Trait-Factor Theories
  • 4:18 Developmental Theories
  • 6:47 Ginzberg's Theory
  • 9:02 Social-Cognitive Theory
  • 11:26 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Michele Chism

Michele is presently a part time adjunct instructor at Faulkner University in the Counselor Education Department where she teaches Measurement and Assessment and Diagnosis and Treatment. I formerly taught at the University of West Alabama where I taught School Counseling and College Student Development Counseling. I was also the Student Success Coordinator for the College of Education.

Career theories help us work with others in making career decisions. This lesson will tell you about the most popular theories of career decision making.

Career Theories

In this lesson, we will be talking about how career development theories help us in making choices that lead to a career path. Career development is the process through which a person's work identity is formed from childhood throughout a lifetime. We will be looking at the following career development theories: Holland's career typology theory, Super's developmental self-concept theory, Bandura's social-cognitive theory, and Ginzburg's theory of career development.

Trait-Factor Theories

The trait-factor theories emphasize that individuals need to develop their traits, including interests, values, personalities, and aptitudes. Trait-factor theory goes back to the early 1900s, and many of the ideas are still being used today. One of the most popular off-shoots of trait-factor theory is John Holland's career typology theory. He proposed that we need to focus on personal characteristics and occupational tasks.

His theory believed that occupational choice is not random, but an expression of our personality, and that occupational achievement, stability, and satisfaction depend on congruence, or agreement, between one's personality and job environment. He said that personality types fall into six categories:

  1. Realistic - people who like to work with their hands, machines, and tools, and are adventurous may choose careers in construction, farming, architecture, or engineering.
  2. Investigative - people who use the environment by using intellect, and are analytical, not social. They may choose career titles such as biologist, chemist, dentist, veterinarian, or computer programmer.
  3. Artistic - individuals who enjoy creating art forms and products and are literary, musical, artistic, and emotional. They may choose a career as an artist, poet, musician, interior designer, or writer.
  4. Social - individuals who use their skills to interact and relate with others and to train, inform, educate, or help. They may choose a career as a social worker, counselor, teacher, police officer, or religious leader.
  5. Enterprising - individuals who cope by expressing their persuasiveness and verbal, extroverted selves. They may pursue jobs in law, business, politics, and TV.
  6. Conventional - individuals who choose goals and activities that carry social approval. They like rules and routines, self-control, power and status, and order. They may pursue jobs centered on mathematics, such as bank teller, cashier, or data entry clerk.

Although each of us possesses parts of each of these personality types, we have one area that is dominant and two that are secondary. Holland also said there are six basic work environments bearing the same names. Personalities are then matched to occupations that match those types. He believed that people in the same occupation had similar personality traits. The closer the match is, the greater the job satisfaction. We search for work environments that match our personality type. Several assessment tools, such as the self-directed search, are based on the ideas of Holland's theory.

Developmental Theories

Developmental theories focus on the biological, psychological, sociological, and cultural factors that influence career choice, career change, and withdrawal from careers. Donald Super's developmental self-concept theory looks at life stages toward the development of self-concept. He felt that as self-concept becomes more realistic and stable, so does our vocational choice. People choose those occupations that let them express their self-concept. Career maturity is the agreement between one's vocational behavior and what the stage of development indicates. The stages consist of developmental tasks:

  • Growth (birth to mid-teens) - a time when experiences begin influencing our likes and dislikes
  • Exploration (mid-teens to early 20s) - a time when the individual realizes they must make career decisions
  • Establishment (mid-20s to mid-40s) - beginning actual work experiences
  • Maintenance (40s to 60s) - the person tries to maintain or improve their situation
  • Decline (late 60s through retirement) - getting ready for retirement

Super maintained that people differ in their abilities, personalities, needs, values, interests, traits, and self-concept. These differences qualify us for a variety of occupations that require certain abilities and personality traits. Our vocational preferences and self-concept change over time as we learn new skills, get tired of our routine, and have a change in preferences.

Each person, therefore, sets their own goals to master at each level. The more exposed an individual is to different occupations, the more mature vocational choices they make. Donald Super felt our work and occupation occupies much of our life - we reflect who we are by what we do.

Ginzberg's Theory

Ginzberg, Ginsburg, Axelrad, and Herma developed their theory of career choice and development on the premise that development of a career decision is done over time and is a holistic process. Their theory was based on the rational and conscious action of an individual. Occupations are not chosen by chance but through lifelong stages that are irreversible. As some choices are made, others are eliminated from consideration. The resolution of the career choice process is a compromise of ideas. Ginzberg felt that career decision making is done in three phases or stages:

  1. Fantasy (until about 11 years old) - in which children roleplay, pretend, and begin to think about careers they would like to do when they grow up. The children make arbitrary choices, which may not be based in reality.
  2. Tentative stage (11 to 17) - in which children begin to think about preliminary career choices as they become aware of their own interests, capacities, and values and their ability to change. Real-life experiences will influence choices. The individual will begin to realize things they like and things they dislike.
  3. Realistic (17 through 24) - when children begin to choose and express interest in careers.
  • Exploration - the person acquires experiences and tries to choose from two or more alternatives.
  • Crystallization - vocational decisions become clearer. A vocational choice is made. Some people never make it past this point.
  • Specification - the individual focuses on a particular occupation. The final decision is affected by the environment, the educational process, values, and emotions.

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