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Career Counseling

Navigating the world of employment is a highly difficult task in good and bad economic times

career counseling

Searching for a new job often seems like being lost in the middle of a dense forest.

You know you managed to get yourself in there somehow, and now you're looking for a path, a sign, or anything to find the way back. In these situations, you wish you knew someone with a map – a guide or expert – with knowledge of the path and the resources to help you find the way out.

Thankfully, career counselors are available to help those navigating the confusing and challenging period of career change and search.

Foundations of career development

It’s no secret - most people need to work for a living.

But the reality is that not everyone is satisfied with his or her career decisions. Sometimes the job is a poor fit, other times the stress levels might seem too high for anyone to manage, while still others are just looking to branch out and realize their unfulfilled career dreams.

Counseling

The process of career counseling is fairly straightforward, making use of assessments and personal insights to help direct a client to a new career while also providing interviewing and resume-building techniques. (see Career as a Career Counselor).

But in order to analyze and gain a truly holistic view of an individual's career aspirations, skills, and abilities, career counselors draw from various theories of career development.

According to “Career Counseling Practitioners: Reflections on Theory, Research, and Practice,” published in The Journal of Career Development, researchers examined how theory affects the practices of career counselors.

In the article, researcher Chris Brown asked a group of counselors and psychologists which degree theories influenced their career counseling practices, and which theories they used the most when consulting clients.

Results from the group showed that counselors most used John Holland's theory of career development, Donald E. Super's theory of career development, and social learning theories of career development.

The counselors indicated they used Holland's theory the most when working with clients. Holland's theory splits individuals into six different personality types and matching working environments. To facilitate this matching, clients take the Strong Interest Inventory, which is based on Holland's theory. For more information on this test, see Career Counseling - Strong Interest Inventory).

Career counselors using Holland's theory and the Strong-Interest Inventory would analyze a client's personality type and skills to match them with an appropriate career environment. For example, someone who finds interest in working with computers would seek out an occupation in software development rather than construction.

When dealing with students or those who recently graduated from high school or college, some counselors prefer to base their counseling methods off of Super's approach. This is because Super advocates a more complete view of someone's life – ranging from his or her childhood interests, to the skills they developed in school, to how they adapt to new situations.

Super's Theory of Vocational Choice

Super maintains that there are six stages of vocational development:

  • Crystallization Stage (Ages 14-18) - At this stage, individuals develop concepts of selves and desires, studying a variety of subjects to establish their interests.
  • Specification Stage (Ages 18-21) - At this stage, individuals have a better idea of what subjects and occupations they wish to study. They begin to concentrate on one or two subjects to decide what it is they wish to do for a career.
  • Implementation Stage (Ages 21-24) - At this stage, individuals begin seeking employment in their careers of choice.
  • Stabilization Stage (Ages 24-35) - At this stage, the individuals continue working, analyzing their choices to determine if the work is a good fit for them.
  • Consolidation Stage (Ages 35-55) - At this stage, individuals have decided that they enjoy their careers, and continue working, eventually leading to promotion and retirement.

Source: The Psychology of Careers by Donald E. Super

In “A Lifespan, Life-space Approach to Career Development,” published in The Journal of Vocational Behavior, Super explains that experiences largely influence how an individual shapes his or her interests.

Super indicates that career counselors must examine a person's education, hobbies, life aspirations, and past occupations in order to receive a better idea of what might be a good future career. Because people frequently change interests throughout their lives, counselors should help individuals see how these interests might fit together in a career setting.

For example, consider a college-aged individual who is about to graduate with a degree in history. This student entered college without much of an idea of what he wanted to do, but enjoyed taking history classes in high school and thought it would make a good major.

Now with graduation on the horizon, the young man is nervous about getting a job with a history degree. In order to gain a better understanding of what he should do with his degree, the man visits with the school's career counselor.

Meeting with the student, the career counselor assembles a complete assessment of the individual’s life. The career counselor looks at his past employment history, internships, and volunteer work, while asking about his hobbies and interests.

The counselor discovers that the young man is passionate about writing, enjoys working with others, and advocating for political causes, having previously worked for a nonprofit group. Additionally, the boy's history degree provides him with a wide range of viewpoints of how certain governments have succeeded and failed.

Working to combine the boy's passion for writing, politics, and history, the career counselor recommends the boy look into work as a consultant for a political campaign. In this position, the boy would write press releases, give advice and a historical perspective to the campaign, and maintain past connections he made while working for the nonprofit group.

Additional theories

Similar to Super's theory, social learning theories of career development take a holistic look at how one's entire life affects one's career decisions.

Krumboltz's learning theory of career counseling holds that direct experiences and observations about an environment lead a client to make generalizations about the world and work.

Krumboltz's four factors to consider

According to the book Career Theory and Practice: Learning Through Case Studies, by Jane L. Swanson and Nadya Fouad, there are four factors to consider in Krumboltz's learning theory:

Genetic factors

Some individuals might have innate genetic endowments and special abilities they inherit from their parents. Krumboltz believes that some individuals might be genetically predisposed to have musical, artistic, and athletic abilities.

Environmental conditions and events

Environmental factors are usually outside of the control of the individual, and include conditions like job opportunities, technological developments, community influence, social policies, and labor laws.

Learning experiences

Krumboltz believes that learning comes in the form of instrumental learning, and associative learning. Through instrumental learning, people learn through reinforcement or punishment. In associative learning, people learn to associate certain ideas with another stimulus. For example, someone who enjoys a show about police might find a career in police work interesting.

Task approach skills

These are the skills someone brings to a job. This includes experience, expectations, and general performance.

Source: Career Theory and Practice: Learning Through Case Studies

In addition, Krumboltz believes that people will choose careers based on the following factors: whether they've expressed confidence in completing tasks typical of that career; if others have reinforced their interest in the career; and if they know someone who has positive experiences in that career.

Taking these factors into account, Krumboltz advocates clarifying potential career options through the Strong Interest Inventory and other career assessments.

Helping others with career decisions

If you're interested in a career using knowledge of theories and services to assist others with finding jobs and adjusting to new careers, request information from schools offering degrees in counseling.

Using chaos theory in career counseling

Traditional career counseling typically involves analyzing personality traits, interests, and skills to match someone to the perfect job.

But at least one theory of career counseling maintains that the traditional methods career counselors use are unrealistic in the constantly changing and unpredictable labor market.

Those who follow the chaos theory of career counseling believe that parents, social and environmental context, gender, age, political and economic climate, interests, abilities, geography, and many other life events all influence choice of career and career direction.

And all of these factors are naturally unpredictable and subject to change.

In “The Chaos Theory of Careers: A User's Guide,” published in The Career Development Quarterly, authors Jim E.H. Bright and others write that counselors must take life’s complexities into account, encouraging clients to reflect on how they impact their lives.

Career counseling from a chaos theory perspective allows clients to examine how these chance events affect their careers, and also how they might capitalize on these events.

Because chaos theory acknowledges that nothing is completely predictable, counseling based on this theory focuses less on discovering the perfect career for a client, and more on finding ways to deal with change.

Using chaos theory during career counseling essentially helps clients to understand how small, often unpredictable events often lead to possibilities in the big picture. Counselors working with clients help them to develop strategies for dealing with change and uncertainty at work.

In “Counseling Chaos: Techniques for Practitioners,” published in The Journal of Employment Counseling, author Robert G.L. Pryor lists the principles of chaos that career counselors must understand to effectively work with clients:

  • Order and randomness are natural aspects of human experience;
  • Careers have a tendency to become susceptible to unplanned outcomes;
  • Humans have the capacity to a) recognize an unpredicted possibility b) create opportunities c) encourage good fortune d) take advantage of an unplanned outcome;
  • The complexity of the human experience introduces unpredictability;
  • This reduces knowledge of outcomes and control over outcomes; and
  • This unpredictability can result in the total transformation of a career.

With an understanding of these concepts, career counselors adhering to chaos theory help those thrive in a constantly changing marketplace.

Counseling Schools & Colleges
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5 Programs in
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  • Phoenix Career Services™ help students find careers that match their interests & map out a personalized career plan.
  • Mentorships & networking opportunities available through Alumni Association of 800,000+ graduates.
  • Flexible start date and class schedules.
  • 100+ locations and online options.
  • Offers special military rates and special advisors who have a military background.
  • Students can earn credits for applicable military training and education.
  • Phoenix Career Services™ help students find careers that match their interests & map out a personalized career plan.
  • Mentorships & networking opportunities available through Alumni Association of 800,000+ graduates.
  • Flexible start date and class schedules.
  • 100+ locations and online options.
  • Offers special military rates and special advisors who have a military background.
  • Students can earn credits for applicable military training and education.
  • Good for Working Adults
  • Online Programs
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Financial Aid
5 Programs in
Online
  • 95% alumni satisfaction rate.
  • Currently holds more than 500 professional alliances, including 19 of the top Fortune 100 companies.
  • Potential students may preview a free, one-week mini course to get an accurate impression of the student experience.
  • Courses are taught by expert faculty, with 86% of professors possessing a doctoral degree.
  • Offers credit for prior experience and learning, as well as scholarships, accelerated programs, and several other ways to help reduce tuition costs.
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  • 95% alumni satisfaction rate.
  • Currently holds more than 500 professional alliances, including 19 of the top Fortune 100 companies.
  • Potential students may preview a free, one-week mini course to get an accurate impression of the student experience.
  • Courses are taught by expert faculty, with 86% of professors possessing a doctoral degree.
  • Offers credit for prior experience and learning, as well as scholarships, accelerated programs, and several other ways to help reduce tuition costs.
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  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
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  • Member of the United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA), the Canadian Network for Innovation in Education (CNIE), and the International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE).
  • Features a fully flexible schedule with no classes to attend, leaving the study pace up to the student.
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  • Provides students the opportunity to train at home in their spare time to get their high school diploma, train for a new career, or enhance current skills.
  • Member of the United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA), the Canadian Network for Innovation in Education (CNIE), and the International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE).
  • Features a fully flexible schedule with no classes to attend, leaving the study pace up to the student.
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  • Ranked among the 2015 Best Regional Universities in the West by U.S. News & World Report.
  • 94% of students in the 2014-2015 academic year received some form of financial aid.
  • Student to faculty ratio is 13:1, with an average class size of 15.
  • 104 full-time faculty members, and more than 71% of them hold the highest degree in their field.
  • Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
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  • Ranked among the 2015 Best Regional Universities in the West by U.S. News & World Report.
  • 94% of students in the 2014-2015 academic year received some form of financial aid.
  • Student to faculty ratio is 13:1, with an average class size of 15.
  • 104 full-time faculty members, and more than 71% of them hold the highest degree in their field.
  • Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
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  • Online Programs
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  • Its Fast Track program enables qualified students to save up to 30% on tuition and graduate up to 30% faster.
  • Its online MBA program was named by the International Graduate Forum as a top 10 Online MBA Program in 2012.
  • Listed as a military friendly school by G.I. Jobs magazine in 2014.
  • Lets students watch, view, read, or hear content through its program, My Unique Student Experience (M.U.S.E.).
  • Has additional campus locations near military bases in Colorado Springs and Denver.
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  • Its Fast Track program enables qualified students to save up to 30% on tuition and graduate up to 30% faster.
  • Its online MBA program was named by the International Graduate Forum as a top 10 Online MBA Program in 2012.
  • Listed as a military friendly school by G.I. Jobs magazine in 2014.
  • Lets students watch, view, read, or hear content through its program, My Unique Student Experience (M.U.S.E.).
  • Has additional campus locations near military bases in Colorado Springs and Denver.
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  • Good for Working Adults
  • Online Programs
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Accelerated Programs
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
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  • Each program is designed to instill the knowledge, ethical values, and interpersonal skills of professional practice and to foster values of social responsibility.
  • Offers several flexible learning options, including a blended format that combines campus and online learning.
  • Several scholarship opportunities are available for students who qualify.
  • Features a competency-based MBA program that allows students to test out of subjects based on prior professional experience.
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  • Designated as a 2015 Military Friendly® School by Victory Media, publishers of G.I. Jobs®.
  • Each program is designed to instill the knowledge, ethical values, and interpersonal skills of professional practice and to foster values of social responsibility.
  • Offers several flexible learning options, including a blended format that combines campus and online learning.
  • Several scholarship opportunities are available for students who qualify.
  • Features a competency-based MBA program that allows students to test out of subjects based on prior professional experience.
Show more [+]
  • Good for Working Adults
  • Online Programs
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
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  • Ranked among top Regional Universities in the South by U.S. News and World Report in 2015.
  • Ranked 37th among the Best Colleges for Veterans by U.S. News and World Report in 2015.
  • Stands as the largest private, nonprofit university in the nation with 100,000+ students.
  • Offers over 230 programs online, from the certificate to the doctoral level.
  • Has a student-faculty ratio of 25:1, and 42.3% of its classes have fewer than 20 students.
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  • Ranked among top Regional Universities in the South by U.S. News and World Report in 2015.
  • Ranked 37th among the Best Colleges for Veterans by U.S. News and World Report in 2015.
  • Stands as the largest private, nonprofit university in the nation with 100,000+ students.
  • Offers over 230 programs online, from the certificate to the doctoral level.
  • Has a student-faculty ratio of 25:1, and 42.3% of its classes have fewer than 20 students.
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  • Online Programs
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
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  • Ranked one of the Best Online Bachelor’s Programs in 2014 by U.S. News & World Report.
  • Offers a no-obligation, 3-week trial period where students may determine if the university is right for them before they commit to it.
  • Strives to be a student’s partner in lifelong learning; committed to helping them achieve their goals.
  • Serves students of all ages, from first-graders learning to read to professionals seeking postgraduate training.
  • Provides career-oriented diploma through master’s programs in fields such as healthcare, business, legal and paralegal services, information technology, criminal justice and design.
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  • Ranked one of the Best Online Bachelor’s Programs in 2014 by U.S. News & World Report.
  • Offers a no-obligation, 3-week trial period where students may determine if the university is right for them before they commit to it.
  • Strives to be a student’s partner in lifelong learning; committed to helping them achieve their goals.
  • Serves students of all ages, from first-graders learning to read to professionals seeking postgraduate training.
  • Provides career-oriented diploma through master’s programs in fields such as healthcare, business, legal and paralegal services, information technology, criminal justice and design.
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• Morning, afternoon, evening and weekend classes are available.
• Offers lifetime career assistance services to graduates, including resume and cover letter assistance, employer networking, and one-on-one employment counseling.
• Accredited by the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET).
• 8 campuses located across California, with 3 additional campuses in New Hampshire and Maine and online options.

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• Morning, afternoon, evening and weekend classes are available.
• Offers lifetime career assistance services to graduates, including resume and cover letter assistance, employer networking, and one-on-one employment counseling.
• Accredited by the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET).
• 8 campuses located across California, with 3 additional campuses in New Hampshire and Maine and online options.

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  • Good for Working Adults
  • Online Programs
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Financial Aid
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• Ranked among the 2015 Best Regional Universities in the South by U.S. News & World Report.
• Ranked among the 2015 Best Colleges for Veterans by U.S. News & World Report.
• Challenging students to live extraordinary lives of personal and professional fulfillment since 1878.
• Offers programs in business, communication, education, humanities, fine arts, health sciences, and graduate studies.
• Provides on-campus housing options and study abroad programs for students.
• Campus features several academic centers for students, including The Writing Center and the Study Place for Achievement (SPA).

Show more [+]

• Ranked among the 2015 Best Regional Universities in the South by U.S. News & World Report.
• Ranked among the 2015 Best Colleges for Veterans by U.S. News & World Report.
• Challenging students to live extraordinary lives of personal and professional fulfillment since 1878.
• Offers programs in business, communication, education, humanities, fine arts, health sciences, and graduate studies.
• Provides on-campus housing options and study abroad programs for students.
• Campus features several academic centers for students, including The Writing Center and the Study Place for Achievement (SPA).

Show more [+]
  • Good for Working Adults
  • Accredited
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Accelerated Programs
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits