Thursday, 24 October 2013

Career Development in New Zealand: some ideas

While the idea of training for a calling has been around for centuries, I feel that it is only in the post-industrialisation era that we have had the critical population mass with career choice for the development of a careers field. While arising independently in Europe and the UK, modern career guidance appears to have largely begun with a single man; an American, Frank Parsons. As a social reformer, Parsons was pivotal for his holistic view of vocations, training and matching theory development (Parsons, 1909; Bookrags, n.d.).

Americans appear to have taken to career guidance like ducks to water; due initially to the rise of Scientific Management (Robbins, 1991), and post-WW2 via returned servicemen undertaking testing in order to enter tertiary education (Sharf, 2010; Robbins, 1991). Hofstede (1980) in his study of cultural dimensions, scores Americans as highly individualistic, reasonably comfortable with the gap between rich and poor (power distance) and a more masculine society than New Zealand. The American dream – being a ‘self-made man’ – sits comfortably with Hofstede's correlation scores of US culture.

It is normal, embedded behaviour in the US to seek professional career assistance. I feel America is still almost alone in this, particularly compared to New Zealand, where we have a more collective culture (the nation is as important as the individual), a highly fair society, and are less overtly assertive (cf 'aggressive') and confident (cf 'boastful') than in the US.

We Kiwis can learn a lot from the Americans, providing what we adopt suits our context.

New Zealand government careers strategy, adopted from the OECD, underpins the activities of CareersNZ, and the development of NZ curriculum career standards in line with our National Education Goals (Ministry of Education, 2009). Karen Sewell, Secretary for Education, said “participation in the 21st century workforce […] demand[s] lifelong learning and an enduring capacity to manage change” (Ministry of Education, 2009, p. 4).

From meeting Te Tiriti responsibilities and from South Pacific influences, NZ career practice will gain a truly local dimension. Part of New Zealand’s careers strategy is to create proactive knowledge within schools (Ministry of Education, 2009), so seeking career expertise becomes normal.

McMahon’s model (Ministry of Education, 2009, p. 12) shows students – or ‘clients’ – sit in the model’s centre, surrounded by first by their Whanau, then by their choices, influences and macro-environmental factors.

Sitting well with developmental theory, the duality of Whakapapa Tikanga – the spirituality of representing all those who have gone before us; and ownership of cultural protocol – adds uniqueness to New Zealand career practice. That an individual has a duty to their Whanau, Hapu and Iwi sits well with founding British concepts of noblesse oblige; we are merely stewards for generations to come.

On their website, Te Kete Ipurangi (n.d.) quote Jarvis (2003); “Career development is a lifelong process of skill acquisition and building through a continuum of learning, development and mastery [, enabling…] people to be in charge of their own career, with enough focus and direction for stability and enough flexibility and adaptability for change”.

I like Jarvis’ statement immensely. I feel that not only does it leave freedom enough for each person to develop a career to suit their needs, but for each nation to develop a career practice to suit their unique population.

  • Bookrags (n.d.). Encyclopedia of World Biography on Frank Parsons. Retrieved 18 November 2010 from
  • CareersNZ (n.d.) Global perspectives. Retrieved 22 November 2010 from
  • Hofstede, Geert H. (1980), Culture’s Consequences, Sage, London.
  • Jarvis, Phillip S. (2003). Career Management Paradigm Shift: Prosperity for Citizens, Windfalls for Government. Retrieved 22 October 2010 from
  • Johnson, G., Scholes, K. & Whittington, R. (2005). Exploring Corporate Strategy: Texts and Cases. (7th Edition). UK: Prentice-Hall.
  • Ministry of Education (2009). Career Education and Guidance in New Zealand Schools. Retrieved 22 October 2013 from
  • Parsons, Frank (1909). Choosing a Vocation. USA: Houghton Mifflin
  • Patton, Wendy & McMahon, Mary (2006). Career Development and Systems Theory: Connecting Theory and Practice. Netherlands: Sense Publishers.
  • Prideaux, L., & Creed, P. (2002). A review of career development research in Australia and New Zealand from 1995–2000. International Journal for Educational and Vocational Guidance, volume 2, issue 1 (pp. 21-38)
  • Robbins, Stephen P. (1991). Management (Third Edition). USA: Prentice Hall.
  • Sharf, Richard. S. (2010). Applying career development theory to counselling. (5th edition). Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks Cole.
  • Te Kete Ipurangi (n.d.) NZ Curriculum: Why career education is important – quote from Jarvis, Phillip S. 2003, p. 7. Retrieved 22 October 2013 from
Te Tiriti O Waitangi (The Treaty of Waitangi) is New Zealand's founding document: a contract between Māori (Tangata whenua, people of the land pre-1840) and Pākehā (everyone else via the Crown of the Commonwealth). Read more at and

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