Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Career Development is a team sport

(Young, 2015 after Avila College, 2012)
Recently I posted an article on career self-development. This is a growing trend whereby employers slowly move the responsibility and the cost of development back on the employee.

Some employers take the time to train their employees in how this will work, but that often backfires, as Kossek et al (1998) found in research in this area. Organisational training can be somewhat prescriptive, not providing the depth of a profession. Many organisations assume that career development is just a bolt-on part of HR.

Not everyone can become well-trained in self-reflection, career theory or the perspective required to look clearly at their own choices and to offer themselves alternatives. Not everyone makes a study of the career models, the philosophies, the theoretical schools or the career tools to be able to understand what options are available, and what might suit each individual in their context and time.

This, however, is exactly what career practitioners are trained to do. 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”.

Swanson defined career counselling as “an ongoing, face-to-face interaction between counselor and client, with the primary focus on work- or career-related issues; the interaction is psychological in nature, with the relationship between counselor and client serving an important function” (1995, p. 245). Wendy Patton & Mary McMahon take a constructionist view of an evolving, changing, two-way interplay between employees and their field of work, based on employee mental models and their own, constructed meaning of self, value, experiences and aspirations. Patton & McMahon's model puts the client at the centre, and allows them to limit, or delimit, themselves (2006). 

If we accept that career development is a specialist field - and I do - then those untrained in career development do not necessarily have the expertise to provide self-practice appropriately. We don't expect psychiatrists to treat themselves: in fact, there are myriad codes and regulations forbidding self-assessment. So why would we expect people to ably analyse their career paths, on their own?

My advice to organisations attempting to train their employees in career development is to instead put their money into EAP (employee assistance programmes), and to give their employees equivalent value with a career professional of their choice.

Taking a team approach, with everyone in their own speciality, makes far more sense. The organisation centres on meeting their own strategic objectives; the HR function knows the employee is getting appropriate direction, and, through the performance management process, links the employee into the organisation's needs; the employee focuses on determining their own needs and on finding where that intersects with the organisation; the career practitioner guides the employee in that self-reflective determination.

Then the employees get client-centred self-development advice from an expert guide; the employers don't run the risk of alienating their employees; and everyone gets a win.



  • Avila College (2012). Six Steps of Career Self-Management: Victorian Careers Curriculum Framework. Retrieved 21 May 2015 from   
  • Kossek, E. E., Roberts, K., Fisher, S., & DeMarr, B. (1998). Career self-management: A quasi-experimental assessment of a training intervention.  Personnel Psychology, December 1998, Volume 51, issue 4 (pp. 935-96). 
  • Patton, Wendy A., & McMahon, Mary L. (2006). The systems theory framework of career development and counseling: Connecting theory and practice. International Journal for the Advancement of Counselling, Volume 28, issue x (pp. 153-166)
  • Swanson, J. L. (1995). The process and outcome of career counseling. In W. B. Walsh & S. H. Osipow (Eds.), The Handbook of Vocational Psychology (pp. 217-259). USA: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
  • 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

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