Career Counselling Theories & How to Choose Your Future Career

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Career counselling is the interaction between a client and a counsellor that involves applying relevant psychological theory to aid the client in making decisions related to careers and deal with an career –related issues. It is up to the counsellor to be competent in providing guidance through communication, ethical and professional founded behaviour, the ability to manage diversity, utilise career knowledge effectively, conduct assessments and provide a service that results in career development (Schreuder, & Coetzee, 2016). Career counselling should place its focus on the individual parts of people’s career-life stories It is beneficial when it aims at directing goals, providing purpose, and developing meaning. (Maree, 2015).

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In order to effectively play the role of the counsellor it is essential that he counsellor has acquired a component amount of knowledge of theoretical frameworks. Career counselling theories have progressed over times. Changes in society, the world of work and the constant development of technology has changed how individuals perceive careers, their goals and values (Schreuder, & Coetzee, 2016). Choosing a career is daunting experience, especially for a young adolescent with little experience of the working world. The influence society has on career choice is also something to consider. Many adolescents are influenced by their parents, educators, peers, etc. to follow a career because of its value in society and its monetary profits. The counsellor needs to have the capacity to work with various individuals and populations. Work places are become more diverse in race, culture, religion, sexual orientation, etc. and greater awareness of these differences is essential. Individuals also have to have the ability to change, due to the dynamic nature of careers and global work field (Schreuder, & Coetzee, 2016).

There are various theoretical frameworks that have been successful and useful in counselling individuals on career related issues. However, they each have there own advantages and disadvantages and in some cases parts of these theoretical frameworks combines to make a whole are more effective in career counselling then sticking to one theory that only meets some of the needs or requirements. It is necessary to have a conceptual framework because the world of work is in dynamic and in constant motion. Individuals need to be able to adapt to this constant change. The idea that an individual will have one career for the rest of their lives is unrealistic (Maree, 2015). Holland’s Theory of Vocational Types (Holland, 1997) focuses its attention on personality types through a practical application. It states that an individuals’ personality influences their career choice. The main themes observed in this theory are that an individual’s career is an illustration of their personality and that choosing a career is not a random choice. It also states that individuals in the same career have similar personalities and respond to problems in with a similar approach as well as the importance of congruency concerning one’s personality and their occupational environment. When a person’s personality does not fit their work then it termed incongruent.

According to Holland there are six personality types, realistic, investigative, artistic, social enterprising, and conventional. Holland’s theory can be expressed in terms of a hexagon. Consistency is the term used to describe the closeness between an individuals first and second choice on the hexagon. The better the consistency the more cohesive one’s characteristics and their vocational success and maturity (Holland, 1997; Schreuder, & Coetzee, 2016). The advantages of Holland’s theory are that over the years it has remained stable and is not affected by race or gender. It is a helpful in understanding the world of work. This theory assists individuals in identifying their personality, discover occupations that correspond with their type and make an informed decision on their career choice. However, it does not provide understanding on how one develops a type (Schreuder, & Coetzee, 2016).

Super’s Developmental Self-Concept Theory (2013) states that career development involves developing one’s self-concept and that careers are chosen based on whether it allows for the expression of that self-concept. It maintains that if an individual’s self-concept is constant and realistic it will positively influence one’s career choice. This theory consists of five stages based on development: growth, exploration, establishment, maintenance, and disengagement, or decline. It views work as one aspect that interacts with an individuals other life roles, therefore, the interaction of life roles (internal and external) provides meaning to one’s career. It guides individuals in identifying their interests and values, and form a distinct self-concept. Super’s theory defines most of the influences that impact career development and career choice. The exploration stage involves the development of realistic self-concept and identifying career options through exploring preferences. Super’s definition of career incorporates the totality of life. Careers involve activities that transpire in life roles (Super, 2013,).

Savickas (2002) worked under Super and there are similarities between his theory and Super’s. Savickas also takes a developmental approach to careers and takes action-orientated perspective. This theory identifies life themes by incorporating individual meaning, memories, present experiences and future intentions (Maree, 2015). The theory focuses on self-concept as a primary aspect of career. This theory believes that self-construction is an important of the postmodern world. A narrative approach is taken to construct by looking at internal aspects. Reflecting on the past is necessary for a meaningful future. Career choices are guided by an individual’s life themes. These themes are identifies through the narration of the life story. A career is constructed by the meaning an individual places on the work. This meaning needs to help the individual live youth their life themes. This theory also involves adaptability, which is necessary in the changeable modern working world. Savickas’s theory assists individuals identifying their life themes by reflecting on their past. (Savickas, 2002; Maree, 2013).

Career counselling has moved towards an integrative approach of quantitative and qualitative methods (Maree, 2014). And as an educational psychologist that will counsel people on career related decisions and issues it is necessary to have a contextual framework that is integrative and will help better predict outcomes based on career interventions and external influences. Also clients are not the same. They will require different guidance on different areas. It is useful to apply different aspects of various theories to provide the best career counselling for them based on their needs. Understand the career adaptability and be prepared for changes that may occur

Holland’s theoretical notion that an individual’s career is an demonstration of their personality is necessary to include in career counselling (Holland, 1997). Personality plays a major role in determining a person’s interests, strengths and weaknesses as well as their goals and their ability to achieve these goals. Savicka’s (2002; Maree 2013) life themes and life design is essential in acquiring qualitative information needed for career development and construction. A person’s experiences and the stories that have constructed their life are necessary in understanding who they are and why they want to follow a particular career journey. This theory also involves adaptability, which is necessary for all individuals to have in todays modern work world. The days of having one job for you're entire life is no longer a reality. Technology has made it impossible to be static in a career. These theories have resonated with me because from my own experience of being a FET life orientation teacher, my knowledge gained through my studies as well as experience from assessments such as the Maree Career Matric and Career Interest Profile (Maree, 2013).

I have observed the necessity to include development, choice, personality and narrative in career counselling. As an educational psychologist this specific conceptual framework will guide me in terms of being aware of diversity and the having the ability to adapt to different individual needs. It will also allow me to have a more holistic approach to career counselling and provide assistance that will meet the career needs and address the career related issues. I have a responsibility to assist and guide on career related issues and decisions to the best of my knowledge and ability. In order to do so I have to have extensive knowledge of various theories and be able to utilise aspects of these theories that best meet the needs of my client. The aspects of theories that I have provided to form a conceptual work are the theoretical foundation on which ethical and appropriate career counselling is based. It will allow me to have a dynamic approach to career counselling and work with people from diverse backgrounds and from various generations.


1. Holland, J.L (1997). Making vocational choices: A theory of vocational personalities and the work environment (3rd ed). Florida: Psychological Assessment Resources

2. Maree, J.G. (2013). Counselling for Career Construction: Connecting life themes to construct portraits: Turning pain into hope. Rotterdam, Amsterdam: Sense Publishers.

3. Maree, K.J. (2015). Career construction counselling: A thematic analysis of outcomes for four clients. Journal of Vocational behaviour, 86, 1 -9.

4. Savikas, M.L. (2002). Career Construction: A developmental theory of vocational behaviour. In D. Brown (Ed), Career and development (pp. 149 – 205).

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