Career Development

We teach students how to research and apply a theory-based career development process to make more intentional academic and work-related decisions, and reach their career goals.

Making Career Decisions Using a Career Development Model

There are five phases that students experience in the career exploration model. It is important to remember that individuals may experience each phase in progression or they may experience the model in more of a webbed fashion. A person can experience the following phases at any time. Most people go through the career decision-making process multiple times in their lives. 

Self-discovery and reflection

The foundation for career and life planning is self-awareness. For those students making academic and/or career field choices, it is important to learn about self-values, strengths, skills, interests, personality preferences and motivations. Self-assessment is a way to look at past experiences and current self. This step is vital to making decisions and setting goals. 

Research and exploration

Brainstorm and do research on career possibilities. The goal for students in this step is to spend time learning about programs of study and careers available. There are many ways to gather information, including experts, literature, internet, faculty and experiences.

Decision-making and goal setting

Integrate the insights from the first two phases to determine which academic and/or career field options best match the knowledge gained from self-discovery. In this phase, the individual learns to make initial decisions. This is the time that students set a direction and act upon their choices. 

Reality testing and practical experience

Get a job, find an internship or take prerequisites for graduate school. Test out interests. It is essential to do some work in this area to ensure a good fit with academic and career choices. Research, fieldwork, part-time jobs, internships and job shadowing are excellent ways for students to explore their interests and build professional networks. 

Growth and development 

Now is the time for students and alumni to develop the skills necessary to be successful in their academic program or career field of choice. 
(adapted from Minnesota State University, Mankato)

At each phase of the career exploration model, students are encouraged to reflect upon and analyze their personal insights and to integrate their knowledge into their plans.

Decision-Making and Goal Setting in College Students

Many students avoid making a decision about a college major or a career field because they fear they'll make the wrong decision. They may believe that the wrong decision will result in being stuck in a job they hate forever. We know that there are few decisions in life that are unchangeable. 

Without a clear career goal, a student is more likely to feel less connected to their college experience, may struggle in their academic programs and may take any job they can get because of family responsibilities and financial obligations. 

One of the most important ways we help to reduce the anxiety associated with academic and career decisions is to assist students in gathering all the necessary information on their values, interests, personality, skills, abilities and strengths. Once they have this information, and begin to research academic programs and career fields, they will be able to recognize those careers for which they are compatible.

Core Career Development Theories

Parson's Trait and Factor Theory

Individuals have a unique pattern of traits. In addition, each occupation is made up of factors required for the successful performance of that occupation. Knowing one's traits, specific job factors and an understanding of the relationship between them are important to making good career choices. The closer the match is between personal traits and job factors, the greater the likelihood is for successful job performance and satisfaction.

Holland's Career Typology Theory

Personalities fall into six broad categories: realistic, investigative, artistic, social, enterprising and conventional. Since certain personalities are attracted to certain jobs, the work environments then reflect these personality types and can be clustered into six similar populations. The closer the match is of personality and job, the greater the job satisfaction. 

Super's Life Span or Life-Space Theory

Career development occurs throughout five major life stages: growth, exploration, establishment, maintenance and disengagement. Each stage has a unique set of career development tasks and accounts for the changes and decisions that people make from career entry to retirement. These stages are not necessarily linear and people can recycle through the stages over their lifetime. In addition, an individual's self-concept and occupational preferences tend to change over their lifetime as a result of experience. Individuals will seek work roles that allow them to express their self-concepts. 

Krumboltz's Social Learning Theory of Career Choice

Career decisions are the product of an uncountable number of learning experiences made possible by encounters with the people, institutions and events in a person's particular environment. The four main factors that influence career choice are genetic influences, environmental conditions and events, learning experiences and task approach skills. 

Peavy's Constructivist Theory

There are no fixed meanings or realities in the world. People construct themselves and the world around them through the interpretations they make and the actions they take. These constructs or perceptions of events may be useful or may be misleading. To have meaningful careers, individuals need to reflect on their life experiences and the resulting constructs they may hold about life, work or self. The constructivist career counseling approach is generally about life planning and the search for meaningful work is connected to constructivism's emphasis on deriving meaning from personal experience.