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Learning, work, and life are dynamic in nature! Therefore, Career Exploration and Development involves a valuable process with ongoing evaluation of personal insights, academic knowledge, work-related experiences, and life plans to allow for changes as individual needs and circumstances change. (adapted from Sears, 1982).
Career Decision Making Using a Career Exploration Model
Even though this Career exploration Model is shown as circular in nature, 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 any phase at any time they need to. Most people go through the career decision making process multiple times in their lives!
Self -Discovery & 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 & 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 – experts, literature, internet, faculty, and experiences!
Decision-Making & 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 & 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 & 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.
Brief descriptions of 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 between personal traits and job factors, the greater the likelihood 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 of personality to job, the greater the job satisfaction.
Super's Life-Span/ 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 life-time. In addition, an individual's self-concept and occupational preferences tend to change over their life-time as a result of experience. And, 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/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.