Career Development Theory:
An Old Theory Makes a Comeback?



A definition of career development theory is the ideas about of how people approach the issue of choosing careers.

Although conventional career development theories have provided significant contributions for practical career counseling in recent times, the purpose of this career development article is to re-examine vocational calling as one of the legitimate career development theories.

The majority of recent career development theory is based on reductionism.
Career development authority, John Holland explains reductionism as:

... The idea is that you could understand the world, all of nature, by examining smaller and smaller pieces of it. When assembled, the small pieces would explain the whole" (John Holland)


Vocational calling and reductionism appear to be two career development theories that clash, at least in part.

The word vocation [Latin word vocare] means "to call".
And if there is a call, there must be a "caller".

This caller, for most people would be God.

And for the vast majority of the world's population who believe in God as a Creator, this caller is the God that made them.



In reference to God creating human beings, the Old Testament says that we are not only made by God, but we are made like God .
There is a Quaker saying:
'Let your life speak.'

Before you tell your life what you intend to do with it, listen for what it intends to do with you.
Before you tell your life what truths and values you have decided to live up to, let your life tell you what truths you embody, what values you represent.


-Parker Palmer


And if we are made like God, it would be reasonable to conclude that we are therefore made with incredible complexity, sophistication and uniqueness.

And this is where the area in which the reductionist career development theory potentially clashes with a calling theory.



One theory says that we can go about choosing careers by examining all the small pieces of what makes up a human being.


The other career development theory implies that this is too simplistic and that we are a far more complex creature than that.

Biological science continues to be astounded at how complex the human body is.

It is therefore a reasonable assumption that a similar complexity is present in our psychological makeup associated with the significant issue of choosing careers.


As career development theory writer Dr. Mark Savickas says:
..... the empirical tradition of rational career counseling does not encompass complex human qualities such as Spirit, consciousness, and purpose.
Science examines parts; personal stories examine the whole"

A study of first-year college students found that 42% of the students believed that having a calling was totally true or mostly true of them when it came to choosing careers.

28% indicated that they were in fact searching for a calling.

With the vast majority of the world's population believing in God as a Creator, I wonder if career counselors are doing an injustice to their clients if they are not raising the possibility of a calling with their clients as a valid way of choosing careers.

Or at least providing an environment which fosters such an issue being raised.




A purpose of this career development article is to challenge career counselors to reassess one of our oldest career development theories, and one which research suggests is still prevalent in our society.

If you are a client seeking career change advice, you should be able to freely raise issues like this with your career counselor.
What if a career counselor's worldview doesn't support this belief system?
This is no different from the many other factors to consider when selecting a career counselor to work with.


It is not too sacred ground to ask a potential career counselor what her worldview is on these issues and whether or not she discusses these issues on a regular basis with other clients.

Many career counselors are trained and use the client centered model of counseling.
The name of this model is self-explanatory.
The career counseling session should be centered on the client's needs, the client's wants and the client's desires.


To incorporate our spiritual needs into career counseling sessions, lines up with valid career development theory.
However if a career counselor is unable to, or is not experienced in supporting this worldview, a client should consider somebody else.




Other topics related to this career development article include:

what is career development

career development plan

career development coaching


Back to Career Development Articles from Career Development Theory


Back to Career Change Advice from Career Development Theory


Simon Davies Career Change Counselling
Gold Coast: Robina, Queensland Australia 4213
Phone Mobile (outside of Australia) +6148 1333 415
Phone Mobile (in Australia) 0481 333415
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