CareerSteer – career test for career choice www.careersteer.org
7 Models of Guidance
The psychological theories mentioned above lead to differing guidance models. It should be noted that sociology and economics challenge the role of psychology in the form of Ken Roberts (in Dryden and Watts, 1993, in the main bibliography). Roberts cites research indicating the importance of economic factors and also the influence of children's peer groups and their family's social class in career choice; he therefore considers careers advisers (at least in schools) as merely lubricants in the process of adjusting young people to jobs.
Roberts' adherents stress the importance of opportunity structures. The careers adviser informs clients, the parents of schoolchildren and other agencies of the latest trends in economic figures in order to make transition to work as painless as possible. Examples of modern trends in Britain are for the expansion of service industries and the decline of manufacturing industries, small companies as employers (as against large corporations), the prevalence of information technology and an increase of temporary and part-time jobs compared to the days of full-time 'jobs for life'.
Developmental models draw on the human development theories and studies cited above. Different careers and other counsellors will decide on the most appropriate theories to apply to practice. Those active within organisational development may, for example, use a within-job model such as Nicholson's transition cycle. Active considerations within interviews may include a client's career maturity and developmental tasks. One developmental application is the DOTS model (Law and Watts, 1977; see Watts et al in main bibliography): this concentrates on Self-awareness ('who am I?'), Opportunity awareness ('where am I?'), Decision learning ('what will I do?') and Transition learning ('how will I cope?').
Person-centred approaches, drawing from Rogers, tend to focus on warm accepting techniques for developing individuals through self-awareness. (e.g. Egan's approach).
Goal-directed orientations draw from behaviourism, with its emphasis on measurable goals and on invoking the importance of short- and long-term consequences in motivating individuals. These approaches have led to the idea of contracting after early screening (see Nathan and Hill, 1992, in the main bibliography)and may have a bearing on realistic decision-making and becoming aware of the process of how decisions are made.
Trait-factor covers the importance of individuals fitting into suitable work. Although this assumes that personality is stable over long-term, it may be seen to draw from learning theories such as behaviourism or psychodynamic theories of development. Usually the result of extensive empirical research, trait-factor theories have not been unduly concerned with the origins of personalities.
Alec Rodger's 7-point plan (1952; see main bibliography) provided a formula for careers interviews, with a checklist covering variables such as the person's attainments and circumstances before looking at careers suited to that individual.
Trait-factor assumes that there are measurable and practical significant differences between people suited to different occupations; that well-adapted individuals within an occupation would be seen to share psychological characteristics; that individual differences would interact significantly with occupational differences, and that job and person characteristics would be consistent enough to predict long term outcomes (see Rounds and Tracey, 1990, in Walsh and Osipow in main bibliography). This developed into a congruence model within a theory of 'person-environment fit': individuals would seek out and create environments that allowed for their idiosyncrasies within a reciprocal process (Holland, J.L., 1973, Making Vocational Choices: A Theory of Careers. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall).
Types of personality, essentially, fit with different types of jobs. Obvious practical extensions within careers guidance are computer assisted guidance (a career test such as Adult Directions or the free career test for career choice CareerSteer) and psychometric tests. Psychometric tests include ability tests (measures of potential or optimal performance, usually covering verbal, numerical and spatial capability), aptitudes (more specific ability tests indicating potential to do well in particular work areas, e.g. secretarial, computer programming, sales).
Interest inventories (similar to a career test) ask for preferences before matching the personality to possible areas of work; a direct extension of Holland's theory, these are also the foundations of computer-aided guidance. Holland's wide research into career choice indicates 6 types: Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising and Conventional (RIASEC). (The author of the CareerSteer career test prefers ‘Practical’ to ‘Realistic’, as respondents often view low scores under the former title to mean being ‘unrealistic’.)
Criticisms of the models.
Opportunity structures, beyond a certain post-modernist cynicism, does not offer the careers adviser positive directions. Even the notion of information dissemination is flawed. The trends mentioned above are just that; historians admit that the past is not a guide to the future. More to the point, the pursuance of trends may encourage individuals to follow occupations to which they are unsuited. Given widespread competition, an individual without motivation or ability is likely to fail; a better suited individual at least has a chance of gaining an edge. Moreover, there are dangers in the application of opportunity structures as mere disseminations of trends.
Careless application of this method ignore, for example, the following significant paradox: whilst the manufacturing industry is indeed declining in Britain, the ensuing lack of popularity means that there is a shortfall in engineers, particularly electronic engineers, and also scientists. Trends are also taken to extremes: are permanent full-time jobs a thing of the past, for example, or have their deaths been highly exaggerated?
Developmental models are either inapplicable in isolation or too ridden by complexities for practical use in isolation from other considerations. Although they have had some influence on practice, goal-directed models are not generally applied within practical guidance.
The widespread Rogerian techniques of person-centred or process models may carry with them a largely irrelevant therapeutic underpinning when applied to careers guidance. Without other clearly defined theories in play, process may become the theoretical basis for career interventions, thereby tending to ignore realistic considerations of personal ability, opportunity structures.
Trait-factor has often suffered a critical press, partly because of the prescriptiveness of the early Seven-point Plan and, probably more influential, because of controversies during the early development of psychometric testing. The latter are very much associated with the perceived weaknesses of this scientifically supported model: it is perceived to be mechanistic and divorced from clients' individuality.
Integrative or eclectic?
Lazarus (Lazarus, A.A., 1989, Why I am an Eclectic [Not an Integrationist] British Journal of Guidance and Counselling, 17, 3, 248-258) recommends a 'toolkit' approach, largely driven by social and cognitive learning. He condemns unsystematic eclecticism, rightly suggesting (from the author's experience) that practitioners will adopt personal preferences and subjective judgements rather than best practioner practice. He also suggests that integrationism (of theories and methods will lead to a similar result, with the added disadvantage of trying to fuse irreconcilable approaches.
The author does not see how Lazarus' appeal to consensus about good practice will avoid the dangers he outlines above. The author's integrative model follows:
Person-centred or process models may retain their usage as sets of techniques or parameters for the conducting of interviews. These encourage active participation and may even pursue the model's ideal of raising self-awareness.
Within interviews, however, assessment - via discussion or diagnostic tools as appropriate - should be a clear and recognised priority for gauging levels and direction. Abilities, aptitudes, personality and preferences, according to research, are vital in looking for longterm job satisfaction and success.
Developmentalism and opportunity structures would inform practice and should come to the fore when this suits clients' individual needs. It may, however, be misleading to introduce them as central theories for potential application to interviews; their value is in training practitioners in the context and complexities of practice. Advisers will have an insight into clients' circumstances and can adapt practice as appropriate.
To summarise, the writer believes that trait-factor theory, an assessment of suitability within work, should be central to careers/educational guidance, concentrating on the nature of attributes; tests and computer aided guidance should not be seen as disparate elements of guidance, but tools to be used when interview assessments by themselves lack acuity. Process models form the vehicle for effective interviewing, generating the necessary warm background for effective interactions. Economic, social and developmental considerations inform the process.
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