ERIC Identifier: ED404581
Publication Date: 1995-00-00
Author: Magnusson, Kris
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Counseling and Student Services Greensboro NC., Canadian Guidance and
Counselling Foundation Ottawa (Ontario).
Five Processes of Career Planning. ERIC Digest.
The context in which career decisions are commonly made is dynamic:
occupations are changing rapidly, society is becoming increasingly complex and
multicultural, and individuals need to plan for diverging rather than converging
career paths. Furthermore, in times of social change and economic uncertainty,
clients often feel discouraged, despondent, and hopeless about their futures.
The increasing complexity of client needs and career counseling interventions
have rendered inadequate, and simplistic approaches to resolving career issues.
Although traditional approaches still may play a role in career planning,
additional emphasis must be placed on other issues: how self-concept is
implemented (Super, 1990), personal adaptability (Super, 1985), and personal
meaning-making (Miller-Tiedeman & Tiedeman, 1990). Career counseling should
also help clients achieve independence rather than dependence. Such factors
necessitate a different vision of the counseling process.
THE FIVE PROCESSES
The model in this paper describes five
processes critical to effective career planning: initiation, exploration,
decision-making, preparation, and implementation (Magnusson, 1991, 1992). The
processes are cyclical, although a few clients may begin at initiation and
proceed sequentially through to implementation.
Initiation means to set in motion. Clients
become discouraged or lose hope and strategies to secure meaningful engagement
are necessary. The initiation process addresses three core issues:
Establishing an effective counseling relationship. Traditional approaches to
career counseling often overlook the importance of the therapeutic relationship.
However, the establishment of a strong therapeutic alliance can be invaluable in
motivating clients to take action.
Determining current motivation for career planning. This involves a detailed
examination of presenting issues, with a particular emphasis on identifying
client motivation for change and the context in which that change must occur.
With this information, counselors can determine if clients are ready for
specific career planning activities or if other interventions are needed.
Building relevance for career planning. Many clients who enter career counseling
are discouraged and see themselves with limited opportunities. Counselors must
encourage these clients and foster hope. Typically this is done by identifying
issues of meaning for the client and by promoting a sense of the future.
To illustrate, clients may be asked to complete a "significant experiences"
exercise, in which they write a 2-3 page narrative describing some
accomplishment or experience of which they are proud. Client and counselor work
together to identify the skills and characteristics that were demonstrated and
then clients are asked to select the 5-10 most meaningful of these. Posing a
simple question such as "How would you like to experience that level of pride
again?" invariably increases client motivation for career planning. Attending to
the core initiation issues increases client awareness of the career planning
process, builds trust in the counselor, and renews hope by helping clients build
a vision of the future.
Exploration helps clients discover ways to
implement aspects of their vision while concomitantly attending to issues of
meaning and personal context. This is most effectively done by capitalizing on
the renewed sense of energy and hope that arises during initiation. While formal
assessment and occupational information sources may be useful, informal
strategies tend to produce more meaningful, more accurate, and more enduring
results. These include information interviewing, relational networking, job
shadowing, and work experience.
For example, clients who have completed the significant experiences exercise
described above will have a ranked list of skills and characteristics that were
associated with a meaningful experience. Clients can be taught basic networking
techniques to identify other people who share a similar passion. An interesting
outcome of informal networking is that the occupational titles of the contacts
are often surprising to clients--they never associated the occupation or setting
with their own attributes. In this way, new vistas may be opened to clients as
intriguing options spawn further exploration. Opportunities to experience the
passion, through job shadowing or work experience, serve to validate initial
impressions. Thus, initiation determines what is meaningful to clients, while
exploration determines how that meaning may be expressed.
Decision-making has one dominant issue: How
to select the most appropriate option from the range of alternatives discovered
to date. Formal decision-making models and strategies may be useful; however,
these strategies by themselves rarely leave clients with a good feeling for the
decision. Most clients are more comfortable with decisions which "emerge" as a
result of engagement in the career planning process. When initiation and
exploration have been thorough, a "right choice" crystallizes for most clients.
Formal strategies may then be used to confirm a choice, rather than determine a
Uncertainty is a major obstacle to career planning Most clients need to
recognize that a certain amount of ambiguity is associated with any decision. At
this stage in the planning process, clients need to rely on their intuition to
guide them to tentative choices. This may be encouraged by exploring how clients
feel about alternatives they have encountered during exploration, and by using
"what if" scenarios to prevent perceived barriers from prematurely ruling out
options (e.g., "What if it was possible to ...?). The emotional response to an
option may then be used as the catalyst for cognitive appraisal (e.g., a
consequences matrix) and specific preparation.
Preparation focuses on planning the specific
steps required to implement the choices made earlier (including the choice to
engage in further exploration). Preparation results in a detailed, concrete plan
for goal attainment and involves two key issues:
Developing an action plan which may include: Contracts between client and
counselor that specify the next set of steps that will be taken by the client,
and how those steps will be evaluated and reported; and time lines, or graphic
action plans. A horizontal line is drawn across a page, with the word "Now" at
the extreme left and the client's goal statement at the extreme right. Each
major step required to achieve the goal is listed on the time line, with spacing
proportionate to the estimated time needed. An opportunity web transforms the
time line into a branching career path. For each major step, at least one
alternative step is identified and plotted on the page as an intersecting line
that produces a different path. The alternatives are identified by asking "What
if for some reason you were unable to complete Step X - then what would you do?"
Clients learn to prepare for uncertainty by thinking ahead and having a back-up
Developing prerequisite skills and resources for implementation. These may
include: occupational (e.g., job searches); educational (e.g., study skills,
applying for admission to educational institutions); personal (e.g., anger
management, substance abuse). The means for developing prerequisite skills must
be included in the overall action plan. Clients should also identify the
resources available and the resources needed for implementation (e.g., obtaining
funding for education).
In implementation, the client carries out
the action plan. Two strategies govern implementation:
Developing support. Many decisions reached in the safety of the counselor's
office are never implemented because of lack of support in the client's
environment. Clients must learn both how to identify allies (as well as enemies)
and how to nurture facilitative relationships.
Developing systems for feedback and reward. Clients also need to develop ways to
monitor and reward their progress. Merging the social support and feedback
functions helps clients develop independence from counselors.
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION
The five processes model has been
used with a variety of groups (e.g., Native Canadians in northern communities,
street kids in urban settings, inmates of correctional facilities, youth in
schools, adults in transition). These groups often reported disenchantment and
disillusionment with available career planning services. However, the initiation
exercises excited them, increasing their hope and nurturing their dreams. This
excitement led to vigorous and thorough exploration--even the most reticent
clients were captivated by processes which allowed them to explore their
passions in meaningful ways. Having found a focus for their passion, they were
more committed to planning ways to realize their dreams and were more likely to
follow through with their plans. Because they understood each process as it
developed, they became less reliant on formal counseling. The seeds of
self-sufficiency and adaptability were planted.
The dynamic nature of the occupational scene demands a dynamic system for
career planning interventions; one that attends to issues of client uniqueness
and personal meaning. By focusing on the critical career planning processes,
counselors allow themselves the flexibility to attend to unique client needs.
Magnusson, K. C. (1991). "Career counseling
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Magnusson, K. C. (1992). "Five critical processes of career counseling." In
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