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How Career Theories Help in Career Coaching

I'm a big believer in research when it comes to being efficient in my work as a business coach and a career coach and especially as a couples therapist. Below, you will find the career theories that I am basing my work on, when helping my coaching clients make a transition in their career to a job that would feel more fulfilling or potentially starting their own business.

These career development theories are also extremely helpful in understanding how people make career choices, including deciding on what is the right path for them, and helping with job search.

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Trait Oriented Theories

These theories include Trait-and-Factor Theory, Person-Environment-Correspondance (PEC) Counseling, and John Holland’s Typology. The main focus of these theories is on the use of standardized tests, including traits of aptitude, interests, and personality type. The goal behind that is to match the person with the career that fits them the best. For example, looking at the person’s traits such as aptitudes, interests, and personality, helps to match the person with potential work environments to evaluate potential career paths. Work environments are viewed from several perspectives, such as work requirements, personal-environment-fit, and potential reinforcers of the person’s needs.

Trait-and-Factor Theory

This theory is the foundation for many career counseling programs in the early part of the 20th century, and was developed by Parsons (1909). The process has three parts: studying the person, surveying different career paths, and matching the person with the occupation.

Person-Environment-Correspondance (PEC) Counseling

The main developers of the theory are Dawis’s and Lofquist (1991). They viewed work as more than a list of tasks, but also a combination of social interactions and a source of various emotional experiences. The main assumption is that a person’s main goal in their career is to develop and maintain a positive relationship with their work environment and achieve congruence with their job.

The four key points of the theory are: Work personality and work environment need to be amenable, career choice and the specific job choice need to be based on individual needs, job reinforcer system play a big role in stability and tenure, and the best way to match a person with a job is to find the best fir between work’s requirements and the person’s traits.

John Holland’s Typology

John Holland’s (1992) theory emphasizes the connection between a career and a personality. The stronger the fit, as well as the individual’s personal modal orientation, the greater the satisfaction. The coding for Holland’s types is RIASEC: R (realistic occupation); I (investigative); A (artistic); S (social); E (enterprising); and C (conventional). There are also six kinds of environments: realistic, investigative, artistic, social, enterprising, or conventional.

Social Learning and Cognitive Theories

In these theories, the biggest influences on career choice are social conditioning, social position, and life events. Career decisions are impacted by genetic endowments and special abilities, contextual experiences, learning experiences, and skills learned in managing tasks. The career choice process involves problem-solving and decision-making skills, as well as an interaction of mental and emotional processes.

Krumboltz’s Learning Theory of Career Counseling

The theory that originated by Krumboltz, Mitchell, and Gelatt (1975), simplifies the process of choosing a career by looking at elements such as genetic factors and unique abilities, environment, learning experience, and task approach skills. The person’s learning through observations and experiences impacts their decisions, and as such, it is important to look at the problematic beliefs that one might have that hinder their career development.

Happenstance Approach Theory

Mitchell’s, Levin’s, and Krumboltz’s (1999) approach emphasizes the impact of positive and negative events in a person’s life on that person’s career path. The individual is finding that path through experimentation, and the theory’s goal is to help to reach a point of joy and satisfaction from one’s career. The approach values skilled responses to life’s unpredictable events, that happen throughout the career as well, and the most important among these skills are curiosity, persistence, flexibility, optimism, and risk-taking.

Career Development from a Cognitive Information Processing Perspective