A Theory for Everything? Is a Knowledge of Career Development Theory Necessary to Understand Career Decision Making?

  • Robert J. Matthews Donegal Education and Training Board, Ireland


Career decisions are complex ones. Whether clients plan their career in a systematic way, carefully considering their options and making an informed choice or build their careers their own way seizing opportunities, taking chances and profiting from chance and serendipity, career guidance professionals need a least a cursory knowledge of career development theory to adequately understand these decisions. As practitioners, we do not work with homogenised groups, we work with individuals with varying levels of internal and external constraints on career choice. Career decisions are not always made in a considered and informed way. Evidence from Brimrose (2006) suggest that only 25% of the population use a strategic or rational approach to career decision making. In fact, Gladwell (2005) suggests intuitive decision making may be more effective. As Mitchell (2003) attests careers are seldom planned but are often developed by being aware of and acting on the landmarks that appear on the way (Mitchell, 2003, p.4). This dichotomy has led to certain amount of ambivalence to career theory from practitioners. Kidd, et al, (1994) found that practitioners were virtually unanimous in their dismissal of the value of theories of guidanceit was frequently described as airy-fairy or wooly (Kidd, et al, 1994, p.391). Closs (2001) argues that practitioners should focus on meeting the needs of clients and not concern themselves with theory. While development theory can attempt to explain the past experiences, quantifying chance and clients ability to profit from it, is more difficult. However, an understanding of career development theory can help us adapt our professional practice to individual need.


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How to Cite
Matthews, R. J. (2017). A Theory for Everything? Is a Knowledge of Career Development Theory Necessary to Understand Career Decision Making?. European Scientific Journal, ESJ, 13(7), 320. https://doi.org/10.19044/esj.2017.v13n7p320