Maintaining humility and commitment as a career counsellor

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Chapter 3 Theoretical framework underlying the career counselling process.


This chapter will provide the theoretical framework underlying how I try to understand the career counselling. I will start the discussion by providing an overview of career counselling theories that are relevant to this study. Here, the discussion will focus on the main assumptions of each theory. These theories will be referred to in the next chapters of the study when discussing the experiences of the counsellors. I will describe Holland’s career theory, social cognitive career theory, and the chaos theory of careers.
Jones and Abes (2011, p. 151) explain that “theories help to simplify and make sense of the complexities of life, representing an attempt to organise and integrate knowledge and to answer the question ‘why?’” This chapter is my attempt to do justice to this quotation

The necessity of career theories

Harper and Quaye (2009, p. 11) defined theory as “a framework through which interpretations and understanding are constructed”. Theory is thus used to describe human behaviour, to explain, to predict and to generate new practices and research. Hartung and Niles (2002b, p. 4) concurred with the aforementioned definition and further stated that “theories of career choice and development offer career counsellors a variety of practical ways in which to understand and promote career development to their clients, who so often search for the meaning in their academic, career, and other life pursuits”.
Career counsellors at institutions, such as universities, can use career theories and develop theories as guidelines to understanding students’ career challenges and to develop strategies to effectively deal with them (Hartung & Niles, 2002a). Hartung and Niles (2002a) further explained that there is an interplay between theory and practice, since theory is used to recommend tentative solutions to educational challenges and gaps. Therefore, without theories, counsellors would struggle to perform their duties effectively and efficiently (Harper & Quaye, 2009; Hartung & Niles, 2002a).
The other important issue in career counselling practice is to continually assess and revise the interventions, while taking into account the institutional context and the career needs of the clients (Hartung & Niles, 2002b). Here, alternative career theories or integration of theories can be applied when deemed necessary, depending on the effectiveness and the outcome of the intervention
This integration of theories is important as Hartung and Niles (2002b) support this view by proposing that different theories emphasise different issues. In addition, Jones and Abes (2011, p. 150) argue that when applied with the understanding that career theories are socially constructed and do not capture the diversity of all theories, theories can serve at least six purposes. These purposes are to namely, “describe, explain, predict, influence outcomes, assess practice and generate new knowledge and research” (Jones & Abes, 2011, p. 151). Therefore, depending on the nature of the theory, from time to time one theory can be effectively applied in respect of all six purposes.
Lewin, cited in Jones and Abes, (2011, p. 149) suggests that “there is nothing so practical as a good theory since theories represent more than a common sense or a particular view based upon one’s experiences, assumptions and beliefs”. The reason is that theories assist in simplifying and making sense of the complexities of life; representing an attempt to organise and integrate knowledge; and to answer the “why”, which cannot be answered by our individual assumptions and beliefs (Jones & Abes, 2011). Jones and Abes (2011, p. 151) conclude by stating that “theories [including career theories] are grounded in the particularities of individual stories and experiences and serve as a way to make sense of the diversity and complexity of phenomena by reducing many aspects of phenomenon into a more integrated representation”.
The following section of this discussion will focus on the specific career theories that are relevant to this study.

Career theories

This section discusses the three career counselling theories that apply to this study, namely, Holland’s theory, the social cognitive theory and the chaos theory. These theories are discussed in turn

 Holland’s theory of career choice

The Holland theory of career choice, also referred to as Holland’s theory, has been described by Niles and Harris-Bowlsbey (2009, p. 62) as a “theory that belongs to a tradition of theoretical perspectives seeking to describe individual differences in personality types”. Hartung and Niles (2002b) further explained that this theory is structural-interactive because it organises information about people and occupations, and assumes that vocational and social behaviour results from the interaction between people and their environments.
Holland’s theory (1985) promotes the notion that people seek out environments that fit their personalities (Hartung & Niles, 2002b). Holland (1973) argued that people feel most satisfied when they work, associate, and live with people who most resemble themselves. Brown (2012) further substantiates this view by adding that according to Holland’s theory of career choice, people need an environment that would enable or allow further development of their personality, interests, values and attitudes in their career interest and career choice. Holland (1973) concluded that this is possible when individuals are in a career environment that is congruent to their personalities.
The role of the career counsellor is to work with students to assist them in understanding their adaptive personality. Hartung and Niles (2002b) argue that matching one’s personality type to a corresponding environment allows the person to feel supported and to thrive. Holland’s theory describes four assumptions, which are the heart of the theory, which indicate the nature of the personality types and environment models (Holland, 1997). Here, the focus is on describing how the different types are categorised and how they influence an individual in making a career decision. The four core assumptions of Holland’s theory are as follows:

  1. Most people can be categorised as one of six [personality] types, namely, realistic, investigative, artistic, social, enterprising or conventional.
  2. There are six types of environments: realistic, investigative, artistic, social, enterprising and conventional
  3. People search for environments that will let them exercise their skills and abilities, express their attitudes and values, and take on agreeable problems and roles.
  4. A person’s behaviour is determined by an interaction between personality and the characteristics of the environment (Holland, 1973, p. 26).

These four assumptions are further discussed in the section that follows

Assumptions of Holland’s career theory

In this section, the four aforementioned assumptions are discussed in turn.
First Assumption: Most people can be categorised as one of six [personality] types, namely, realistic, investigative, artistic, social, enterprising or conventional (Holland,1973, p. 2).
Holland (1997) argued that the description of each personality type is a summary of what we know about people in a given occupation. Most people can therefore be categorised as one of six types mentioned above. The theorist developed these personality types by examining the theoretical ideal type in a specific environment. Holland (1973, p. 2) regarded “the ideal type as a model that can be used to measure the real person”. Holland (1997, p. 11) further explained that personality types are shaped by the individual’s interaction with a variety of “cultural and personal forces, including peers, parents, social class, culture and social environment”.
Therefore, Holland (1997) stated that in making a career decision, individuals start by learning or identifying their preferred activities and these preferred activities then develop into interests. The role of the counsellor is therefore to work with students to help them understand their adaptive personality. Hartung and Niles (2002b) argue that matching one’s personality type to a corresponding environment allows the person to feel supported and able to thrive. Here, career counsellors accomplish this task by using the interest inventories which Holland (1997) developed such as the self-directed search and vocational preference inventory.
Niles and Harris-Bowlsbey (2009) pointed out that the self-directed search and vocational preference inventory are used to translate individual self-estimates of interest and competencies into Holland’s types. The self-directed search consists of an assessment booklet which is then used to identify the individual’s Holland types, an occupation finder and an interpretive guide. The self-directed search “is regarded as the most widely used interest inventory” (Niles & Harris-Bowlsbey, 2009, p. 69).
I will now differentiate between the six personality types. This is important as each personality type is fundamental to the facilitation of self-knowledge of students during the career counselling process.


Realistic type

Realistic people are “doers” who prefer activities in which they can manipulate objects, tools, machines and animals (Hartung & Niles, 2002a, p. 24). They value practicality, tradition and common sense and usually avoid social situations and prefer mechanical, technical and tangible activities (Holland, 1997). They are usually perceived as “asocial, conforming, hard-headed, natural, practical and effacing” (Holland, 1997, p. 13). Realistic types prefer careers in the areas such as engineering or technology.

Investigative type

Investigative people are “analysers who prefer activities that entail the observational, symbolic, systematic and creative investigation of physical, biological and cultural phenomena in order to understand and control such phenomenon” (Holland, 1997, p. 14). They avoid activities that involve persuading or interacting with others and would therefore prefer to primarily work alone with data or ideas (Hartung & Niles, 2002b).
Holland’s theory (1997) predicts that the investigative person would most likely be perceived as analytical, cautious, critical, rational, and pessimistic, precise and unpopular by others. They prefer major subjects such as chemistry and biology.

Artistic type

Holland’s theory (1997) differentiates the artistic type by their special unique personality traits and their experiences. According to Holland (1997) these traits and experiences lead to a preference for ambiguous, free, unsystematised activities that entail the manipulation of physical, verbal or human materials to create art forms or products. Holland identifies artistic people as having an aversion to highly structured, methodological and routine activities (Hartung & Niles, 2002b). They come across to others as impulsive, expressive, independent and non-conforming. Holland (1997) predicts their interest in areas such as music, art, drama and languages.

Social type

The social type is viewed as “discussers” since individuals in this category prefer activities that involve training, informing, developing or interacting and talking with other people (Hartung & Niles, 2002b). The main values that stand out are cooperation, generosity and service to other people. Social type behavioural tendencies lead to the healthy development of human relation competencies and underdeveloped manual and technical competencies. When compared to other people they are viewed as cooperative, generous, friendly, insightful, idealistic, sociable warm and understanding (Hartung & Niles, 2002b).

Enterprising type

Enterprising people are drawn to activities in which they can manipulate people to attain organisational, personal and economic gains (Hartung & Niles, 2002b). They are viewed as persuasive and value risk taking, status and competition. Holland (1997) argued that enterprising people avoid scientific and observational activities and prefer business-oriented, economic activities in which they can take a leading role. They are more comfortable when engaging with other people rather than with data or things since their intentions in interaction are to manipulate or advance their own organisational needs. In relationships they present themselves as acquisitive, adventurous, self-confident, optimistic, extroverted and domineering (Hartung & Niles, 2002b). They enjoy subjects such as finance, accounting or economics

Conventional type

Conventional people are “sustainers”, since their role is to maintain the status quo and follow tradition (Hartung & Niles, 2002b). They prefer activities where they can manipulate data, keep records or machines to achieve organisational goals. It is important for conventional people that processes are accurate, stable and efficient. They experience challenges in an environment which they perceive as ambiguous, unstructured, and impractical situations and are more comfortable in well-defined, routine and methodical activities (Holland, 1997). Conventional people prefer working with data or things and when interacting with others they are perceived as careful, conforming, efficient, and persistent (Hartung & Niles, 2002b).
Second Assumption: There are six types of environments: realistic, investigative, artistic, social, enterprising and conventional (Holland,1973, p. 3).
Holland’s theory (1997) stated that each environment is dominated by a given type of personality and is identified by physical settings, which in turn poses special problems and stresses. As different personality types have different interests, competencies and dispositions, they tend to surround themselves with special people and materials and therefore seek out problems that are congruent with their interests and outlook on the world. This theory concludes that where people congregate, they actively co-create an environment that reflects their personality type and it is then possible to assess these environments in the same terms that we assess people (Holland, 1997). Brown and Lent (2006) concluded that the environment could be an occupation, a job, leisure activity, an educational activity or field of study or even the culture of the organisation

1.1 Introduction
1.2 Background to the study
1.3 Statement of the problem
1.4 Purpose of the study
1.5 Significance of the study
1.6 Overview of the chapters
1.7 Conclusion
2.1 Introduction
2.2 Research methodology overview
2.3 Qualitative vs. quantitative research approaches
2.4 Method of the present study
2.5 Research setting and time frame
2.6 Sample
2.7 Data collection
2.8 Research objectives
2.9 Data analysis
2.10 Data validity, reliability and generalizability
2.11 Ethical considerations
2.12 Conclusion
3.1 Introduction
3.2 The necessity of career theories
3.3 Career theories
3.4 Conclusion
CHAPTER 4: Presentation of participants’ stories
4.1 Introduction
4.2 Betty: Maintaining humility and commitment as a career counsellor
4.3 Sarah: Contributing to the use of technology in counselling
4:4 Mary: The journey from being a volunteer to a counsellor
4.5 Piet: Transforming the counsellor to transform others
4.6 Joyce: Ploughing back to the community
4.7 Grace: “My life is like a story with a happy ending”
4.8 Conclusion
CHAPTER 5: Becoming and being a career counsellor
5.1 Introduction
5.2 Themes from the ethnographical data
5.3 Auto-ethnographical data: Becoming and being a counsellor
5.4 Conclusion
CHAPTER 6: Conclusion and Recommendations
6.1 Introduction
6.2 Research objectives
6.3. Presenting the identified themes
6.4 A proposed model for career counselling
6.5 My insights on how to be and become a career counsellor
6.7 Recommendations for further research
6.8 Conclusion

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