In addition to serving as vice president of professional services for Kuder, I'm also an instructor for Kuder Career Advisor Training®. During the course, I often discuss the role of the career advisor in supporting clients through the decision-making process and the creation of an action plan.
We aren’t there to make decisions for the client, but rather to help them use information to make the best decisions when events occur that either support or direct their attention toward career success.
Career decisions are not a one-and-done decision; they’re part of a process that takes lifelong consideration and planning.
My Career Story
I didn’t wake up one day deciding to work in career development; I learned through countless lessons, planning, and happenstance.
I started out working in information technology and ended up in career coaching. This journey happened through a series of events that led me to where I am today. In 1993, after working for a couple of years and deciding what I didn’t want to do, I walked into a technical college, picked up some brochures, and decided that being an administrative assistant would be a great job.
While waiting to register for classes, an instructor stopped by and asked what I was registering for. After explaining that I had decided to pursue a career as an administrative assistant (after I'd spent five whole minutes at the brochure stand), he offered up an opportunity. He described a pilot program in computer operations that was beginning that year with tuition assistance and guaranteed paid internships. I signed up immediately.
Besides a word processor and a tiny bit of experience on a Commodore 64, I had little to offer in terms of experience. However, the day the world of computing opened my eyes to mainframes, personal computers, networks, spreadsheets, and the like, I was forever changed. Three months into my education, I was working as a paid intern in a computer operations department for a small retail chain in Wisconsin. This led to a decade-long career in information technology learning everything I could and taking any class that was offered (A+, MCP, etc.).
My information technology experience led me to move to Iowa, which led to a new career in business coaching, then teaching and career counseling, and now to career development – where I am today – finishing up my dissertation on career readiness.
The Happenstance Learning Theory
Throughout my journey, I had mentors, teachers, friends, and family guiding me along the way. As I look back on the last 25 years, all of this seemed to emerge through happenstance; but really it was a series of actions and decisions that I made throughout my life.
With the help of a career advisor, I would have made better decisions; nonetheless, I learned to assess my accomplishments and create goals for the future.
As I studied career theory, John D. Krumboltz (a fellow Iowan), and his Happenstance Learning Theory made sense.
He described four propositions: 1.) the goal of counseling is to help clients learn to take actions to achieve satisfying career and personal lives – not to make a single career decision; 2.) career assessments are tool for self-knowledge; 3.) clients should learn to engage in exploration as a way to generate beneficial unplanned events; and 4.) the success of a career counselor is assessed by the clients success in the real world, outside of counseling sessions.
The Happenstance Theory in Practice
Krumboltz shared that, as career advisors, if we support individuals by helping them think critically about where they are and where they want to go – no matter the circumstances – we will provide them with what they need to make better career decisions in the long term.
His famous quote reflects his theory: “as a result (of successful career counseling), clients may not end up where they requested, but they may very well end up where they want to be.”
In this theory, life happens: the good, bad, and the ugly; but we are not out of control. With each situation and decision, we have the power of choice. We have the power to identify opportunities to grow and learn.
As career advisors, we can support clients by helping them use their assessments, experiences, and education to make effective choices when life throws unexpected circumstances in their paths. We can help them build a plan with the idea that the most important part of the plan is the ability to change it.
Career advising is most effective when the conversation is collaborative, when we ask questions and listen intently, and when identify patterns and reflect them back to the client for their own self-discovery. The true power of advising comes in helping our clients discover their own paths by making their own choices.
Journal of Career Assessment 2009; 17; 135 originally published online Dec 30, 2008; John D. Krumboltz The Happenstance Learning Theory
- career development theory
- career management