Introduction to Career Development Theory
According to employment website Indeed, career development theory studies the different pathways leading to professional growth, job satisfaction and career trajectory. These theories help explain why people choose and succeed in specific jobs. By understanding gender roles, social norms and other environmental and cultural factors, you can better guide your own career and advise others as well.
Traits such as aptitude, interests and personality influence career choices. Trait-based theories involve matching people to work environments. Using this type of career development theory, you must observe and participate in the work environment to adequately ascertain if it is the right fit for you. For example, the American psychologist John Holland defined a system to classify jobs and work personalities. Realistic people tend to prefer working with concrete ideas rather than abstract theories. Investigative types like to observe and organize information. Artistic people dislike structure and rules. Social people prefer teaching or helping others. Enterprising individuals enjoy talking. Conventional people like structure and order.
Learning and Cognitive Theories
Social learning theories place an emphasis on self knowledge. When you have the right skills and knowledge and believe in your ability to succeed, you tend to have a higher impact and greater success rate. For example, career theorist John Krumboltz developed the Happenstance Learning Theory and advocates teaching people how to create and take advantage of unplanned events. By capitalizing on these opportunities, you can better approach an unpredictable work environment.
Developmental Career Theories
Developmental career theories purport that individuals adapt in stages to changing roles. Introduced in the 1950s by Donald Super, the so-named Life-Span, Life-Space Approach advances the theory that career development is a continuous, life-long process because one's self-concept changes over time as a result of internal and external conditions. As explained on the website of Grinnell College, attitudes, interests, capacity and needs of the individual evolve. Career counselors well-versed in developmental career theories can help people navigate their personal and professional evolution.
Application of Career Development Theory
Applying career development theory leads to better understanding of career areas that fit your interests and aspirations. Employment website Monster has links to a number of self-guided assessment tools to help you determine how your personality fits into certain careers. These can help you define your action plan for setting a career path. Effective career counselors help clients make use of tips, tools, techniques and resources for identifying the right field. When you work at a job you enjoy, your performance and satisfaction tends to be higher.
Tara Duggan is a Project Management Professional (PMP) specializing in knowledge management and instructional design. For over 25 years she has developed quality training materials for a variety of products and services supporting such companies as Digital Equipment Corporation, Compaq and HP. Her freelance work is published on various websites.