Academic journal article Australian Journal of Career Development

The Butterfly Model of Careers' Illustrating How Planning and Chance Can Be Integrated in the Careers of Secondary School Students

Academic journal article Australian Journal of Career Development

The Butterfly Model of Careers' Illustrating How Planning and Chance Can Be Integrated in the Careers of Secondary School Students

Article excerpt

Simple matching models of decision making are no longer sufficient as a basis for career counselling and education. The challenge for contemporary careers advisers is how to communicate some of the complexities of modern career development to their students; in particular, the apparently contradictory relationship between the need for planning and the influence of unplanned events. Deriving from the Chaos Theory of Careers, this paper outlines a practical technique currently being used in the secondary school context that illustrates how both planning and contingency can be linked, understood and utilised in career decision making. The implementation of the Butterfly Model of Careers is outlined in detail to enable others in the career counselling field to be able to use it as well.

The realities of modern work have called into question some of the traditional practices in career counselling and their theoretical assumptions. In particular, counselling based on person job matching and the motivating theories behind it have been criticised as 'insufficient' (Savickas, 2005); limited and oversimplified (McMahon & Patton, 2002) and 'simple-minded' (Pryor, 2006}. In the last ten years, a raft of new approaches have been developed that attempt to capture some of the previously neglected aspects of career, such as personal construction (Saviekas, 2002); systemic influences (Patton & McMahon, 1997, 1999); context (Young & Valach, 1996); and complexity (Bloch, 2005; Bright & Pryor, 2005).

Of particular interest is increased acknowledgement of the role of unplanned or chance events in career development and on career decision making. The planned happenstance formulation (Krumboltz, 1998; Krumboltz & Levin, 2004; Mitchell, Levin & Krumboltz, 1999) has drawn attention to the importance of unplanned events. Most recently the Chaos Theory of Careers (Pryor & Bright, 2003a, 2003b) has provided a theoretical conceptualisation of the relationship between pattern and unpredictability, order and instability, organisation and chance. Fundamental to this new conceptualisation of such relationships is the notion of the Strange Attractor (Bright & Pryor, 2005). A dynamical system (i.e., a moving or living system) can be described in terms of its motion. The first chaotic (strange) attractor was identified in the 1960s by Lorenz (1993), which he called the butterfly attractor because of its resemblance to a butterfly (see Figure 1). Observing this attractor in real time reveals a series of trajectories that appear like concentric circles on the left-hand side and which then suddenly jump across to circle around the right-hand part of the pattern and then back again. So within this attractor, we see both stability (there is a discernible emergent pattern) intertwined with inherent uncertainty (one cannot predict where the trajectory will go next). Thus, the Strange Attractor pattern of motion is characterised by a self-similar, but ever changing pattern which is prone to radical transformation. Pryor and Bright (2003a, 2003b) have argued that this attractor best describes modern career paths.


However, the new realities of career development present careers advisers in secondary schools with a dilemma: how to convey abstract and complex ideas about the chaotic world of work, such as the Strange Attractor, cogently and with clarity and utility? The remainder of this paper outlines a technique to illustrate the relationship between planning (order) and the unplanned (chance) in career decision making that has been used effectively in the classroom, and could easily be adapted for use with adult clients.


The Butterfly Model (see Figure 2) seeks to assist students to meet the two challenges of current career development the likely and the contingent. It characterises career education as comprising two complementary elements: developing skills in planning (the likely) and skills to cope with--and preferably thrive on--the unplanned (the contingent). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.