Academic journal article Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy

Career Counseling in the Postmodern Era

Academic journal article Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy

Career Counseling in the Postmodern Era

Article excerpt

Hallmarks of the modem era such as logical positivism, objectivistic science, and industrialism are being questioned as we decenter from an "us versus them" singular perspective toward a multiple perspective discourse. All indicators suggest the move from seeking truth to participation in conversations; from objectivity to perspectivity. In tune with these societal changes, career counseling seems to be reforming itself into an interpretive discipline in which practitioners help individuals to relate their quest for meaning to the division of labor in their community. The postmodern era has already engendered six innovations in counseling for career development.

As we approach the turn of the millennium, our society moves to a new vantage point from which to view the work-role and career development. Counseling for career development must keep pace with our society' s movement to a postmodern era. Thus, counselors must innovate their career interventions to fit the new Zeitgeist. The first section of this article describes how views on the work-role and career development have changed as our society evolved from romanticist to modernist world views. The second section delineates how our society is currently evolving into a post industrial society in preparation for the postmodern era. In the final section of this article, six specific innovations in career counseling for the postmodern era are described.


We can expect to change our society's work ethic as we stand on the threshold of a new century. This is because Americans have done it the last two times a century turned (Maccoby, 1981). During the 19th century, our society espoused a "vocational ethic" of work that valued independent effort, self-sufficiency, frugality, self-discipline, and humility. The ethic was best articulated by Benjamin Franklin and most clearly enacted by craftspeople and farmers. The vocational ethic was a secular version of the work ethic the Puritans brought to this continent. The vocational ethic fit the Romantic atmosphere of the 19th century, a time dominated by feelings. Bruner (1986) noted that Romantic "conceptualism" asserted that meaning is in person. Because motivation and meaning resided in the person, the path to success and personal fulfillment was through selfexpression and individual effort. Thus, the vocational ethic encouraged passion, genius, and creativity in all work. Workers were to be genuine or authentic and express their core identities. Occupation typically followed family traditions, such as staying on the family farm or taking over the family business. Individuals who choose not to do the family's work were expected to choose an authentic work-role through a vision quest or vocational retreat.

A few individuals turned their vocational passion into a risk-taking and empire building that served to organize the craftspeople into companies and to build large cities around industries. The craftspeople, fanners, and small business operators retained, and still retain to this day, their vocational ethic. Nevertheless, individuals organized into companies found little reinforcement for independence, selfsufficiency, and self-management. Companies of workers needed a new work ethic as the USA entered the 20th century.

Companies brought the 20th century "career ethic." Nobody had careers until large organizations emerged. Self-employment on farms and in small businesses was replaced for many workers by the challenge of working for someone else, and moving up the corporate ladder. The ladder remains the ultimate metaphor for a career. Large organizations and city life changed work from a calling from God to what your neighbors call you. Occupational titles serve to place the worker in the organizational hierarchy, and to define one's social identity for the group.

While the career ethic replaced the vocational ethic, 20th century logical positivism replaced 19th century conceptualism. …

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