Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Cultural Context in Career Theory and Practice: Role Salience and Values

Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Cultural Context in Career Theory and Practice: Role Salience and Values

Article excerpt

Career theory and practice have long emphasized person variables (e.g., abilities, needs, interests) and have only recently begun focusing on environmental variables in addressing cultural context issues. Contemporary emphasis on contextual variables reflects notable movement toward attaining cultural relevance in career theory and practice. Role salience and values, which are central to developmental perspectives on career and have been considered in other approaches, are key contextual variables that can be examined to make additional progress toward this goal. The author argues that examining the cultural dimensions of social roles and values can enrich theory and enhance practice regarding life-career development.

For more than 30 years, the field of career development has called attention to the need to ensure the relevance of career theory and practice for a culturally diverse workforce (see, e.g., Fitzgerald & Betz, 1994; Leong, 1995; Picou & Campbell, 1975; Richardson, 1993, 1996; Savickas, 1995; Smith, 1983; Zytowski, 1969). During this time, scholars and researchers have developed a substantial body of literature that both underscores critical issues related to enriching career theory to conceptualize cultural diversity (e.g., Fitzgerald & Betz, 1994; Leung, 1995; Savickas, 1995) and outlines strategies for career counseling practice within a multicultural context (e.g., Bingham & Ward, 1996; Fouad & Bingham, 1995; Hartung et al., 1998). Although considerable gains have been made in theory and practice knowledge, multicultural career literature consistently suggests that the traditional and long-standing emphasis within career psychology on person variables, to the neglect of environmental variables, continues to impede its relevance for people across cultural groups (cf. Fitzgerald & Betz, 1994; Leong, 1997). Person variables comprise individual traits such as interests and abilities, whereas environment variables comprise contextual factors, such as social status, ethnicity, and gender. Of note, some newer career theories and counseling models are emerging to give more emphasis to contextual variables (e.g., Bingham & Ward, 1996; Brown, 1996; Fouad & Bingham, 1995; Vondracek, Lerner, & Schulenberg, 1986; Young, Valach, & Collin, 1996).

In the present analysis, I focus on key contextual variables in an effort to expand the established line of theory building and practice innovation regarding cultural relevance in career development. Two principal objectives guide the discussion. The first objective is to examine problems in and progress toward infusing contextual variables into career theory and practice as it has been articulated in much of the multicultural career literature to date. The endeavor to meet this objective involves discussing the contemporary movement within career psychology to attain cultural validity (Leong & Brown, 1995) and how this movement reflects upon wider societal change. The second objective is to explain how extant career theories, and the counseling practices they seek to inform and be informed by, can be culturally enriched. Attempting to meet this objective involves explaining how two contextual variables, namely, role salience and values, long a part of the developmental perspective on careers and articulated in some other approaches, can enrich the cross-- cultural relevance of career theory and practice. I argue that social roles and values offer a point of convergence for such enrichment across theoretical perspectives and counseling practices.

Infusing Context Into Career Theory and Practice: Problems and Progress

A vital discourse has emerged, evidenced in a burgeoning body of professional literature, concerning the relevance of career choice and development theories and of career counseling practices to a culturally diverse workforce (see Leong, 1995; Savickas, 1993; Tinsley, 1994b; Walsh, 1994). Scholars and researchers seek to determine how well contemporary theories and practices describe and promote individual career development across cultural, socioeconomic, racial, and ethnic lines. …

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