Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Work Illustrated: Attending to Visual Images in Career Information Materials

Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Work Illustrated: Attending to Visual Images in Career Information Materials

Article excerpt

Since Parsons (1909) first outlined his tripartite model of making wise vocational choices, career counselors have assisted individuals to increase their knowledge of the world of work. Recognizing the value of Parsons's insight, all of the leading career theories emphasize to some extent the importance of using occupational information to make reasonable career decisions (Brooks, 1990). Today, counselors provide clients with career information because world-of-work knowledge remains a central element in the prudent choice of a vocation (Gati & Tikotzki, 1989; Salomone, 1993). Counselors help clients to access career and occupational information in efforts to promote clients' exploratory activities and decision-making abilities (Blustein, 1992).

Making optimal use of career information requires that counselors and career development specialists gain awareness of the contents of informational resources (Bailey, Bruce, Rotter, & Sampson, 1992). They also need to recognize the implications of using career information with clients. Toward this end, this article outlines types of career information. Based on a literature review, it then identifies a critical gap in the research on career information; a gap that calls for more empirical study of the contents of career information resources. Such study should include attending to the visual images depicted in career information materials. Subsequently, the potential influences of informational materials on individual career decision making are considered. The article concludes with suggestions for future research and implications for career counseling.


Career information takes many forms ranging from print and audiovisual materials to computer-based data systems, informational interviews, and work-site visits (Kunze, 1967). Print materials probably represent the most widely used medium through which people access educational and vocational information (cf. Isaacson & Brown, 1993, pp. 163-175). Therefore, a review of current career literature appears annually in The Career Development Quarterly (CDQ). These reviews (conducted by the National Career Development Association's Career Information Review Service Committee) evaluate the quality of print materials containing vocational information (e.g., job-training opportunities and employment trends), educational information (e.g., schools, colleges, and scholarships), and career-personal information (e.g., job search and adjustment). Career counselors, student personnel workers, teachers, vocational guidance counselors, college admissions staff, and other groups (e.g., the military) use a variety of these print materials to assist clients, students, prospective students, and potential employees to make informed and reasonable career decisions.

Popular literature (e.g., magazines and newspapers) and literary works (e.g., poems, short stories, and novels) have also been considered as sources of career information (albeit informal ones) in two recent CDQ articles. Billups and Peterson (1994) studied adolescents' ability to appreciate career information contained in short stories, formal literature (i.e., the Occupational Outlook Handbook


), and the popular press. Bloch (1994) discussed the powerful effect that occupational descriptions contained in poetry can have on how individuals think and feel about work as well as on the extent to which people can picture themselves in particular jobs. From both of these articles one could hypothesize that informal sources of career information exert a more pervasive and powerful influence on individual career decision making than do more formal sources such as the OOH, the Dictionary of Occupational Titles, or computer information programs. That is because individuals are likely to have more ready access to informal rather than to formal career information sources, although they may indeed desire greater access to and expect higher quality information from the latter (cf. …

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