Career planning refers to the process of instituting career goals and defining fitting educational and developmental courses to learn the skills needed to accomplish career objectives.
Historically, counseling psychology has concentrated on career choice and development. Yet, until the late 1970s, a serious scientific approach to assessing career decisions did not exist. Theoretical and empirical writings on career choice and development highlighted career indecision instead of career planning. Studies typically surveyed students to determine whether they were decided or unsure of their future career choices. Early studies demonstrated that uncertainty about one's vocation is common and does not signify a lack of ability or fortitude. A 1937 study by E.G. Williamson revealed that the fear of displeasing parents and fear of failure are often the sources of hesitancy.
A scale that was fashioned in the 1980s, the Career Development Inventory, studied students' abilities to plan their careers. The test assessed the amount of career planning students had performed, their attitudes toward gathering information about occupations and decision-making ability. It also tested their knowledge of the world of work, such as what types of studies are required for various occupations.
Other researchers undertook measuring career development and maturity. Donald Super et al. are credited for originating the theories that underlie measures of career development. They also started the trend of emphasizing career education in schools.
Super (1955) outlined the five dimensions of career maturity that are essential to career planning. They are:
• Gathering information about occupations
• Concern about one's choice
• Consistency of vocational preferences through time
• Crystallization of traits, such as realistic attitudes toward work
• Wisdom of vocational choice, i.e., that it's a good fit
Career-planning systems (CPSs) were built on information gathered about career decision-making and career maturity. CPSs have a high level of validity. They are flexible, allowing implementation in a broad type of settings. School and college career development offices, state job development agencies and community mental health settings can avail themselves of CPSs. They can function in group or individual counseling sessions, workshops or classrooms.
A danger in using CPSs is their ability to limit users' career exploration. Upon receiving three to five recommendations for fitting fields of work, users might choose one of them, eliminating further thought about other fields. Another problem is that CPSs assume their users have middle class opportunities. Therefore, they are not applicable to a large segment of the population. CPSs are best used in conjunction with advice from a career counselor. A counselor can steer users to the most realistic choices or at least explain long-term expectations of various occupations.
In 1909, Frank Parsons produced a seminal model of career decision-making. He contributed the basis of modern career counseling. His socially active views encouraged satisfying occupational choices through reasoning. His model is at the core of person-environment fit theories and counseling approaches that concentrate on personality traits.
Another idea at the root of career assessment is individual differences. This person-centered approach seeks to identify each person's unique qualities. Nancy Betz (1992) advised career counselors to consider abilities and aptitudes, interests, needs and values. She cautioned them to avoid gender and ethnic group stereotypes when counseling clients.
Students' aptitudes and abilities are judged by standardized tests such as the SAT and GRE. Those types of tests assess knowledge and skills but give few hints about career planning. Other tests, such as the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, assess mechanical comprehension, word knowledge and science. The Differential Aptitude Test (DAT), which is given to students in 8th through 12th grades, includes clerical speed and accuracy.
A developing trend is the use of self-assessment of abilities. Research studies showed that people's self-stated abilities do not coordinate with their actual measured abilities. Therefore, self-assessments are best used to determine interests, not skills.
Measuring interest in various careers is a widespread method of career planning. The Strong Interest Inventory, Self-Directed Search and Kuder Occupational Interest Survey are most commonly used by career counselors. The validity and relevance of the content of those tests have all been questioned by vocational experts.
Inventories that measure values, needs and preferences aim to discern the types of things people seek in satisfying work. The Work Values Inventory reports scores for 15 work values. The Values Scale has 21 scales that measure both general and work-related values. A broader perspective is offered by the Minnesota Importance Questionnaire. It can be used to assess career choice and to counsel for career modification, as it also checks whether workers' needs are satisfied in their workplaces.