Interview with Professor David Blustein

By Blustein, David | Australian Journal of Career Development, Winter 2008 | Go to article overview

Interview with Professor David Blustein


Blustein, David, Australian Journal of Career Development


Professor David Blustein is a professor of counselling, developmental and educational psychology at Boston College. He is a fellow of Division 17 of the American Psychological Association, and he has received the Division 17 Early Career Scientist-Practitioner Award and the John Holland Award for Outstanding Achievement in Personality and Career Research. His current interests include the psychology of work, work based transitions, the exploration process, the interface between work and interpersonal functioning, and the impact of social class in human development.

Can you tell me a little about your own career development?

I actually have had a very traditional and somewhat privileged trajectory in my own career development; in fact, this privilege is increasingly present in my life as I mull over the lives of those with less privilege. I grew up in the New York City area (in Queens--a large borough outside of Manhattan) and lived in a small apartment with my parents and my brother. Both of my parents worked in jobs that they described as not very glamorous; my father was a sheet metal mechanic for Pan American Airlines and my mother worked as a clerk in a department store. I went to the State University of New York at Stony Brook, where I studied psychology and also became active in rock music criticism as well as various political movements of the era (primarily oriented toward ending the war in Vietnam and civil rights). I then went to Queens College and received a Master's degree in Counselling and Guidance there in 1976. At that point, I worked for about 5 years as a counsellor in several colleges in the New York City area, generally working with students from poor backgrounds. During this post-Master's period, I began to write articles for journals and experienced some positive feedback for my work. My most interesting job during this period was at Rockland Community College, where I was in charge of the academic advisement program for a large student body.

I obtained admission to Teachers College, Columbia University in 1981 and completed my PhD in 1985. I studied at Teachers College with Jean Pierre Jordaan and Peter Cairo; regrettably, Donald Super had already retired by the time I started, but his presence was evident throughout the program.

What led you into this field?

I actually started out in my doctoral work with strong interests in the then growing area of multicultural counselling, which has remained as a major dimension of my professional identity. At my job at Rockland Community College, I was exposed to a group of colleagues who took career counselling very seriously and who viewed it as a means of helping disenfranchised populations (such as displaced homemakers, students of colour, and students without financial resources) become empowered in their lives. Their influence remains in my work; moreover, most of the faculty at Teachers College were interested in career development and I began to get the sense that focusing on work as a theatre of life experience would be an optimal match for me. I also realised that the study of career development could be blended with my nascent interests in social justice and political change.

I know that you have just completed The Psychology of Working, which has been praised widely for its new perspective. Would you tell readers a little about this?

This is a great question because I think that I understand my book differently now that it is out and that I have some distance from it. The book, entitled The Psychology of Working: A New Perspective for Counseling, Career Development, and Public Policy originally started out in the late 1990s as I was searching for a way to integrate some of my thinking and the input from others (such as Mary Sue Richardson, Mark Savickas, William Julius Wilson, Madonna Constantine, Janet Helms and others) into a broader critique of existing career development discourse. …

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