Career Development and Planning: A Comprehensive Approach

Book review by Katarzyna Ganko and Cynthia Kivland

Book Review:
Career Development and Planning: A Comprehensive Approach by Robert C. Reardon, Janet G. Lenz, James P. Sampson, Jr., and Gary W. Peterson. US: Thomson, 2005.

Many people observe that looking for a good employment fit is similar to a job in itself. It is definitely time-consuming and requires a lot of thought, planning, self-discipline, and initiative. Having a satisfying career life is not a single event. It is more complex than just finding work; it goes beyond finding a job to encompassing the concept of a lifelong, conscious journey for occupational fulfillment.

As counselors will often emphasize, in order to develop a fulfilling career one needs to take charge and become a leader of one's career. To make this happen, counselors start with self knowledge (internal), as well as awareness of job market reality (external), and then employ various methodologies to design a path toward career/life fulfillment. This is the perspective taken by the authors of Career Development and Planning: A Comprehensive Approach, a book that addresses undergraduate students and career course instructors. While designed primarily as a college textbook, this rich and thorough book on career planning will be a great supplement for career counselors outside academia or individuals who want to understand the career process before diving into it.

The four authors from Florida State University (Robert C. Reardon, Ph.D., Janet G. Lenz, Ph.D., James P. Sampson, Jr., Ph.D., Gary W. Peterson, Ph.D.), with their extensive and impressive experience in career theory and practice, aim at helping individuals solve career problems - and, more importantly, make career decisions. Rooted in the area of cognitive psychology, this very significant textbook is comprised of three parts:

  1. Career Concepts and Applications,
  2. Social Conditions Affecting Career Development, and
  3. Implementing a Strategic Career Plan.

In order to meet college course requirements, it offers a wealth of career related knowledge from the fields of "sociology of work, labor market economics, organizational behavior, family systems, and multicultural views of work and leisure".

Written from a Cognitive Information Processing (CIP) theory perspective, the book relies on the assumption that before we can make sound career decisions we need to accumulate broad knowledge about career development and acquire various learning strategies to solve career related problems. Employing this theoretical model, the book teaches us how to use the CIP paradigm to build our Personal Career Theory and apply it to our job-hunting process.

Accordingly, the book begins with an introduction to career planning and takes a look back at the beginning of career concepts and the work and theories of Frank Parsons, the founder of vocational psychology. The reader then becomes acquainted with career development terms, factors in career decisions, theories of career choice, and Cognitive Information Processing. The next chapter discusses self-knowledge and moves into the development of various value, interest and skill typologies or inventories (SIGI, RIASEC, MBTI) as strategies for self-awareness. The remaining chapters of Part I describe what comprises the Pyramid of Information-Processing Domains of CIP theory.

At the base of this pyramid, the reader has a chance to study various life/career options as well as occupational, educational and leisure information ("Knowing about My Options"). In the second stage of the pyramid, we are taken through a discussion of the CASVE cycle as a guide for our decision-making process. While presented here in the context of career problem solving, the CASVE cycle describes five stages of any decision-making process:

  • Communication (identifying a gap),
  • Analysis (interrelating the problem components),
  • Synthesis (creating likely alternatives),
  • Valuing (prioritizing alternatives), and finally
  • Execution (forming means-ends strategies).

According to the authors, following this model successfully, e.g., completing each stage, will teach an efficient career decision-making process and most likely affect our approach to decision-making in general. Having discussed the second level of the information-processing pyramid (CASVE), we are then introduced to the top of the pyramid: the executive processing domain dealing with meta-cognitions ("Thinking about my Career Decision").

While Part I of this text (chapters 1-5) examines "the person and how the person thinks about the career" (p. 80), Part II (chapters 6-10) looks at "Social Conditions Affecting Career Development." Expanding further upon the occupational knowledge domain of the pyramid quoted earlier, Part II discusses macroforces and challenges the reader to sharpen or revise his or her career metacognitions. We learn about "Careering in a Changing World" and the concept of a successful career, changes in the global and US economies affecting our choices, "Organizational Culture and Effective Work," "Alternative Ways to Work," and finally "Career and Family Roles," taking a closer look at the issues centering around women's employment and dual career couples.

Part III (chapters 11-15) relies on the knowledge gained in the preceding components and shows how to apply the Cognitive Information Processing approach to our job search campaign. Basing again on the Pyramid of Information-Processing Domains, we are guided through "Launching an Employment Campaign," "Written and Interpersonal Communications in Job Hunting," and advised how to negotiate and evaluate job offers. The final chapter discusses "The First Job and Early Career Moves" and focuses on the transition from college to professional life. The textbook finishes with appendices offering useful and interesting worksheets, projects and learning tools, e.g. Career Field Analysis, Exercise for Improving Career Thoughts, and Information Interview Assignment.

Career Development and Planning is a demanding book, if we choose to fully benefit from the breadth of knowledge supplied by the authors. While it can be approached in parts when seeking particular bits of information, it makes most sense when not only read, but studied as a whole. Written for the academic audience, it does read like a textbook, which requires the readers to have studious concentration and focus. However, just as studying need not be restricted to academic institutions, such texts should not be classified as mere course books. Any career learner, regardless of age or function, will appreciate this work provided they invest the time to understand and apply the information presented.

Katarzyna Ganko, B.A., M.A., has received both of her degrees from the University of Warsaw, the former in Teaching English as a Foreign Language and the latter in American Studies. She completed additional graduate study in Psychology of Intercultural Relations in the Warsaw School of Social Psychology and is currently working in Chicago in the cultural competence training and diversity field. Katarzyna may be reached at: hipkasia@yahoo.com.

Cynthia Kivland, President of Career Performance Strategies (CPS) and a Master Career Counselor, provides career development and coaching services to organizations and private clients. Her firm recently released the "Should I Stay or Go" assessment and development guide and the "Passion, Performance, Potential Coaching Guide". Her book entitled "From Smart to Smarter, The Skills That Really Matter in a Global Economy: A Coaching Guide for Parents, Teachers and Employers of Very Smart People" is expected for release in Winter 2007. To learn more about CPS services and associates visit the website at: www.careerperformancestrategies.com. Cynthia may be reached at: ckivland@careerperformancestrategies.com.

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