A Review of “Designing and Implementing Career Interventions: A Handbook for Effective Practice”
Book Review by Mallory Becraft
In today’s rapidly changing world of work, career practitioners find themselves needing to constantly innovate, implement, and evaluate new programs, services, and resources to best meet the needs of today’s clients. Knowing that budgets and staff time are often limited, it can be overwhelming to know where to start and how to see the implementation of a new initiative through to completion. Change is hard and collaboration is vital.
For practitioners looking for highly practical strategies, look no further than the second edition of Designing and Implementing Career Interventions: A Handbook for Effective Practice (2023). Authors and highly regard leaders Dr. James Sampson and Dr. Janet Lenz share their 45+ years of experience to provide thoughtful instructions for career leaders looking to design career interventions. This newest NCDA monograph builds upon the first edition of the original Handbook (Sampson, 2008), but prioritizes practical strategies and places less emphasis on extensive theoretical content. As a result, the second edition assumes that the reader has basic knowledge of some career theories, specifically Cognitive Information Processing (CIP) and Holland’s RIASEC theory, which moves the content from “why” to “how”.
The authors suggest that the information provided can be used in a variety of settings, such as a higher education career center, a school district, or a state workforce center. The overall tone of the content feels like having trusted mentors providing invaluable strategies and guidance from decades of research and practice. In a way, it teaches the reader how to “work smarter, not harder” when trying to launch a significant change. The Handbook is full of real-world examples throughout, which keeps the reader engaged and focused on how they could apply the content to their own work. The strategies outlined in the Handbook have been tested around the globe, which illustrates the vast usability of the provided content.
This 94-page handbook is organized in seven chapters focusing on specific topics, such as career interventions, examples of using career theory in career interventions, evaluation and accountability, implementation, strategies for success, and tips for adaptations. While all of the content is valuable, the authors have curated the chapters in the Handbook so that implementation team members do not necessarily need to read the entire publication from cover to cover. Based on the role of each particular staff member and the level of detail required to understand the material, Sampson and Lenz provide an outline of what specific chapters different stakeholders likely need. This “choose your own adventure” format shows great awareness of the time constraints of today’s busy professionals and likely keeps the implementation team motivated to use the resource.
The authors take time to create a shared understanding of the phrase “career intervention”, which is defined as “any activity (treatment or effort) designed to enhance a person’s career development or to enable that person to make more effective career decisions” (Spokane, 1991, p. 22) These activities may include assessments, instructional resources, self-help efforts, intensive professional support, or virtual services. Knowing that today’s practitioners need to strategically scale services to meet client needs and are expected to have high visibility both face-to-face and online, the information in the Handbook is comprehensive to nearly all interventions career leaders are navigating. The authors also provide strategies for using career theory, research, and professional standards and policy so that the implementation team can have a shared foundation that is relevant, evidence-based, and ethical.
Impressively, the Handbook crescendos in Chapter 5 where the authors provide an “Eight-Step Model for Implementing Career Interventions”. The authors share that “implementation models help staff members manage the process of change in an organization in a way that leads to improvements while also avoiding preventable problems” (p. 29). Generally speaking, most career practitioners are not taught change management, whereas most education and community leaders are not taught career development. Thus, a thoughtful implementation roadmap will likely increase success and collaboration, while minimizing challenges and overwhelm. The eight steps of the model cover the full range of effective actions, from evaluating current career interventions to training staff to conducting evaluations. The authors break each step into many sub-steps and provide significant details so as to effectively replicate the action. Not surprisingly, the second step, involving selecting, adapting, revising and developing improved career interventions, includes several pages of details, which ensures success.
The accompanying Appendices generously provide the reader with links and copies or handouts, forms, and worksheets that will streamline implementation efforts. The printable resources help to visualize the flow of the eight-step model, delegate efforts, and support accountability. The publisher, NCDA, specifically provides a link to appendices and PowerPoint presentations on the website, as well as an option to purchase the publication as an e-book (where all links are live), so the materials are available electronically.
It is also refreshing to see that the authors focus on the humanistic aspects of change management versus focusing on tasks alone. On page 56, Sampson and Lenz write that “problems in implementing change typically have more to do in the way in which staff members work together than with the specific career interventions being implemented.” By focusing on influence, flexibility, and persistence, all members of the implementation team are likely to feel informed and empowered. This synergy can positively impact organization culture and yield greater intervention outcomes, as well.
Even in its well-organized format, it is possible that readers might still feel a certain level of overwhelm when comprehending the model. However, the authors reassure readers that organizations do not need to follow every precise recommendation. Any amount of planning is better than none at all and the Handbook can serve as a starting point for discussion for implementation team members to then customize their specific strategy.
For organizations both large and small, I am confident that Designing and Implementing Career Interventions: A Handbook for Effective Practice (2023) will be a highly-utilized and practical change management resource. Owing to the guidance of the esteemed Dr. Sampson and Dr. Lenz, the second edition of the Handbook will likely be a vital addition to the toolbox for career practitioners around the globe, as they look to improve and innovate career interventions.
Sampson, J. P., Jr., & Lenz, J. G. (2023). Designing and implementing career interventions: A handbook for effective practice: Second Edition. National Career Development Association. https://ncda.org/aws/NCDA/pt/sd/product/32894/_BLANK/layout_products/false
Sampson, J. P., Jr. (2008). Designing and implementing career programs: A handbook for effective practice (1st ed.). National Career Development Association.
Spokane, A. R. (1991). Career intervention. Prentice Hall.
Designing and Implementing Career Interventions is available from the NCDA Career Resource Store. It is a featured sale item thru October 31, 2023.
Mallory Becraft, M.Ed, is an Associate Director of Career Coaching and Campus Partnerships at the University of Iowa. Additionally, she is an adjunct instructor for Leadership Studies curriculum. Mallory holds an M.Ed in Counseling and Career Development (dual emphasis in College Counseling and Career Counseling) from Colorado State University. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org