Using the Career Sailboat Model: A Case Example

By Fidan Korkut-Owen, Tansu Mutlu-Çaykuş & Selen Demirtaş-Zorbaz

Metaphors provide a valuable function of filling the gap between theory and practice and they give a frame and content for career counseling theories and models (Amundson, 2015; Inkson, 2006; McMohan, 2016). In the Career Sailboat Model-CSM (Korkut-Owen et al., 2014, Korkut-Owen et al., 2015), a sailboat metaphor is used to make the clients visualize their career choice process. The CSM focuses on four factors and their interaction that often influence the decision-making processes involved in navigating a sailboat as it progresses on a voyage.  The CSM then provides an easily identifiable and understood description of one’s career path as a story of a sea voyage. The story of one’s sea voyage evolves through the counseling process and allows for the integration of individual characteristics as well as a variety of environmental and social factors that influence the sea progress of the voyage.

In this model, individual/personal factors that determine the direction of a career journey, such as interests, skills, and values are symbolized by the hull of the career sailboat. The main sail symbolizes political, economic, legal, and system-related factors, such as socioeconomic structure, laws, labor market, employment opportunities etc. Social factors, such as family characteristics, cultural realities, and media are represented by headsail, found forward of the mainsail. The effect of wind, currents, and waves, which influence the progress and course of the sailboat represent chance factors such as health conditions, natural events, or unexpected positive/ negative coincidences (Figure 1).    


Figure 1:

The visual representation of the CSM

Figure 1 Career Sailboat Model


The impact of CSM on clients in career counseling has been tested in different studies and it has been found to be a metaphor that can help clients in career counseling to make career choices. For instance, there are group intervention programs (e.g., Demirtaş-Zorbaz et al., 2023, Doğan-Laçin & Yeşilyaprak, 2018, Korkut-Owen & Şemeret, 2023) or case studies (e.g. Mutlu et al., 2015; Korkut-Owen et al., 2022) in the literature for different age groups from high school students to adults that are based on the CSM. These studies demonstrate the flexibility and efficacy of the CSM when used across a variety of age and educational levels. 

This case study was conducted over four sessions in 2021 under the first author’s supervision. At the beginning of the first session, a discussion was held with the client clarifying that the client was engaged in counseling to resolve issues with career choices. The CSM was introduced to her, and the client expressed both interest and motivation in continuing the counseling process. During the four sessions each of the four dimensions of the model was explained and discussed along with the use of exercises and activities. By the end of the process, the client decided which port she wanted to reach and had at least a tentative idea of how to plan for completing such a journey. During this journey, she was encouraged to continually assess her position and remain aware that her ultimate destination may not necessarily be the one she initially selected. The practitioner reported the process was effective and enjoyable. The process was summarized in Table 1.


Table 1

Using CSM during the career counseling sessions



Turkish, female, 45 years old, married with two children, works in the private sector. Graduated from vocational high school and community college; studied decorative arts.

Reason to come

She was indecisive between continuing her current job or starting her own business.




She likes changing, easily adapts to new situations, has strong communication skills, is cautious of risks, loves to work, is decisive, talented in arts, and is having trouble with time management. It was important for her to find a balance between work and life.


(Front sail)

She and her husband come from families that focus on working governmental jobs. Her husband supports cautious plans. When both are working, their quality of life improves, and for this reason she wants to continue working. As role models, she has family members who have their own businesses.



(Main sail)

Issues of uncertainty, downsizing policies in her work, some people want the same job, and sudden economic change in the country





During the Pandemic she had more time to think about her career future. She started to think about her old dream to open her own business. She was inspired by her cousin who established her business recently.



(techniques and

information search)

Guided imagery, interest, values, and comparing current job and dream job, etc. Searching legal and other information about how a business can be established. Searching for how much capital she needs in the beginning. Connecting with people who started a business.  



She wants to open her dream-stained glass workshop.  Because she works full-time now, she will do small steps over three years.


She will join seminars and workshops to develop her knowledge and techniques about stained glass, then open an internet site to sell her products and start her own stained-glass workshop.


When the career counseling process, based on the CSM, was executed in detail, it became evident that the client determined the ports that she could reach in her career journey and made plans according to her career goals.

CSM can be used with high school and university students as well as with adults who are faced with career choices or career transition concerns.  The structure of the CSM allows for great flexibility and adaptation to a wide variety of cultural/social realities and political-legal-economic dimensions.  The flexibility and adaptability of the CSM are seen as clear strengths that would encourage enhanced self-understanding and career decision-making skills in a variety of clients ranging from high school students to adults facing career and life transition.



Amundson, N. E. (2015). Using metaphor in career intervention. In P. J. Hartung, M. L. Savickas, & W. B. Walsh (Eds.), APA handbook of career intervention, Vol. 2. Applications (pp. 293–304). American Psychological Association. https://doi.org/10.1037/14439-022

Demirtas-Zorbaz, S., & Korkut-Owen, F., & Arıcı-Şahin, F., & Mutlu Çaykuş, T. (2023). Career sailboat: A model for enhancing career decision-making self-efficacy among job-seekers. British Journal of Guidance & Counselling, 51, 1-14. https://doi.org/10.1080/03069885.2023.2177615

Doğan-Laçin, B. G., & Yeşilyaprak, B. (2018). Group intervention program based on career sailboat model [Kariyer Yelkenlisi Modeline dayalı grupla müdahale programı]. Anemon Muş Alparslan Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Dergisi, 6 (2), 185 – 192. https://dergipark.org.tr/tr/pub/anemon/issue/36488/332616

Inkson, K. (2006). Metaphor: A new way of thinking about careers. Career Convergence. https://www.careerconvergence.org/aws/NCDA/pt/sd/news_article/5132/_self/CC_layout_details/false 

Korkut-Owen, F., Arıcı, F., Demirtaş–Zorbaz, S., & Mutlu, T. (2014).  Using the career sailboat model to facilitate career planning and decision-making with young adults. Career Convergence. https://www.careerconvergence.org/aws/NCDA/pt/sd/news_article/84862/_self/CC_layout_details/false

Korkut-Owen, F., Çaykuş-Mutlu, T., & Demirtaş-Zorbaz, S. (2022). Career sailboat model [Kariyer Yelkenlisi Modeli]. In F. Bacanlı, & A. Büyükgöze Kavas (Eds), Current theories, approaches and models [Kariyer psikolojik danışmasında çağdaş kuramlar yaklaşımlar ve modeller] (p.112-149). Pegem Publisher.

Korkut-Owen, F., Demirtaş–Zorbaz, S., & Mutlu, T. (2015). Career sailboat model as a tool for the guidance counsellor. Published by the National Centre for Guidance in Education (NCGE) as an article for the School Guidance Handbook. http://www.schoolguidancehandbook.ncge.ie/docs/000050/CSM%202015.pdf

Korkut-Owen, F., & Şemeret, R. R.  (2023). An online program to reduce students’ career indecision: A Turkish pilot study. Asia Pacific Career Development Journal, 6(2), 19-32.           https://asiapacificcda.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/01/A0006_2_02.pdf

McMahon, M. (2016). Working with storytellers: A metaphor for career counselling. In M. McMohan, Career counselling: Constructivist approaches (2nd ed. pp. 17-28). Routledge.

Mutlu, T., Demirtaş-Zorbaz, S., Arıcı-Şahin, F., & Korkut-Owen, F. (2015). Career sailboat model: Two case examples for school counselors. [Kariyer Yelkenlisi Modeli: Okul psikolojik danışmanları için iki vaka örneği], 13th National Guidance and Counseling Congress, Mersin, 7-9 October 2015.


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Fidan Korkut OwenFidan Korkut-Owen, Ph.D., is a retired professor in counseling education from Hacettepe University, Ankara, Türkiye. She had been a visiting professor at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and at Morehead State University in Kentucky. She continues to teach online courses and to give seminars. Her research interests include the fields of career counseling, prevention, wellness, and counselor education. She was a certified Global Career Development Facilitator instructor. Among her hobbies painting is getting more dominant and she has had joint and solo art exhibitions. She may be contacted at fdnkrkt@gmail.com


Tansu Mutlu Ayku Tansu Mutlu Çaykuş is an assistant professor of the Psychological Counseling and Guidance at Ankara University, Ankara, Türkiye. After earning a BA with honors from Ankara University, she has received an MA degree from Hacettepe University and her PhD in Psychological Counseling and Guidance is from Middle East Technical University. She won a scholarship from the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey and study at University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee as a visitor scholar. Her areas of professional interest include career counselling, trauma counseling, counseling children and positive psychology. She may be contacted at tansumutlu@gmail.com


Selen Demirta ZorbazSelen Demirtaş-Zorbaz is an Associate Professor in Division of Counseling and Guidance at Ankara University, Türkiye. She had her master’s degree in 2011 and PhD in 2016 at the area of counselling and guidance. She won a scholarship and study at Eastern Michigan University, USA as a visitor scholar between 2013–2014 and study at University of Toledo between 2021 – 2022 as postdoctoral researcher. Her main research interests include career counseling, child counseling, and school counseling. She may be contacted at selenpdr@gmail.com


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1 Comment

Feride Bacanlı   on Tuesday 04/02/2024 at 04:20 AM

I recommend that career counselors and researchers test the post-modern Career Sailing Model in their countries to facilitate career planning and decision-making for their clients

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