Feeling stuck in your career? Career Construction Theory may be the answer.
Understanding Career Construction Theory: A Guide for Career Seekers
When it comes to career guidance, there are countless theories and approaches out there. But one theory that has stood the test of time is Career Construction Theory (CCT). Developed by Mark Savickas, CCT is a dynamic and holistic approach to career development that focuses on individuals' unique perspectives, experiences, and goals in shaping their career paths.
What is Career Construction Theory?
CCT is based on the idea that individuals are not passive recipients of their careers, but active constructors. It recognises the influence of external factors such as social and cultural norms, but emphasises the individual's agency in constructing their own career path. In other words, CCT acknowledges that we all have unique life experiences, values, and aspirations that shape our understanding of ourselves and the world, and ultimately guide our career choices.
" .....career construction theory assist clients to fully inhabit their lives and become more complete as they sustain themselves and contribute to their communities' [Mark Savickas]
Why bother with Career Construction Theory?
A career counsellor versed in this approach can help the client discern and comprehend their life themes, by working through a series of exercises (eg. narrative or story telling in letter form) to mine their histories, motivations and finding meaning in seemingly disparate jobs over a career. These perspectives are sometimes a challenge to uncover across a string of roles, which is where a skilled career counsellor comes in.
It is also worth noting that CCT sees previous job choices, and possible future roles, as expressions of the often private meaning and essence of who we are as people. Once this essence is uncovered, and sometimes expressed as 'purpose and meaning', it provides a powerful guide to further steps in career construction, and ultimately creating a career that deeply matters to the client and the community in which they live and work.
The three basic constructs of CCT
There are three key concepts that form the foundation of Career Construction Theory:
- Self-Concept: This refers to an individual's understanding of themselves, including their skills, interests, values, and identity.
- Life Themes: These are the recurring patterns or themes that emerge from an individual's life experiences and shape their career goals and aspirations.
- Career Adaptability: This refers to an individual's ability to adjust and navigate through career challenges, changes, and opportunities in a proactive and purposeful manner.
How CCT can help you in your career journey
CCT can be a valuable tool for individuals seeking career guidance for several reasons:
- Focus on Personal Agency: CCT recognises the importance of individual agency in career development, empowering individuals to take control of their own career paths and make informed decisions.
- Emphasis on Meaning and Purpose: By considering an individual's self-concept and life themes, CCT places emphasis on finding meaningful work that aligns with one's values and aspirations.
- Flexibility and Adaptability: In today's rapidly changing job market, career adaptability is essential. CCT equips individuals with the skills to adjust and navigate through various career challenges and changes.
Sarah, a graduate in biology was unsure about her career path. Through the CCT approach, she started by examining her self-concept, acknowledging her passion for environmental conservation, love of outdoor activities, and her ability to teach and inspire others. Reflecting on her life themes, Sarah recognised a recurring pattern of being drawn towards roles where she could educate others about environmental issues.
When faced with career adaptability, she revealed her resilience in facing changes and her readiness to seize opportunities that align with her self-concept and life themes. This introspection, coupled with guidance from a career counselor using the CCT approach, led Sarah to her dream job as an environmental educator. Now, not only does she work in a field that aligns with her passion and skills, but she also contributes positively to society by educating others about the importance of environmental conservation. This illustrates how the CCT approach can help individuals navigate their unique career paths, identifying roles that are not only fulfilling but also serve a greater purpose.
Consider the story of Ajay, an experienced software engineer facing a mid-career crisis. Despite having a successful career in a well-established tech company, Ajay felt unfulfilled and yearned for a change. Applying the CCT approach, he began by revisiting his self-concept, identifying his core competencies in problem-solving and coding, but also realising his deep-rooted interest in music. Analysing his life themes, he uncovered a consistent pattern of integrating creativity into his work, and an enduring aspiration to combine his tech skills with his love for music.
Importantly, Ajay demonstrated a willingness to embrace change despite the potential risks involved. With the assistance of a career counselor using the framework, Ajay decided to transition into the emerging field of music technology. Today, he works as a developer for a startup that creates cutting-edge music software, finding a unique intersection between his tech skills and his passion for music.
Let's delve into the story of Chabindra, a marketing executive who felt stuck in her current job. Despite her achieved success and the comfort of her position, she felt a longing for a more fulfilling role that tapped into her love for health and wellness. Through the lens of CCT, Chabindra began reflecting on her self-concept. She realised her strength in strategic planning and communication, and a strong passion for promoting healthy lifestyles.
Exploring her life themes, she noticed her consistent gravitation towards wellness-related projects in her past roles, her personal commitment to staying healthy, and her motivation to inspire others to do the same.
Chabindra stepped out of her comfort zone and transitioned into a role as a Strategic Planner for a health and wellness startup. In this role, she combines her marketing skills and passion for wellness, creating campaigns that not only promote the company's products but also encourage healthier living.
These cases demonstrate how CCT can help individuals pivot their careers towards roles that are not only professionally rewarding but also personally fulfilling, aligning with their individual values, interests, and skills.
Applying CCT in practice
So how can one apply CCT in real-world situations? Here are some practical tips:
- Understand your self-concept: Take time to reflect on your skills, interests, and values. This can help you gain a better understanding of yourself and what motivates you.
- Identify your life themes: Look for patterns or themes that emerge from your life experiences. These can guide you in uncovering your career goals and aspirations.
- Develop career adaptability: Practise being adaptable by taking on new challenges, learning new skills, and being open to change. This can help you navigate through any career obstacles or changes that may arise.
- Seek guidance: Consider working with a career counsellor or coach who utilises CCT in their practice. They can provide personalised guidance and support as you navigate your career journey.
Career Construction Theory offers a unique perspective on career development, emphasising the individual's role in constructing their own career path. By understanding our self-concept, life themes, and developing career adaptability, we can make informed and purposeful decisions in our career journey. So the next time you are seeking career guidance or making a career change, consider using a career coach who can help you in incorporating CCT into your approach.
Start shaping your career path so that you can live more fully in and through what you do.
Savickas, M.L. (2013). Career Construction Theory and Practice. In S.D. Brown & R.W Lent (Eds.), Career Development and Counselling: Putting Theory and Research to work (pp. 149-181). Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley.
Blustein, D.L., Duffy, R.D., Ferreira Jr., J.A., Cohen-Scali, V., Cinamon, R.G., Allan, B.A., Neault, R.A. (2019). Unpacking the career construct: The perspective of agency, adaptability, and identity. Career Development Quarterly, 67(3), 202-216.
Guichard, J. (2017). The strengths and weaknesses of career construction theory in light of empirical research. International Journal for Educational and Vocational Guidance, 17(2), 121-138.