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Additional definitions, disciplines & perspectives

3 additional areas will be covered here:

Additional definitions of career

Additional disciplines

Additional types of career development theories

1/ Additional disciplines
Michael Arthur and others have suggested that a wider range of disciplines has much to contribute to the study of career development. The following by no means definitive list will help to navigate this growing field.

Becker (1975/1993) developed a human capital theory of labour economics. This theory of career development continues to have great influence in policy and management circles.

Organisational and management studies
Gunz & Peiperl's (2007) overview of career studies from a broadly organisational and management studies perspective has been an important contribution to the field. Arthur, Inkson & Pringle (1999) is also relevant.

Cultural studies
Willis's (1977) classic study of working-class boys. This study has been criticised from the left and the right but remains valuable for its exploration of the cultural celebration that takes 'the lads' as far as the factory gates.

Thomas (1999) provides an overview of work through an historical and cultural lens.

Religious and spirituality studies
Bloch & Richmond (1997) explore some links between spirit, work and career development.

2/ Other types of career development theories
As indicated in the introduction, there is more than one type of career development theory. The purpose of this section is to introduce a second type of career development theory. These theories are essentially aspirational in character and consist of claims about what self and others should do in order to live more successfully. They are often called theories of career management or models of career education, guidance and coaching. 5 examples are shown below drawing from a range of discipline areas. Each of these theories is either explictly or implicitly based on the kinds of career development theories we have already encountered in this module. This is best illustrated by 2 examples:

  1. The DOTS model of career education and guidance identified (row 1) is based on ideas from Holland's person-environment fit approach, Super's life span development theory and K. Roberts' opportunity structure theory.
  2. The Career Self-management Behaviours (row 4) approach to career management draws from a range of career development theories including Becker's human capital theory of labour economics.

(Law & Watts 1977)

Self awareness Opportunity awareness Decision learning Transition learning  
Career Competencies
(DeFillippi & Arthur 1996)
Knowing why Knowing how Knowing whom    
Planned Happenstance
(Mitchell, Levin & Krumboltz 1999)
Curiosity Persistence Flexibility Optimism Risk taking

Career Self-management Behaviours
(King 2004)

Positioning Influencing Boundary managing    

Career Competencies for the Modern Career
(Kuijpers & Scheerens 2006)

Career reflection Work exploration Career control Self-presentation  


This is just a selection taken from a large academic and popular literature in this area. There are many more examples in the on-line journals and on the 'self-help' shelves of high street bookstores. These perspectives can be helpful as they can help ourselves and others to surface our own preconceptions about career management. They can be used to help 'read' the career development strategies of individuals.

These perspectives can however also be unhelpful for 4 main reasons.

  1. They can limit creativity i.e. the ability of career development faciliators to develop their own practices.
  2. They can be used didactically to tell clients what to do. This often happens when one alone is used to design a whole career learning programme or inform a career coaching and counselling interaction.
  3. The ideas underpinning some of the popular self-help approaches are not stated. This can mean they are weakly theorised.
  4. The suggestions made for living a more successful life are often quite simplistic.