An individual mixed-evaluation method for career intervention.

Author:Jacquin, Philippe

Careers have been affected by economic globalization for 3 decades. Some workers previously in stable employment now have to deal with professional insecurity (Kalleberg, 2009). The digital revolution has questioned the traditional view of a linear career (Savickas, 2012). In fact, the number of jobs during one's professional life is proportional to the number of professional transitions that a person undergoes. Consequently, the demand for career counseling is increasing in developed countries. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (2004a), economic issues linked to career counseling have become a cause for concern to policy makers in these nations. As far as Europe is concerned, decision makers need to know whether career counseling helps people to manage their careers efficiently (Plant, 2012). In other words, they expect practitioners to provide evidence of the efficiency of career counseling interventions (Council of the European Union, 2008).

Several North American meta-analyses have shown that career counseling is efficient and effective (Brown & Ryan Krane, 2000; Oliver & Spokane, 1988; Spokane & Oliver, 1983; Whiston, Sexton, & Lasoff, 1998). Research concerning the effectiveness of career counseling focuses on its outcomes and processes (Whiston & Oliver, 2005). According to the psychotherapy definition of Hill and Williams as cited in Heppner and Heppner (2003), "'career counseling process' denotes the overt and covert thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of both client and counselor during a career counseling session. Conversely, 'outcome' denotes changes that occur directly or indirectly as a result of career counseling" (p. 430). However, evaluation studies often use methods that focus mainly on outcomes of career counseling. Thus, the pre-post design is widespread (e.g., Davidson, Nitzel, Duke, Baker, & Bovaird, 2012; Fouad, Cotter, & Kantamneni, 2009; Masdonati, Massoudi, & Rossier, 2009). For this kind of protocol, subjects are randomly assigned to an experimental group or a control group (Bernes, Bardick, & Orr, 2007; H. Hughes & Gration, 2009; Maguire, 2004). However, these researchers do not evaluate the processes involved in career counseling (Swanson, 1995). In fact, evaluation studies rarely use the client's speech. The distinction between quantitative and qualitative evaluation methods was also highlighted when the American Psychological Association (APA) Presidential Task Force on Evidence-Based Practice (2006) invited APA members to evaluate their interventions. Qualitative psychology researchers have criticized the methodological recommendations of evidence-based practice, which they claim pay insufficient attention to the contribution of qualitative research (Wendt & Slife, 2007). To overcome this paradigmatic gap between positivism and constructivism, Creswell and Piano Clark (2006) advocated using both quantitative and qualitative data. According to Johnson, Onwuegbuzie, and Turner (2007):

Mixed methods research is the type of research in which a researcher or team of researchers combines elements of qualitative and quantitative research approaches (e.g., use of qualitative and quantitative viewpoints, data collection, analysis, inference techniques) for the broad purposes of breadth and depth of understanding and corroboration, (p. 123)

Mixed-methods research has been used in career counseling with a pre-post design (Perdrix, Stauffer, Masdonati, Massoudi, & Rossier, 2012; Perry, DeWine, Duffy, & Vance, 2007). Only Kirschner, Hoffman, and Hill (1994) collected quantitative and qualitative data in a longitudinal case study to evaluate the outcomes and processes at work during and after the career counselor intervention.

An evaluation method based on a case-study method seems to be suited to the need for carcer counselors to assess their practices. Its use is encouraged (Borckardt et al., 2008), particularly to understand changes (Hillard, 1993). Despite the richness and usefulness of data collected at each meeting between the client and the counselor, case studies do not collect information about the changes occurring throughout the intervention. However, a single-subject design using time series grasps behavioral changes and intraindividual variability throughout the intervention (Juhel, 2008). Furthermore, Warwar and Greenburg (2000) argued that "merely knowing that change has occurred simply is not enough, but instead we need to look at how that change has occurred" (p. 571). A combination of quantitative and qualitative data gives a better perception of how an individual changes. For Morell (1979), qualitative data are used to verify the content of the quantitative data collected and vice versa. In other words, knowledge of processes related to outcomes helps in understanding the changes and vice versa.

In France, Canada, and Switzerland, the approach to career counseling for adults is called career guidance and skills assessment. Research has shown that this approach decreases vocational indecision (Massoudi, Masdonati, Clot-Siegrist, Franz-Pousaz, & Rossier, 2008) and increases self-knowledge (Bernaud, Gaudron, & Lemoine, 2006) and self-efficacy (Michaud, Savard, Paquette, & Lamarche, 2011). The latter psychological construct refers to the social cognitive theory of Bandura (1986) and especially to its development in the career counseling field: social cognitive career theory (Brown & Lent, 1996). Throughout their interventions, career counselors should be particularly attentive to the evolution of career decision self-efficacy (CDSE) because a high level of it allows their clients to cope with difficulties and implement their professional projects (Lent, 2013).

Purpose of the Study

To our knowledge, no research has been published concerning the evaluation method for practitioners using time series focusing on the outcomes and the processes of intervention in career counseling. Therefore, the objective of our research was to develop an evaluation method combining time series and life narratives that can be used by career counselors. For this, our main focus was on the client's CDSE throughout the intervention. It was expected that the statistical analysis of time series should show the evolution of CDSE over time and the client's life narrative that gives insight into changes for time series. We hypothesized that verbatim speech contributes to the results of the career counseling intervention. Finally, we aimed to test an evaluation method where career counselors could thus analyze their interventions as well as describe and demonstrate their practice to clients, employers, and policy makers.



Client. Eulalie (a pseudonym) was a 30-year-old French woman living in France. Six years ago she graduated from business school and worked as a sales executive in the retail industry. In accompanying her partner to another region, she resigned 2 months prior to counseling and experienced her first professional transition. She and her partner lived together as husband and wife and had no children.

Career counselor. Samantha (a pseudonym) was a 32-year-old French woman who lived in France. She graduated with a master's degree in work psychology and had practiced career counseling for 8 years. She worked for a career development agency for the last 2 years. Her intervention lasted 6 weeks with a 1-hour appointment each week. The aim of her intervention is to help clients in career transition to find a new profession.


In developing our mixed-evaluation method, we considered use of the Career Decision Self-Efficacy Scale (Taylor & Betz, 1983). However, we opted for a self-perception questionnaire used by researchers in France (Ferrieux & Carayon, 1998) and in Switzerland (Filler & Bangerter, 2007) that more specifically assesses the effects of career guidance and skills assessment in a francophone context. We simplified the questionnaire by retaining only five items related to career decision making self-efficacy: (a) "Today, you feel able to identify your professional competencies"; (b) "Today, you feel able to identify your interpersonal skills"; (c) "Today, you feel able to define your career goals"; (d) "Today, you feel able to speak about your career plan"; (e) "Today, you feel able to develop a career plan." The use of five items avoids repetition (Robins, Hendin, & Trzesniewski, 2001) and tedious...

To continue reading