Group Career Construction Counseling: A Mixed-Methods Intervention Study With High School Students.

Author:Maree, Jacobus Gideon

This study investigated the value of group career construction counseling in a high school context. The author used purposive sampling to select participants who had sought career counseling. A mixed-methods intervention study design was also used. Participants (N = 57) completed the Career Adapt-Abilities Scale-South Africa (CAAS-SA) before the 1st and after the 2nd intervention. The Career Interest Profile and the Maree Career Matrix were used to facilitate the intervention, and the CAAS-SA was used to test the research hypotheses. The findings revealed that the boys' and the girls' career adaptability had improved meaningfully on all of the CAAS-SA subscales. No gender-based differences were found. However, differences were detected between both the boys' and the girls' pre--and posttest Control and Confidence subscale scores. The findings demonstrate the value of career construction counseling in group settings. More longitudinal research with diverse participants is needed.

Keywords: group career construction counseling, mixed-methods intervention study, integrated qualitative-quantitative approach, Career Interest Profile, Maree Career Matrix


Challenges posed by changes in the world of work (Maree, in press) have stressed the need for new approaches to career counseling around the world to deal with increasing unemployment and underemployment (Graham, Hjorth, & Lehdonvirta, 2017; International Labour Organization, 2017). According to Chiaradonna (2017), the biggest challenges facing workers today are the need to become and remain employable instead of merely finding suitable employment, the ability to blend work and life roles, and the willingness to embark on career journeys that will lead to lifelong personal growth and enhanced self-awareness. The impact of these challenges underscores the need for career counseling at all levels to prepare people for the world of work. Helping students decide on a field of study after having finished school is particularly important. Doyle (2017) argued that frequent moves from one job to another make it difficult to maintain balance in one's work life, and this is compounded by the fact that competencies and abilities that once were sought after have now become obsolete and redundant.

In many parts of the world, traditional career assessment, which is based on test results and the recommendation of a few fields of study by an "expert" career counselor, is still the order of the day. However, over the past 3 decades or so, newer approaches have started to gain traction in developing countries. More specifically, qualitative or storied approaches in addition to quantitative methods have received much attention and are being implemented (Hartung & Santilli, 2018). A thread running through these approaches is the importance of helping people identify central life themes, which can be used to help them identify appropriate careers that can incorporate these themes in their career lives.

The present study examines the usefulness of career counseling at the end of students' high school careers as a means of enhancing their career adaptability, career resilience, employability, and chances of finding sustainable decent work (Hartung & Cadaret, 2017). The emphasis is on devising a career counseling approach that not only takes into account the fluidity of the current job market but also considers people's career-life identities. Such an approach could help foster innovative thinking in career counseling theory and practice and encourage the examination of different work selves or career selves (Oyserman, Bybee, & Terry, 2006; Savickas, 2011a). I adopted life design counseling, which is premised largely on principles of career construction (Savickas, 2005, 2011a, 2015a, 2015b) and self-construction (Guichard, 2009), as the framework for the present study (Savickas, 2015a, 2015b). This approach promotes critical self-reflection, reflexivity, positive change, and forward movement (Hartung, 2013; Maree, 2013; Savickas, 2016).

Career Construction

Career construction counseling helps people draw on their own career-life stories, or autobiographies, to shape their careers (Savickas, 2001, 2005). Career construction counseling crystallizes in dynamic, action-orientated career interventions during which past memories are revisited, reframed, and reinterpreted in the context of present career concerns. Past, sometimes painful, memories are transformed in a way that inspires action--past experiences are converted into future inspiration and affirmative aspirations. By eliciting people's career-life stories and helping them listen to and hear themselves and relive these stories, counselors enable them to connect with their past and identify their central life themes. In other words, an "autobiographical bridge" is constructed between people's past, their present, and their future--one that facilitates construction, deconstruction, reconstruction, and coconstruction of their sense of self and identity and prepares them for any future transitions in their personal and career lives (Savickas, 2011a, 2011b).


Guichard's (2005) self-construction theory is closely aligned with career construction counseling and its intervention dynamics. Self-construction theory also holds that narrating stories of key career-life experiences and linking those stories to feasible future career-life projects enables people to (re)construct their often extremely fluid career-life identities. The aim is to help people achieve a more fluid, cohesive, and authentic sense of career-life identity that will help them make meaning of and find purpose in their career lives. Such stable senses of self are evidenced in explicit and implicit responses to questions such as "Who am I?" "Where am I?" "Where am I going?" "Why do I work?" and "What meaning does my life have?" (Guichard, 2005).

Career Adaptability

Del Corso (2013), Hartung (2015), and Savickas (2015b) related career adaptability to recurring choice making, transitions, and dealing with work-related traumas in uncertain and fluid occupational environments. According to Hartung (2015) and Savickas (2005, 2015a), each of the four Cs of career adaptability (i.e., concern, control, curiosity, and confidence) can be associated with idiosyncratic questions as well as certain beliefs and attitudes. Concern is associated with the question, "Do I have a future?" It denotes awareness of, involvement in, and active preparation for one's future. Control is associated with the question, "Who owns my future?" and can be seen in the extent to which people connect with and exercise control over their future. Curiosity is associated with the question, "What do I want to do with my future?" This aspect of career adaptability can be seen in the way people obtain self-knowledge and career-related information in order to enter (fit into) the occupational world. Finally, confidence is associated with the question, "Can I do it?" and can be seen in the extent to which people display the level of self-efficacy required to deal with perceived and real difficulties in achieving career goals.

Group-Based Career Counseling Interventions

The usefulness of traditional group career counseling has also been demonstrated and confirmed by many researchers and practitioners, including Mair (1989), who stressed the inherent value of sharing one's stories with others in group-based formats. Kuijpers, Meijers, and Gundy (2011) underscored the power of dialogical interaction to enhance students' reflexivity. This also applies to the potential of group discussions to enhance career decision-making and adaptability. Likewise, Hayes (2001) confirmed the value of group career counseling for school learners because it provides them with a space that facilitates expression of their concerns, feelings, and opinions and also enables them to manage their career concerns and expedite their self- and career construction.

The intervention used in the present study was based on several principles, including those advocated by Santos (2004), which were adapted for the purposes of the present research. First, all communication should occur on the basis of unconditional acceptance and in an empathic, respectful, nonconfrontational, and well-organized manner. Second, counselors should assume the role of mediators, encouragers of dialogue and discussion, and collaborators--not experts on participants. Third, counselors should elicit participants' career-life stories and promote the construction of autobiographical bridges between their past, present, and future. Fourth, counselors should advance participants' capacity to examine situations in an emotionally and socially intelligent manner. Finally, it is important to establish the ground rules for group career counseling at the outset. This was all done in the intervention discussed here.

Integrated Assessment of Group Career Counseling Efficacy

Inventory scores and personal stories should be used as part of a comprehensive assessment and counseling intervention to check for the constancy of the themes identified (Hartung, 2010). Although a dire need exists for research on the effect of group career counseling in general (Whiston, Li, Mitts, & Wright, 2017), conducting research on the value of group career counseling interventions for career construction using an integrated qualitative-quantitative approach in particular is indicated (Hartung, 2010). It is particularly important to devise and implement assessment instruments that can be used to facilitate this approach so as to accentuate the passage from using test scores in isolation to using and blending scores and stories (McMahon & Patton, 2002). An aim of career construction counseling is to empower clients to recount their autobiographies in a way that allows the counselor and client alike to listen to (construct), "uncode" or unpack (deconstruct), and clarify or...

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