Introduction to the special issue: career development and intervention in Chinese contexts.

Author:Fan, Weiqiao
Position:Special Issue: Career Development and Intervention in Chinese Contexts

Career development and career intervention have been affected by globalization in culture, politics, and economics. Career development among Chinese people, especially youth, shows particular characteristics with the influences of Chinese cultural features such as collectivistic values. The authors review the challenges of career development and intervention in different types of Chinese societies, including a shortage of indigenous theoretical models and assessment instruments; a lack of professional training and education for researchers, practitioners, educators, and counselors; and less positive attitudes toward career counseling and education. The authors then overview the content of this special issue, focusing on career development and intervention of Chinese people living in Shanghai, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, the United States, Canada, and Singapore. The articles address specific challenges, barriers, and features of career intervention, education, and development in these Chinese societies. Approaches and strategies for improving career development and intervention in these different contexts are discussed.


Globalization is often viewed as the transition from local economic exchanges to international models of commercial enterprises. It is a movement that has been aided by improvements in technologies and air travel, growth of the Internet and multinational corporations, and the global mobility of capital and labor. Globalization has also had an impact on human psychological development (Arnett, 2002), affecting the export and internationalization of ideas, models, theories, and practices, as well as individual career development. Within the context and current era of globalization, this special issue of The Career Development Quarterly (CDQ) examines career intervention and career education in Chinese contexts.

As one example of global mobility related to this special issue, the number of Chinese students enrolled in colleges and universities in the United States has increased from 54,466 in 1999-2000 to more than 274,439 in 2013-2014, a 500% increase (Institute of International Education, 2014). The articles in this special issue therefore address questions such as the following: Which Western models of career development and education have been applied in Chinese contexts? How well do these models work? What cultural adaptations or accommodations have had to be made to ensure that these models are culturally appropriate and effective? Are there culture-specific approaches that have proven to be effective? Embedded within the framework of cross-cultural psychology (Gelfand, Lyons, & Lun, 2011), the articles in this special issue examine the current status of career education and intervention in Chinese societies.

Two Types of Chinese Societies

In general, two types of Chinese societies exist in the world. One type comprises mainly Chinese populations, such as in mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau. Chinese culture characterizes the practice of career intervention in these societies. Accordingly, the corresponding challenges and problems of career development are very different from those in Western contexts. The second type of Chinese society consists of a great number of Chinese immigrants who often play important roles in the host society and can be defined as a relatively independent cultural group. Chinese American immigrants, Chinese Canadian immigrants, and Chinese Singaporean immigrants represent typical examples of this kind of Chinese society. In contrast to the first group, these Chinese immigrants have been living in a social and cultural context where Western and Eastern values converge. Accordingly, the influences of multiple cultures on career intervention are often very obvious (Leung, Hou, Gati, & Li, 2011).

In fact, for the first type of Chinese society, globalization might improve the influence of multiple cultures on individuals' lives and career development. For the second type of Chinese society, people live in a multicultural situation; therefore, with the advanced development of economies and societies in Chinese settings, Chinese individuals from different settings may meet more serious conflicts when Western value orientations confront their collectivistic values inherent in their cultural contexts (Hwang, 2009). Because young Chinese people are more likely than older Chinese to face important life-career decisions and stand at the confluence of Eastern and Western cultures, they may more likely experience such value conflicts (Kwan, 2009).

Challenges to Career Intervention in Chinese Societies

Researchers, practitioners, educators, consultants, policy makers, and students across a full array of professions, including counseling, psychology, education, and business and industry, often vary in their definitions and uses of terms like career intervention, career education, vocational guidance, career counseling, and life design. In the new paradigm of life design (Nota & Rossier, 2015; Savickas, 2011; Savickas et al., 2009), Mark Savickas and his collaborators conceptually clarify these constructs from an historical perspective. They identify three cornerstones of career theory and intervention: individual differences or traits, career development or tasks, and life-career design or themes. With these three factors, three pivotal periods of career theory and intervention are clarified. The first is vocational guidance, characterized by enhancing self-knowledge, increasing occupational information, and matching self to fitting occupations (e.g., Holland, 1973). The second is career education, characterized by assessing individuals' developmental statuses, orienting to imminent developmental tasks, and developing coping attitudes, beliefs, and competencies (e.g., Lent & Brown, 2013; Super, 1990). The third is career construction and life design, characterized by constructing a career story, reconstructing a plot and theme, and coconstructing a life portrait consistent with the life-career design paradigm (e.g., Savickas, 2011; Savickas et al., 2009). Across these three paradigms, the central goal of career counseling shifts from choosing an occupation or charting a career path to championing a meaningful work life that matters to the person and to society.

The developmental stages of career intervention and education align with transformations in society, economics, and cultures in the Western world. For example, securing a stable position is a key vocational goal for Americans in the first half of 20th century. Therefore, the assumption of individual differences or traits was mainly emphasized in that era. In contrast, in the new century, a changing society and unstable labor market demand that individuals learn how to adapt and design their life-careers (e.g., Vuolo, Staff, & Mortimer, 2012). These different paradigms have created some challenges, including the fact that much of the career-related research has been based on Western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic (WEIRD) samples, which leads to the problem of cultural congruence in applying Western models in Eastern cultures. Even though we cannot claim that the three aforementioned paradigms of career theory and intervention in the Western world are largely experienced in each Chinese society, some important features and challenges of career education or intervention are often affected by continuous interactions across cultures because of globalization. For example, current career theories and techniques are rooted in assumptions of stability of personal...

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