Whole-Life Career Management: A Counseling Intervention Framework.

Author:Hirschi, Andreas

It is widely recognized that career management and counseling require a consideration of work and nonwork roles. The author presents a career counseling intervention framework to help clients self-direct their careers and attain work-nonwork balance. Based on an action regulation approach, the framework consists of 4 stages: (a) clarifying goals across work and nonwork roles, (b) mapping resources and barriers related to goal attainment, (c) developing action strategies for goal attainment, and (d) monitoring and adapting goal pursuit across work and nonwork goals' The author outlines the theoretical foundations of this framework, provides a case study on how the framework can be applied in individual counseling, and gives examples of specific intervention contents. The framework provides a foundation for career counseling practice to assist clients in managing their careers while taking into account nonwork roles. Researchers can use this framework to gain a better understanding of career self-management from a whole-life perspective.

Keywords: work-nonwork, career counseling, work-life balance, work-family, action regulation


At least since Super introduced his seminal life-span, life-space approach (Super, 1957, 1990), the importance of understanding career development as an active, lifelong process at the intersection of various life roles has shaped the field of career development and counseling. Because of demographic and technological changes and shifting gender norms, there is today an increased need to consider nonwork roles when managing a career (Greenhaus & Kossek, 2014). Career counselors have also been encouraged to more prominently consider with clients the work-family interface, for example, by clarifying the salience of different life roles, increasing social support in work and family, and helping to promote a sense of competence in work and family (Slan-Jerusalim & Chen 2009; Whiston, Campbell, & Maffini, 2012; Whiston & Cinamon, 2015). Consequently, a contemporary approach to career counseling should help clients in managing their careers from a whole-life perspective, which can be defined as a consideration of one's career in the context of one's entire life across work and nonwork roles (DiRenzo, Greenhaus, & Weer, 2015; Litano & Major, 2016). Given the importance of this topic, there is a need to derive specific models of how people can successfully integrate work and other life roles, including frameworks that can be used in career intervention practice (Greenhaus & Kossek, 2014). To address these issues, I present a career counseling intervention framework that can be used to assist individuals in managing their careers while taking into account nonwork roles.

Intervention Approaches to Work-Life Integration

Several intervention approaches exist that aim to help individuals attain better work-life balance, defined as being actively engaged in and having a sense of competence and satisfaction across life roles in accordance with personal values (Wayne, Butts, Casper, & Allen, 2017). Organizational interventions mostly focus on contextual issues or very specific personal resources. For example, such interventions aim to promote personal resources, such as mindfulness (Kiburz, Allen, & French, 2017), or change the work context in terms of increasing job resources and reducing job demands, such as by increasing family-supportive supervisor behaviors, enhancing employees' control over their schedules, or implementing a focus on work results instead of work hours (Hammer, Kossek, Anger, Bodner, & Zimmerman, 2011; Kossek, Hammer, Kelly, & Moen, 2014).

Counseling approaches that assist clients to reflect on work and nonwork roles include career construction (Savickas, 2013) and life design (Savickas, 2012), both of which advocate a holistic view of career development. These approaches help clients in self-construction in all important life roles by becoming aware of the salience of different life roles, defining priorities, identifying supports and cultivating resources, and engaging in activities in different life roles. Also, the integrative life planning approach (Hansen, 2001, 2011) takes a holistic view of career counseling by seeing work in relation to other life roles and helping clients negotiate roles and relationships. Moreover, there are group interventions that aim to help young adults manage the work-family interface by exploring the meaning attributed to work and family roles, providing information on role relationships, and building skills for role management (Cinamon, 2014).

Need for a More Specific Intervention Framework

Several contemporary career counseling frameworks broadly acknowledge the importance of taking a whole-life approach and frequently include a focus on work and nonwork goals and life roles. Nevertheless, existing frameworks are typically not very specific regarding how clients can be assisted in managing their career while considering nonwork roles. Moreover, the frameworks mostly focus more narrowly on reflections on work and nonwork role relationships, negotiating roles and relationships, or managing role boundaries. Although these approaches are all meaningful, they do not sufficiently address how individuals can be assisted in the successful attainment of goals across work and nonwork life domains. This is a potentially important omission because, according to the action regulation model of work-family balance (Hirschi, Shockley, & Zacher, 2019), individuals can attain more work-life balance by actively managing work and nonwork goals through the targeted use of various action regulation strategies. What is lacking in the literature are more specific intervention frameworks that clearly outline how individuals can be assisted in achieving more balance by developing and implementing better action strategies in the active pursuit of personally valued goals across life roles.

To address this issue, I herein propose a framework based on the model by Hirschi et al. (2019) that offers a theoretical account of how people can attain work-nonwork balance through the application of various action strategies and that takes into consideration demands, resources, and barriers in work and nonwork roles. In contrast to other theoretical frameworks, their model focuses on individual actions to achieve balance and sees individuals as active agents who aim to attain centrally valued goals across life roles. The current article contributes to the career counseling intervention literature by deriving specific intervention steps and components based on this general framework. The presented intervention framework adds to existing organizational and career counseling approaches in that it goes beyond promoting specific personal or contextual resources, or helping individuals more specifically in self-construction or role-boundary management. Instead, it more broadly focuses on helping individuals with action regulation in the active pursuit of work and nonwork goals.

Whole-Life Career Management: A Counseling Framework

The framework I propose here is built on an action regulation approach. The action regulation approach sees individuals as exerting agency by developing and selecting goals, mapping the environment for opportunities and constraints, developing action plans and engaging in goal-directed behaviors, monitoring the action regulation process, and processing feedback and adapting accordingly (Frese & Zapf, 1994; Zacher & Frese, 2018). According to the model by Hirschi et al. (2019), people use various action strategies to attain centrally valued aims (i.e., goals) across work and nonwork roles that contribute to a sense of balance. Different action strategies are used depending on available resources, existing barriers, and the time available to attain work and family goals' These strategies include allocating and activating resources, changing resources and barriers, sequencing work and family goals, or revising and developing new work and family goals. Balance then emerges from the sense of competence and satisfaction in different life roles that results from goal engagement, goal progress, and goal attainment across roles (Hirschi et al., 2019).

Based on these theoretical considerations, the proposed framework is built on four key components, or stages, as seen in Figure 1. In these four stages, counselors assist clients in (a) clarifying work and nonwork goals and identifying facilitative and inhibitory linkages between the two; (b) identifying personal as well as environmental resources and barriers related to work and nonwork goal attainment; (c) developing action plans to jointly attain work and nonwork goals; and (d) regularly reviewing actions, goal progress, role expectations, resources, and barriers and adapting goals, action plans, and behaviors accordingly.

Table 1 gives an overview of core aims and possible content of each stage. The four stages are presented in a logical sequence in which interventions should proceed. However, in practice, there can be feedback loops between stages such that insights gained in one stage can be used to better address the aims of a previous stage. Hence, it is possible to use the stages described below in a more flexible order in practice, for example, by returning to clarifying goals after the development of action strategies has shown that existing goals are unattainable or ill-defined.

Stage 1: Clarifying Work and Nonwork Goals and Their Linkages

Goal clarification across life roles. In the first stage, counselors assist clients in developing and setting goals in work and nonwork life roles. They also help clients attain a clearer understanding of how work and nonwork goals are related, including the potentially positive and negative effects across goals in different life domains. Goals are at the basis of self-directed behaviors (Zacher & Frese, 2018) and direct attention and effort toward...

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