Career Development Theories
( Trait and Factors Theories)
What is career development theory?
• It is a set of concepts, propositions, and ideas
that provides us with insights into what is
believed to be true about the process of career
• They are embedded in Parson’s (1909)
vocational counseling paradigm of matching
individual traits with requirements of
• A key finding was potential sets of reinforces
in the work environment that enhance job
• Among the earliest theorists on vocational
counseling, Parsons (1909) maintained that
vocational guidance is accomplished:
1. studying the individual
2. surveying occupations
3. matching the individual with the occupation
• This theory greatly influenced the study of job
descriptions and job requirements as theorists
attempted to predict future job success by
measuring job-related traits.
• The development of assessment instruments
and the refinement of occupational
information are closely associated with the
• Williamson was a prominent advocate of trait-
and-factor counseling. Williamson’s
counseling procedures maintained the early
impetus of the trait and factor approach that
evolved from Parsons’s work.
• This straightforward approach to counseling
contained six sequential steps:
• The following assumptions of the trait-and-
factor approach also raise concerns about this
(1) There is a single career goal for everyone.
(2) Career decisions are based primarily on
measured abilities (Herr, Cramer, & Niles,
Will trait-and-factor theory be
revitalized for the 21st century?
• Prediger (1995) suggests that person-
environment fit theory has indeed enhanced
the potential for a closer relationship between
assessment and career counseling; assessment
information can provide the basis for
developing career possibilities into realities.
• it was referred to as the theory of work
adjustment (TWA). In 1991, it was revised
once again to include descriptions of the
differences between personality structure and
personality style and between personality
style and adjustment style.
• According to Dawis and Lofquist, individuals
bring their requirements to a work
environment, and the work environment
makes its requirements of individuals. To
survive, the individual and the work
environment must achieve some degree of
Four key points of Dawis’s and Lofquist’s
theory are summarized as follows:
(1) work personality and work environment
should be amenable,
(2) individual needs are most important in
determining an individual’s fit into the work
(3) individual needs and the reinforce system that
characterizes the work setting are important
aspects of stability and tenure,
(4) job placement is best accomplished through a
match of worker traits with the requirements of
a work environment.
John Holland’s Typology
• According to John Holland (1992), individuals
are attracted to a given career because of
their particular personalities and numerous
variables that constitute their backgrounds.
• First, career choice is an expression of, or an
extension of, personality into the world of
work, followed by subsequent identification
with specific occupational stereotypes.
• Congruence of one’s view of self with
occupational preference establishes what
Holland refers to as the modal personal style.
• If the individual has developed a strong
dominant orientation, satisfaction is probable
in a corresponding occupational environment.
If, however, the orientation is one of
indecision, the likelihood of satisfaction
• The key concept behind Holland’s
environmental models and environmental
influences is that individuals are attracted to a
particular role demand of an occupational
environment that meets their personal needs
and provides them with satisfaction.
• Holland proposed that personality types can
be arranged in a coded system following his
modal-personal-orientation themes such as:
• R (realistic occupation)
• I (investigative)
• A (artistic)
• S (social)
• E (enterprising)
• C (conventional)
Holland’s hexagonal model introduces
five key concepts.
1. Consistency, relates to personality as well as
2. Differentiation. Individuals who fit a pure
personality type will express little
resemblance to other types.
3. Identity, describes those individuals who have
a clear and stable picture of their goals.
4. Congruence, occurs when an individual’s
personality type matches the environment.
5. Calculus he proposed that the theoretical
relationships between types of occupational
environments lend themselves to empirical
• In the process of career decision making,
Holland postulated that the hierarchy or level
of attainment in a career is determined
primarily by individual self evaluations.
• According to Holland, the stability of career
choice depends primarily on the dominance of
• Holland’s theory is primarily descriptive, with
little emphasis on explaining the causes and
the timing of the development of hierarchies
of the personal modal styles. He concentrated
on the factors that influence career choice
rather than on the developmental process
that leads to career choice.
• The RIASEC model has been tested with a
wide range of ethnically diverse individuals,
including those from different socioeconomic
backgrounds, and with international groups.
• Holland’s theory emphasizes the accuracy of
self-knowledge and the career information
necessary for career decision making.
What Counselor’s should do?
• Counselors have to assess the client’s ability to
perform work related tasks.
• Counselors have to assess the overall job
• Counselors have to be aware of how stable or
permanent a job will be.
• Be able to learn a client’s needs and values and
factor that in to how well they will adjust to work.
Implication for Counselors
• Relies too heavily on assessments and test
• Too simple
• Career goals primarily based on abilities
• Counselors own values and judgments toward
• Zunker, V. G, Career counseling: A Hollistic Approach