John Krumboltz Model for Career Development

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JohnKrumboltz Model for Career Development

JohnKrumboltz Model for Career Development

JohnKrumboltz stands out among the other leading career theorists as histheory centers on social learning as the main ingredient duringcareer counseling. He contends that individuals have markeddifferences on genetic traits and as such are exposed to verydifferent opportunities to learn from or fail to get any as aconsequence of their economic, social, and the prevailing culturalcircumstances in the place and time they exist (Sharf,2016).Subsequently, such learning experiences are in turn synthesized byevery one of us, and they direct our thinking process about what bestdecisions and actions on a career to pursue. Therefore, Krumboltztheory adopts the cognitive behavioral framework that also contendsthat regardless of our genetic traits, how we view any event in ourlives is what primarily determines our reactions rather than theevent itself dictating our actions. As a result, by proposing SocialLearning Theory, Krumboltz enriches the field of career counseling ashe determines why people tend to make individual career choices thatexemplify the significance of cognitions that entails knowing andthinking as well as their behavior that is determined by theiractions. The Social Learning Theory thus provides good techniques inhelping clients make career decisions besides aiding careercounselors understand the main factors that propel individuals tochoose their particular careers.

Analysisof Krumboltz’s Theories on Career Development

Thefirst factor that underpins the Social Learning Theory according toJohn Krumboltz is Genetic Endowment which he perceives as traits anindividual possess innately or through inheritance without beingacquired through social learning such as susceptibility to differentillnesses and physical appearances. Krumboltz admits that some of usare innately born with exceptional prowess in various fields such asmusic, sport or arts thus the higher a person’s genetic abilitiesinclines them towards a particular field, the more likely they willbe open to learning and teaching about it. The second factor isEnvironmental Conditions and circumstances that are not under one’scontrol such as political, social, economic and climaticconsiderations. For instance, social factors in every society have asignificant impact on the career options that are available whileEducational conditions are determined by both individual and socialfactors. Environmental factors also include Occupational Conditionssince people have little power in controlling the number and natureof existing employment opportunities in the market. The third factoris Learning Experiences, and Krumboltz notes that most career choicesare often as a result of one’s past unique learning experiences.Further, perceives that there are two main kinds of learningexperiences, the first is Instrumental Learning Experiences whichcomprise of three components: Antecedent any condition that peoplerespond to, Behaviors and Consequences. Therefore, throughinstrumental learning, if a student gets an A grade in a particularsubject, they are more likely to continue studying it harder ascompared to when they perform dismally. The next kind of learning isAssociative Learning Experiences which occurs when one can connect anearlier neutral event with one that is either negative or positive.The fourth factor is Task Approach skills which state that anindividual’s ability to generate alternatives, set goals, acquirecareer information and values clarification mainly depend on pastexperiences and the subsequent impact of the task outcome (Krumboltz,Foley &amp Cotter, 2013).

Krumboltz’stheory also focuses on self-observation and generalization tendenciesof individuals about their values, abilities, interests, and theirsurroundings which in turn determine their career choices. Therefore,Social Learning Theory enables career counselors to help clientattain a more fulfilling life by allowing them to be cognizant ofthemselves and their environment. In this sense, clients should seekto expand on their interests and capabilities without basing theircareer decisions just on the current environmental factors. Clientsshould also be ready to encounter a change in tasks without assumingthat their chosen occupations are stable. Lastly, Krumboltz proposesthat clients during counseling should be empowered to take the rightactions on their careers other than a mere diagnosis from thecounselor.

Krumboltzalso introduces the theory of planned happenstance which posits thatit is okay not always to have a plan for one’s future career sinceunplanned events in life have the potential to direct us to good andfulfilling careers. Therefore, the duty is upon the counselors tohelp clients recognize and incorporate chance events in their livesso that they fully exploit them to arrive at their destined career.Moreover, the planned happenstance theory is encouraging as itsupports indecision among clients by replacing it with being openminded. However, he points that the real challenge with the theory isfor the counselor to inspire curiosity, persistence, flexibility,optimism and risk taking among clients to seize the chance events intheir lives efficiently (Krumboltz,2015).


Leong(2014) notes that unlikethe traditional career counseling models which focused on helpingclients determine a career path, Krumboltz’s model is welcomed asit accepts indecision as an acceptable approach since today’s lifeis filled with lots of complexities and it is almost impossible topredict the future. No one can precisely foresee how interests willshift or how new careers will emerge in the future. In light of this,Social Learning Theory of Career Development proposes that we allshould not purpose to accurately ascertain what we will be doing infuture or where we will be doing it. Instead, it emphasizes the needto create more life opportunities by individual actions withoutprimarily knowing in advance where such actions may lead to or whatcareer opportunities they may bring. Admittedly, I concur thatfrequently unexpected events occur when we act to further ourselvesbecause new activities are tried, new people are met, and we obtainfeedback from every action taken while doing nothing creates nothinghence we should be willing to act regularly.

Gaininggreater control over happenstance

WhileSocial Learning Theory recognizes that most life events andcircumstances are out of a client’s control, they, however, havethe ability to create, identify and subsequently seize anyopportunities that arise from unplanned events as James’ lifedemonstrates. “James was a first born in a loving African-Americanfamily of five that inculcated in him virtues of respect, honesty,and hard work. Although his parents themselves did not attainuniversity degrees, they never ceased to emphasize the significanceof learning to James and his siblings. Soon, James acquiredmathematical skills such that before turning three he was alreadyable to count to 100, when he turned nine he was always ahead of hismath class and thus found the classes to be boring. When he got tofifth grade his math teacher noticed his mathematical aptitude anddetermined that he needed more challenge to make mathematics moreinteresting and fun to him hence he was often asked to tutor some ofhis classmates during the hour for independent study. Through the newexperience, James discovered that he loved assisting his classmatesacquire mathematical skills just like him.”

PerceivingJames’ case from Social Learning and Unplanned Happenstance theory,it may not be clear what made him excellent in mathematics. Perhapshis mother ensured he was able to count at an early age or maybe theskill was innately acquired. However, it is apparent that he waslucky to have encountered a teacher who recognized his abilities andasked him to teach his classmates. By seizing such unplanned turn ofevents, James discovered his love for teaching others.

UnplannedHappenstance as Career Opportunities

Krumboltz’smodel perceives that clients should consider their previousexperiences as vital lessons for careful determination of currentactions. Thus, unplanned events should not be viewed as unexplainedaccidents in life but rather as career opportunities that could leadthem to more satisfying life. Moreover, since satisfying life tendsto be relative, counselors must listen keenly to clients to identifytheir activities from the past and present that mostly energize them.Also, since career counseling has become complex because the constantdownsizings, outsourcing, mergers and acquisition, clients must alsobe encouraged to always be on a journey of lifelong learning thatleads to self-discovery (Swanson&amp Fouad, 2014).

Krumboltzposits that learning process is either associative or instrumental.As such, when a client takes action and can observe what possibleconsequences their actions bring forth such as positive or negativefeedback from others they get to know what to pursue in future. Jamesdiscovered that being excellent in mathematics had positive rewardssuch as topping his class in the subject and being asked to tutor hisclassmates. Besides, he felt good for being recognized by his teacherand also loved seeing his classmates who were weak in mathematicsimprove because of the tutoring efforts. Meanwhile, associativelearning results when an individual can establish a correlationbetween two stimuli or phenomena. By watching and listening to othersrespond to different events, associative learning results hence forJames mathematical competency and enjoyment were associated. However,he observed that those classmates who often attained poor grades inmathematics had begun hating it but later loved it when theyunderstood it better following his tutoring.

TheImpact of Genetic and Environmental Factors

Factorssuch as physical traits, abilities or disabilities, aptitude, birthlocation, birth family and the available resources and theexperiences lived through provide learning to clients thus determinestheir skills and how they approach tasks. “Because of theopportunity to begin tutoring others early in life, James nurturedthe ability to convey complex information easily and subsequentlyestablished valuable relationships with his peers besides developingrespect for them.”

Self-Observationsand Evaluations

Whenencouraging clients to embark on a lifelong journey of learning, itis crucial that they continually perform self-evaluation andobservations. Therefore, the counselor should be cognizant thatpeople tend to generalize their performance by comparing it to otherpeople’s performance or with their earlier performance.Furthermore, clients also have a tendency to generalize theirinterests according to actions and activities that offer them themost personal fulfillment. As a result, the counselor should alsoknow that generalizations that result from self- observation, andevaluation may not always be accurate. For instance, James accuratelyobserved and generalized that he was good at mathematics because hetopped his class. However, suppose he burned his first omelet perhapshe could have inaccurately generalized that “I am such a terriblecook.” Self-evaluation and generalization have a great impact indetermining future actions. “Therefore, when James got to highschool, having generalized that he was good in mathematics andfurther encouragement from his high school counselor to apply to ascience and mathematics college, he applied and was accepted at MIT.However, as a precaution, his math teacher informed him to preparefor a tough competition since nearly all students at MIT were equallyexcellent in science and math just like him. Thus, James startedwondering if he could excel in college as well.”

Determiningsuccess probability in particular careers

Individual’spast learning experiences and the generalizations about their worldand abilities enables them to predict the likelihood of enjoying andexcelling at specific jobs. However, having a limited worldviewpredisposes many to believe that some skills or interests may not bevaluable. Therefore, counselors should assist the clients inperceiving their actions as experiments thus if they do not find themrewarding then they can freely pursue other career alternatives.Also, it is imperative to note that the world is constantly changingand new career opportunities are always emerging unlike in theprevious generations when one could do one job in the same companyuntil their retirement. Job security is more elusive today than everhence any unplanned event that could lead to new paths shouldimmediately be seized. “Upon joining college during the firstsemester, one of James’ professors asked him to be a member of themath club. While interacting with the club’s members, he metAlexander, who exposed him to the fascinating world of softwaredevelopment. After gaining more insight in computer programming, hesoon changed his major from mathematics to software engineering.”

Committingto Lifelong learning

Krumboltzproposes that counselors advise clients to understand that theircareer indecision is open-mindedness as they identify pasthappenstance events and the actions that led to great outcomes sincesuch events are the key to finding more fulfilling careers. Further,clients should be encouraged to take more actions which in turn leadsto more unplanned happenstance (Brown,2015).Particular actions by the clients such as looking out for volunteeropportunities, job openings, attending training workshops and talkingwith friends and colleagues about their aspirations may create newopportunities never thought of before. As such, after identifyingactions that the client should take, the counselor should be keen toidentify and tackle any impediments that stand in the client’s wayof arriving at a more fulfilling career. “After attaining a Software Engineering, James was hired as a lecturer. He lecturedfor eight fulfilling years, but following his father’s illness anddeath, he took a long sabbatical leave from work to go back and helphis aging mother with farming. While helping in the garden work, hediscovered that he loved the outdoor experience as it gave him asense of purpose. Subsequently, when Derrick the owner of a localmarket asked him if he would like to sell some of his organic farmproduce, he immediately seized the unplanned happenstance chance. Bythe year that followed, he had expanded their family organic farmbusiness and began teaching other interested farmers on the means todo healthy productive farming through pest control and naturalfertilizers.”


James’case clearly illustrates the applicability and the significanceKrumboltz Social Learning Theory in career counseling as itcelebrates career indecision among clients since our interests,values and the world around us is constantly changing. Thus we allshould commit to lifelong learning without sticking to any careerpath when it no longer brings us any fulfillment. James, forinstance, was very fulfilled with his lecturing career however, hisfather’s death led to unplanned actions that brought a completechange in his life. When he returned home and began helping hismother in the gardening work he had an open mind hence he immediatelydiscovered that he was also passionate about gardening. From histender years, he had generalized that he loved teaching but he neverforesaw that teaching others on how to garden efficiently would bethe most fulfilling. Therefore, Krumboltz offers one of the bestcareer counseling model that enables clients always to remain openminded while taking the right actions that ultimately lead tounplanned happenstance events that may result in the identificationof more satisfying careers.


Brown,D. (2015). Careerinformation, career counseling and career development.Pearson.

Krumboltz,J. D. (2015). Practical career counseling applications of thehappenstance learning theory.

Krumboltz,J. D., Foley, P. F., &amp Cotter, E. W. (2013). Applying thehappenstance learning theory to involuntary career transitions. TheCareer Development Quarterly,61(1),15-26.

Leong,F. (2014). Careerdevelopment and vocational behavior of racial and ethnic minorities.Routledge.

Sharf,R. S. (2016). Applyingcareer development theory to counseling.Cengage Learning.

Swanson,J. L., &amp Fouad, N. A. (2014). Careertheory and practice: Learning through case studies.Sage publications.