Spencer G. Niles 5/2012

Hope-Centered Career Development Model

To contend that hope is an important construct in career development seems to be stating the obvious. Although most career theorists and practitioners would agree with this statement, there is surprisingly little attention devoted to hope in the career development literature. Moreover, the dominant career development theorists give scant acknowledgement to the role of hope in career development, if they mention it at all. Yet, having a sense of hope would seem to be an essential condition for clients before, during, and after career counseling. For example, it requires hope amidst confusion to present for career counseling initially. In presenting for career counseling, clients essentially state that although they have career concerns, they are hopeful that the career counselor can help them address their career concerns effectively. As career counseling proceeds, the client’s sense of hope may wax and wane but if it disappears altogether the client is likely to terminate the career counseling relationship. Without hope, one is not likely to construct a career plan, implement a choice made and/or persist in a choice implemented once challenges are encountered. If these statements are accurate, then it is perplexing that a construct so central to effective career self-management would receive such little attention in the career development literature.

To address this gap in the literature, we have developed the Hope-Centered Model of Career Development (Niles, 2011). This model draws upon three existing models to identify metacompetencies essential for effective career planning in the 21st century. Specifically, we draw upon Snyder’s (2002) hope theory, Hall’s protean career theory (1996), and Bandura’s (2001) human agency theory to formulate the following Hope-Centered Model of Career Development:


spencerin esitelma.jpg


In this model, hope serves as the starting point. If a student/client lacks a sense of hope (which can be measured using the Hope-Centered Career Inventory), then it is not reasonable to expect this person to engage in the activities that are necessary for effective career planning. In such cases, creating a sense of mattering within the student/client and providing emotional support are necessary to begin the process of fostering hope. Moreover, each step of the process requires the career practitioner to guide the student/client by first explaining what the current career planning task is, why it is important, and describing briefly what is required to complete the task successfully. In this way, the practitioner lays the groundwork for hope that the student/client can and will complete the career planning task. For example, to complete the task of turning self-reflection into self-clarity, the practitioner first explains why this is important and how it is useful to the student/client to do this (e.g., good career decisions are based upon adequate self-clarity). Then, the practitioner asks the student/client whether s/he agrees that this is important. Next, the practitioner describes how this task can be achieved. At this point, the practitioner asks the student/client whether s/he thinks that this is something that they can and will do. If the student/client responds negatively, then this is addressed by using counseling skills to encourage the student/client to elaborate upon his/her understanding of the task and what is blocking them from engaging in it. If (when) the student/client responds affirmatively, then the process proceeds to addressing the task directly. This process is repeated as the student/client completes each task in the model and turns to completing the subsequent task.

Self-reflection can be defined as reflecting upon one’s self-characteristics and life circumstances with the goal of developing self-clarity. To achieve this goal, the career counselor assists the student/client in clarifying and articulating his/her self-concept through the use of career counseling skills as well as subjective and objective assessments.

Self-clarity leads to visioning as the student/client uses accurate self-information to identify future possibilities. To achieve this task, the practitioner encourages the student/client to engage in brainstorming to identify possible options based upon the student/client’s self-understanding.

Once future possibilities are identified, the student/client identifies a limited number of possibilities (1-3) to focus on and engaged in goal setting/planning. Each possibility chosen must be translated into a specific goal. Then, data are gathered regarding what is required to achieve that goal. Specific plans must be identified. After this has been done for each goal, the student/client reviews the self-information s/he had developed and considers the degree to which each goal will provide opportunities for expressing the student/client’s values, interests, skills, etc. After reviewing each goal in this manner, the student/client selects one goal to pursue.

This goal is then implemented by taking action steps based upon the plans the student/client identified. As action steps are implemented, the student/client and career practitioner review the student/client’s reactions to the actions taken and the new information learned. In this way, the student/client develops adaptability, which involves understanding and using new information about oneself and one’s environment. Questions such as: How do you feel about this goal now that you have taken some action steps to achieve it? What has surprised you? How does what you know now inform your belief that this is a reasonable goal for you to continue pursuing? Are you clear about next steps to take and what you need to do to implement them? Is this something you think that you can and will do?

If the information the student/client has acquired supports further action with the current goal, then the process proceeds with similar questioning. If the information acquired calls into question the current goal, then the student/client is encouraged to engage in further self-reflection for self-clarity to develop new possibilities, goals, plans, and action steps (i.e., the process is repeated).

By providing the appropriate amount of emotional support, informational support, and appraisal support, the student/client is guided through a systematic career planning process that intentionally fosters a sense of hope. As hope is developed and the student/client specifies goals, identifies action steps, takes action, and then uses new information s/he acquires to reflect upon the current goal or to develop new goals, the student/client learns a process that s/he can use throughout life to engage in effective and hopeful career planning.

Bandura, A. (2001). Social cognitive theory: An agentic perspective. Annual Review of
Psychology, 52, 1–26. doi:10.1146/annurev.psych.52.1.1
Hall, D. T. (1996). Protean careers in the 2st century. The Academy of Management
Executive, 10, 8-16.
Niles, S. G. (2011). Career flow: A hope-centered model of career development.
Journal of Employment Counseling, 48, 173-175.
Niles, S. G., In, H., & Yoon, H. J. (manuscript submitted for publication). The
Importance of hope in career development.
Niles, S. G., Yoon, H. J., & Amundson, N. E. (2010). Career flow index: Hope-centered
career development competencies. Unpublished manuscript, University Park, PA.
Snyder, C. R. (2002). Hope theory: Rainbows in the mind. Psychological
Inquiry, 13, 249–275. doi:10.1207/S15327965PLI1304_01


Spencer G. Niles

Spencer G. Niles
Pennsylvania State University