What should people new to career guidance as an academic field read?

We are about to start a few new people at iCeGS. They are all excellent researchers, but not all of them necessarily have a background in career guidance. So what should I tell them to read to get their heads into career guidance?

I’m going to brain dump a load of stuff into this post, but I’d appreciate it if anyone else could chip in with any good ideas of books/articles/papers that they have found particularly interesting or useful.

The problem with career guidance is that it is by its nature a boundary crossing activity. This means that it draws on a range of different academic fields, probably most clearly education, psychology and sociology (particularly the sociology of work and education). However, we could also add into this a whole host of other fields that would be relevant, notably economics, business and management, history, literature, politics and so on. This boundary crossing makes career guidance a very interesting place to work for those of us who don’t like to be tied down, but it can make a survey of the field difficult.

Because I’m fairly historically minded, I’ll start at the beginning. Frank Parson’s Choosing a Vocation kicked the whole thing off and is worth a read despite the matching paradigm he is associated with being much derided.  Donald Super and  John Holland are also important early figures who anyone moving into the field should have an awareness of. David Peck’s Careers Services provided me with a post war history of the field in the UK.

When I started engaging with the field I found Jenny Kidd’s Understanding Career Counselling to be good guide to the psychological end of the field. I also found that it was useful to read some sociology like Milltown Boys Revisited and Learning to Labour. I also found some of Bill Law’s work on career learning to be very useful in helping me to think through these issues from an educational perspective. David Winters’ Careers in Theory blog was also hugely useful and it is a real shame that he hasn’t written much on it recently.

Much of iCeGS work explores the intersection between policy and practice in career guidance. We draw very heavily on the work on Tony Watts (who remains as a Visiting Professor to iCeGS to this day). Tony is amazingly prolific, but his inaugural lecture at iCeGS offers a good starting point for understanding career guidance and public policy. Tony was also involved in the OECD review of career guidance and in the production of a policymakers handbook based on this review. Both of these documents remain important touchstones for the field with much subsequent research looking back to them. Tony was also one of the editors of Rethinking Careers Education and Guidance which is now rather out of date, but was one of the best summaries of the field that had been produced when it was first published. It still contains a number of absolutely key papers including Tony’s own chapter on the politics of guidance.

Other key scholars who are worth reading include: Jim Sampson, Jim Bright, Jenny Bimrose, Mark Savickas, Mary McMahon, Scott Solberg, Hazel Reid, Bill Law, Deirdre Hughes and probably about a hundred other people who I’ll be offending by not including in this list. Each of these people will give you a different take on the field, with some focusing on system design, other on theory, practice or politics.

At iCeGS we’ve produced a vast number of publications that might be useful in giving someone an idea about the field. Probably the most useful ones would be Beacon for Guidance (which gives a history of the Centre); How the internet changed career (which summarises research on career and technology); Careers 2020 (which talks about career education and guidance in schools); All things being equal (which talks about equality and careers); and of course loads of others which can all be viewed on the iCeGS website.

The key journals that are worth reading in the field include the British Journal of Guidance and Counselling, the NICEC Journal, Career Development Quarterly, the International Journal for Educational and Vocational Guidance and the Journal of Vocational Behavior each with its own take on the field.

Gosh, that is enough for now. What have I missed? What should I read? Please tell me!



  1. Love your list Tristram!
    How about also acknowledging that there is a contribution to the literature of career from a Business School perspective? By far the best of these, for me, is Kerr Inkson’s ‘Metaphors of Working Lives’. It is great book for many reasons.

    My personal preference, is around career as story and the interplay of literary studies in our work. I’d suggest you own NICEC article, with Rawlinson, as a good starter on this. Don’t be shy!

    Finally, the contribution Phil McCash makes would definitely be on my list. Material relating to Careers Studies is easily accessible on Phil’s Centre for Life long Learning University of Warwick web page.

    So much to enjoy!

  2. Hi Tristram, this is interesting! Thank you for sharing your list, I was not familiar with all these contributions. I would consider adding Krumboltz’ The Happenstance Learning Theory article from Journal of Career Assessment May 2009. It is fairly brief and in my experience a good article for an introduction to a learning perspective on career guidance.

  3. Thanks to Cath and Kristin for kicking off the extending career guidance reading list.

    If anyone else is adding stuff it would be helpful if you could add some hyperlinks.

  4. Great article Tristram! I’d echo the mentioning of Phil McCash especially his piece ‘We’re all career researchers now: breaking open career education and DOTS.’ I think it may be the most challenging and exciting thing I’ve read on careers education.

    I’d also add Larry Cochran’s Career Counselling as the best starting point I’ve found on narrative career theory.

    Finally careers guidance can be a bit short on creative ways to think about the work place (IMO it tends to be better at having varied ways of conceptualizing the self) so I would recommend Gareth Morgan’s work on organisational metaphors as well.

  5. I would recommend any literature on career guidance. I especially recommend Career Development Practice in Canada – Perspectives, Principles, and Professionalism by Blythe C. Shepard and Priya S. Mani, Editors

  6. What a wonderful summary! I wanted to share a new textbook / resource that is available in Canada, “Career Development Practice in Canada: Perspectives, Principles, and Professionalism.” Although the context is Canadian, I believe it is a comprehensive resource for the theory and practice of career development. It is published by the Canadian Education and Research Institute for Counselling: http://ceric.ca/?q=en/node/782

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