JoAnn Harris-Bowlsbey’s work has promoted career development and education in a number of capacities over the past five decades. She has served as a high school counselor, director of guidance, university professor, university career counselor, trainer, and developer of computer-based systems and career planning curricula. She recently co-authored Career Development Interventions in the 21st Century, now in its fourth edition (Pearson, 2012). Her current role at Kuder, Inc. finds her developing the logic and content of technology-delivered career planning systems. Jerry Trusty, professor of counselor education, counseling psychology, and rehabilitation services at The Pennsylvania State University, has conducted research studies for Kuder exploring the perceptions of system users. On Kuder’s 75th anniversary, the two sat down to discuss JoAnn’s contributions, the impact technology has had on career development, the continued relevance of career assessments, and the challenges involved in preparing others for satisfying work.
When did you first become interested in career development?
It was in 1966, when I became director of guidance at a large suburban high school in Illinois. One of the things I wanted to accomplish was to provide much more service to our students to help them make career goals rather than just college goals. That same year, I learned about the research work of John Holland and his colleagues, and I knew that I had found some theoretical basis for providing assistance to students.
How has technology impacted the role of the career counselor?
Technology has made it unnecessary for a counselor to spend time in dispensing information or administering and interpreting career assessments, which are widely available to young people and adults on high-quality websites. For many, these alone are sufficient for informed career decision making. For others who need more assistance, counselors can spend their time helping them process the information and apply the implications of the assessments.
My life’s work has been developing the logic and content of technology-delivered career planning systems, as well as teaching counselors and career advisors/facilitators how to make most effective use of such systems.
What needs were you trying to meet when you developed Kuder® Navigator™ and Kuder® Journey™?
Before I developed these systems, the primary role of Kuder’s main product was to administer research-based assessments and provide occupational information.
In developing Navigator for middle school and high school students, I added content related to making an education plan, searching for colleges and scholarships, and job seeking. The system presents the career planning process as a step-by-step, ongoing process.
In developing Journey for postsecondary students and adults, the emphasis is on making one or more career choices and then on selecting a level of education and a postsecondary major aligned with interests. Research supported by Kuder and others documents the fact that college retention is significantly improved when students choose majors aligned with their interests.
It’s been 75 years since the first Kuder interest assessment was published. Are career assessments still relevant today?
Research-based career assessments are absolutely still relevant. Their primary purpose is to give students and adults a focus for in-depth exploration. The O*NET database provides extensive descriptions of approximately 1,000 occupations – more than any person would take time to learn about. The results of assessments of interests, skills, and work values narrow the field for career explorers to a list of manageable length that they can explore in depth.
What are the biggest challenges you see career counselors facing today?
I think the biggest challenge has to do with the priority that schools, universities, and public policy accord to the importance of informed career planning. We need to prepare a larger segment of our population for satisfying work in the global society. We need to reduce high school and college dropout rates and send a larger percentage of our youth to postsecondary education.
What competencies do today’s career practitioners need?
They still need the standard 12 Competencies that undergird the profession, but beyond that they need even more zeal about the importance of career guidance in the lives of young people, time management skills in order to reach the large numbers who need their help, and the ability to help students/clients have high aspirations and manage their own careers with flexibility.
What trends do you foresee in career development interventions of the future?
I see two in particular. First, as in the medical profession, I see our field developing different levels of training and service – including masters’ and doctoral level counselors, career development facilitators, career advisors, and career coaches. Second, computer technology has become a powerful medium for providing career guidance assistance, now including videoconferencing. Through the combination of these two – diversified staffing and web delivery – I’m hopeful that our services will reach vastly increased numbers of individuals, especially in places worldwide where such services have never been available.
What changes do you anticipate in the world of work?
When I was president of NCDA, I invited Jeremy Rifkin to be our keynote speaker at the annual conference because I was impressed by his book The End of Work. So many of the things that Rifkin predicted have come true – the changes in organizational structure, the increasing impact of computerization and robotization, the end of the social contract, the prevalence of use of “as needed” workers, sending work offshore, the increasing distance between the “haves” and “have-nots,” more people working from home as part of a virtual team.
It appears that these trends will continue along with ever-increasing numbers of women in the workplace with more cracks in the glass ceiling and an even greater divide between those who understand technology and possess marketable skills and those who do not.
Kuder, Inc, celebrated 75 years while NCDA's 100th anniversary was celebrated at the conference in Boston in July 2013. Click here to see Kuder's special photo op at the conference.
JoAnn Harris-Bowlsbey, Ed.D.is the executive director of content development for Kuder, Inc. She has worked with state departments of education and labor in the conceptualization and implementation of education and career planning websites that serve as a virtual center for students and adults. Prior to joining Kuder, JoAnn was a high school counselor, director of guidance, university professor, career counselor, developer of the ACT product DISCOVER and executive director of the ACT Educational Technology Center, and consultant to the National Institute of Corrections. JoAnn is a past president of the NCDA and recipient of the Eminent Career Award. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Jerry Trusty, Ph.D. is a professor of counselor education, counseling psychology, and rehabilitation services and coordinator of the secondary school counseling program at The Pennsylvania State University. His research and scholarly work has focused on school dropout prevention, adolescents’ educational and career development, parents’ influences on adolescents’ educational and career development, achievement and opportunity gaps in schools, and quantitative research methods. He can be reached at email@example.com.