Career orientation

Guidance and career guidance services have been defined both by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD, 2004) and by a World Bank report (Watts and Fretwell, 2004) as: services designed to help people, at any age and at any time in their life, make educational, training and professional choices and manage their careers.

They include three main elements:

  • Career information, relatively to courses, occupations, career paths and the labour market. This aspect mostly relies on Web resources, although information may also be provided in paper format.
  • Career advising, on an individual or group basis (small size). The focus is on the distinctive career problems faced by individuals.
  • Professional training, as part of the training curriculum, where attention is given to helping groups of individuals develop skills to manage their professional development.

Career orientation is about helping people to choose from the full range of opportunities available, in relation to their skills, interests and distinctive values. In the past, a distinction has often been made between “educational orientation”, which concerns the choices of the course and “professional orientation”, relatively to professional choices. This was based on the opinion that educational choices preceded, or should be separated from, vocational choices.

This opinion is now widely considered obsolete. Changes in the workplace mean that more people are now making a number of changes in their career direction over the course of their lives and have to learn new skills to do so. Therefore, more and more, learning and work are intertwined, for a lifetime. Careers are not commonly “chosen” at a single point in time, but “constructed” through a series of related learning and work choices made throughout life. This led to a new paradigm in vocational guidance designed to support the development of a permanent career.

The political importance attached to career guidance has been significantly elevated over the last decade through a series of analyses of related policies conducted by a number of international organizations including the OECD (2004), the World Bank (Watts and Fretwell, 2004) and the European Parliament Commission and its agencies.

Bibliographic references

Watts, A. G. and Fretwell, D. (2004). “Public Policies for Career Development”. Washington DC, World Bank.

A. G. Watts (2013). “Career guidance and orientation”. UNESCO