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International Journal of Lifelong


Education
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Is career guidance for the individual


or for the market? Implications of EU
policy for career guidance
Ingela Bergmo-Prvulovic

Jnkping University, Sweden


Published online: 03 Mar 2014.

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To cite this article: Ingela Bergmo-Prvulovic (2014) Is career guidance for the individual or for the
market? Implications of EU policy for career guidance, International Journal of Lifelong Education,
33:3, 376-392, DOI: 10.1080/02601370.2014.891886
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02601370.2014.891886

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INT. J. OF LIFELONG EDUCATION, 2014


VOL. 33, NO. 3, 376392, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02601370.2014.891886

Is career guidance for the individual or for


the market? Implications of EU policy for
career guidance

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INGELA BERGMO-PRVULOVIC
Jonkoping University, Sweden

This paper explores the essential understanding and underlying perspectives of career
implicit in EU career guidance policy in the twenty-first century, as well as the possible
implications of these for the future mission of guidance. Career theories, models and
concepts that serve career guidance are shaped on the twentieth-century industrial division of labour and now face a crisis due to the influence of globalization on working life.
The transition to a knowledge-based society also challenges the traditional view of career:
vocational and educational paths are no longer linear, predictable or stable. The analyses
of EU policy documents and ethical declarations discussed here indicate that meanings
of career are under reconstruction and that these documents fail to clarify the underlying
meanings or perspectives on career contained therein. The essential meaning of career,
as communicated through characterizations and dominating underlying perspectives in
EU policy, puts greater emphasis on career guidance as being conducted on behalf of
society, rather than the individual. Ethical tensions within the career guidance profession
appear to have increased, and the profession is also challenged in its professionalization
by contradictions and broadened areas, activities and functions.

Introduction
This paper is motivated by the apparent confusion concerning how individuals
and career guidance practitioners are to understand and relate to career phenomena in the twenty-first century. New approaches to career guidance have
been suggested as more appropriate to our knowledge-based society. According
to several authors (Savickas et al., 2009), there is a crisis in the core career concepts and models because they do not fit the postmodern economy and, therefore, these need to be reformulated. The crisis concerning concepts and models
seems to be caused by the transformation of society from the industrial age in
which these concepts and models have their origin (Patton & McMahon, 2006;
Savickas et al., 2009) to a knowledge-based society with new working life condiIngela Bergmo-Prvulovic is a doctoral student in Education at the Jonkoping University, School of
Education and Communication, EncellNational Centre for Lifelong Learning, Jonkoping. She is
interested in underlying meanings and social representations of career and career guidance based
on structural and individual perspectives, and implications for career guidance. She has published:
(2012) Subordinating careers to market forces? A critical analysis of European career guidance policy, in European Journal for Research on the Education and Learning of Adults, and (2013) Social Representations of Career Anchored in the Past, Conflicting with the future, in Papers on Social
Representations. Correspondence: Jonkoping University, School of Education and Communication,
EncellNational Centre for Lifelong Learning, Box 1026, SE - 551 11 Jonkoping, Sweden. Email:
Ingela.Bergmo-Prvulovic@hlk.hj.se
2014 Taylor & Francis

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377

tions due to economic globalization (Van Esbroeck, 2008). Not only the models
and theories that serve career guidance practice seem to be in crisis: The transformation of society also influences individuals careers, which is the core issue
for career guidance practitioners (Athanasou & Van Esbroeck, 2008). As pointed
out by Herr (2008), the effects of globalization on the organization of work will
change the traditional view of how individual career development occurs. This
presupposes that there has ever been a common understanding about the core
concepts, and this does not seem to be the case, given the lack of consensus
between various disciplines and perspectives on career in the literature (e.g.
Arthur, Hall, & Lawrence, 1989; Collin, 2007; Kidd, 2006; Patton & McMahon,
2006). The same applies to career guidance practice. The profession seems to
comprise multiple meanings and various titles, and the profession has also changed over time (Nilsson, 2010; Savickas, 2008). As pointed out by Athanasou and
Van Esbroeck (2008), the term career guidance is hardly in widespread use, and
systems of career guidance are more often referred to as counselling in some
countries. They describe the field in Australia, for instance, as now populated by
employment counsellors, human resource development practitioners, school
career advisers, career counsellors, life coaches and rehabilitation counsellors,
among others. Career supporting systems also appear to extend to areas that go
beyond career guidance (Van Esbroeck, 2008). The trends appear to be similar
in other countries as well. According to Savickas (2008), a change in the social
organization of work also changes societys methods for supporting individuals.
In recent years, the European Union (EU) has increased its focus on developing guidance policy as an important means of facilitating the implementation of
lifelong learning strategies (see e.g. European Centre for the Development of
Vocational Training (Cedefop), 2005; Jutte, Nicoll, & Salling Olesen, 2011). The
following need further exploration: the way career phenomena shall be understood within such an increased focus, the perspectives and principles that guide
career guidance practice, and the implications of these understandings and perspectives for the future role of guidance practice. Career guidance appears to be
subject to change, both in terms of key concepts within the field (see e.g.
Savickas et al., 2009) and in terms of the meanings that are ascribed to the concept of individuals careers due to the effects of globalization on the organization of work (Herr, 2008). While these changes occur, common European
policies for career guidance practice are created to be applied across diverse
structures and systems, without taking into account the various understandings
of career phenomena and career guidance practice. Based on a previous study
of language and underlying views regarding career/career development in European policy documents on career guidance (Bergmo-Prvulovic, 2012), this article
sets out to deepen the discussion of the meaning of career characterizations, the
essence and underlying perspectives of career, and possible implications for the
future role of career guidance.
The article begins with a brief overview of previous research on career and
the guidance field related to the lifelong learning discourse and the changing
world of work. Thereafter, theoretical and methodological approaches will be
presented, followed by a summary of the findings from the previous critical content analysis of language in European policy documents on career guidance,1,
the purpose of which was to explore characterizations of and perspectives on
career implicit in the documents. The analysis gave reason to further explore

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INGELA BERGMO-PRVULOVIC

the significance and consequences of the characterizations and perspectives for


the future role of career guidance practice, so the following section extends the
analysis with an exploration of the role and mission of career guidance practice.
The next section, a final analysis of the characterizations of and perspectives on
the main issue of career guidance practice together with the key principles of
career guidance practice from an ethical point of view, indicates possible implications of EU policy for the future role of career guidance practice. Finally, the
findings are discussed and some conclusions are presented.

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Career and career guidance in a global context


By the latter part of the twentieth century, there was renewed and increased
interest in lifelong learning as business and industry required a more knowledgeable workforce (Jarvis, 2009). Ideas of competition, emphasizing the economic perspective and global capitalism, were part of this renewed interest in
lifelong learning, and these ideas contrasted with the humanistic perspective of
the 1960s (Rubenson, 2009). With this renewed interest in lifelong learning followed an increased focus on guidance policy-making in the EU (see e.g.
European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (Cedefop), 2005;
Jutte et al., 2011; Watts & Fretwell, 2004; Watts & Sultana, 2004) as well as on
validation of prior learning (see e.g. Andersson & Fejes, 2005; Diedrich, 2012).
Lifelong learning strategies appear to be seen as the solution to several societal
problems (Ahl, 2006; Tuijnman & Bostrom, 2002).
At the end of the twentieth century, major changes occurred in the world of
work due to the effects of globalization (Herr, 2008; Van Esbroeck, 2008). Occupational and educational prospects were no longer predictable, stable or linear,
and employment was no longer lifelong or secure. The transition to this new
world of work has resulted in the emergence of a new division of labour
(Ekstedt & Sundin, 2006a, 2006b) which is in stark contrast to the social
arrangement of work in twentieth century. During that era of high modernity,
the possibilities for advancement and progressive improvement evolved, with
hierarchical dependence, stable relationships, lifelong employment and job security (Savickas et al., 2009); climbing the ladder became the metaphor for
career (Savickas, 2008, p. 105).
With the emergence of the new work landscape, researchers within the career
field started to look at the possible impacts of the new world of work on the
career field (e.g. Brousseau, Driver, Eneroth, & Larsson, 1996; Hall, 1996; Hall
& Mirvis, 1996; Nicholson, 1996). The concept of protean career was introduced (Hall & Mirvis, 1996), meaning that individuals need to be self-generating
in order to adapt and survive in a world of rapid change (Patton & McMahon,
2006). The new conception of work-life is that career belongs to the individual
rather than the organization (e.g. Savickas et al., 2009). Others have warned of
the risk of decreased employer responsibility if we uncritically accept conceptions of individuals self-directed careers (Brousseau et al., 1996; Nicholson,
1996). Several authors (Allvin, Aronsson, Hagstrom, Johansson, & Lundberg,
2006; Ekstedt & Sundin, 2006a, 2006b; Herr, 2008) now point out that individuals career issues will most certainly be influenced by changing working life
conditions, but it is still unclear how.

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There are multiple meanings, perspectives and views of career (e.g. Arthur
et al., 1989; Collin, 2007; Kidd, 2006; Patton & McMahon, 2006). Different writers
all have their own way of viewing career (Kidd, 2006). An overview by Arthur et al.
(1989) describes different disciplinary viewpoints on the career concept. For
example, career is viewed as a vocation, as a vehicle for self-realization or as a component
of the individual life structure when regarded from a psychological perspective. The
view of career as a vehicle for self-realization is humanistic, focusing on the opportunities a career can provide for an individuals further growth and on the benefit of
individual growth to organizations and society. The view of career as a component of
the individual life structure recognizes the predictability of career transitions.
The economic perspective regards career as a response to market forces and emphasizes the short-term distribution of employment opportunities and the long-term
accumulation of human capital. Career can also be viewed from the perspective of
political science, which regards career as the enactment of self-interest and sees wealth,
power, prestige and autonomy as principal objects of self-interested behaviour in
the context of institutional political realities (Arthur et al., 1989, p. 10).
Apparently, there is no common definition or view of the concept of career
in the literature. The increased interest in creating common policies for career
guidance in the EU member states indicates, however, that there is some kind
of common understanding of how careers should be understood. Nevertheless,
it is not clearly communicated. Possible contradictions between the various working fields of career guidance, each having their own interpretations of the career
concept (Kidd, 2006), seem to be ignored. The field of guidance is multifaceted
and influenced by trends in society. A historic description shows how the guidance profession has evolved during the four economic eras of agricultural communities, industrial cities, corporate societies and the global economy: four
distinct supporting methods evolved in line with these erasmentoring, guidance, counselling, and constructing (Savickas, 2008). Guidance refers to the
matching of an individual to a position based on individual differences, while
counselling focuses on differences within an individual over time. Moreover,
guidance started out as a profession focusing on supporting youth, but has now
evolved to be concerned with both youth and adults. According to Savickas
(2008), the helping methods change each time the social organization of work
changes. The early development of the profession arose within either the educational system or the social welfare system. Education, in turn, has different roles
that lead to different guidance policies (Manninen, 1998), but the aims of
career guidance are not always clearly articulated. The creation of common policies related to lifelong learning strategies in European countries implies some
kind of common, overall purpose of education that will most certainly influence
the future role of career guidance practice, regardless of where the roots of
guidance can be found in each country. To better understand career and career
guidance, we thus need to recognize the elements and influences of the social
contexts in which these phenomena and activities are embedded (Herr, 2008).

Theoretical approaches
The study is guided by the view that the manner in which relevant policy
documents depict individual career and career development derives from certain

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INGELA BERGMO-PRVULOVIC

beliefs, viewpoints and perspectives and that these will influence directions for
career guidance practice. Given the lack of a common understanding of career,
as well as various interpretations and conceptions of career guidance practice, a
framework is needed that can capture how such different understandings arise
and become objective social reality. In light of the tremendous changes in society and work environments, which are characterized by effects of globalization
and which surely influence the meanings ascribed to the concept of career as
well as how career guidance practice responds to such changes (Herr, 2008;
Savickas, 2008; Savickas et al., 2009; Van Esbroeck, 2008), this study bases its
theoretical view on social constructionism. Reality is regarded as socially and
linguistically constructed through an on-going process composed of the
moments of externalization, objectivation and internalization (Berger &
Luckmann, 1966, p. 149). This provides a framework for understanding how different views and perspectives on career and career guidance arise. The era and
context within which we live, language and relationships all affect the way we
understand reality (Berger & Luckmann, 1966; Burr, 1995; Gergen, 2009).
According to Savickas (2008), career supportive methods change each time
the social organization of work changes. One may ask in what manner the social
organization of work arises. Under a social constructionist view, the social order,
i.e. the social organization of work, is an on-going human production (Berger &
Luckmann, 1966, p. 69), and the current social order and organization of work
is thus the result of past human activity and production. Human actions are
externalized when they are repeated, disseminated and sorted into patterns.
These actions are then practised by others as habitual activities, or institutionalized. These habitual activities are then typified and passed over to others and
finally become objectified (Berger & Luckmann, 1966). We are thus shaping, or
constructing, our future reality by the way in which we describe and explain
something (Gergen, 2009).
To capture both the essential understanding, or core meaning, of career that
emerges in contemporary societywhich is assumed to be socially and linguistically constructed by human action through certain beliefs and perspectives
within new conceptions of working lifeand the possible implications of such
for the future role of career guidance, relevant documents that are influential
from a societal level on career guidance practice need to be explored. The following questions will be answered: What is the essential understanding, or core meaning, of individuals careers and career development that can be found in European policy
documents characterizations and perspectives on such phenomena and which shapes career
guidance practice in the twenty-first century? What significance and consequences will this
have for the future role of career guidance practice?
Methodological approaches
A critical qualitative content analysis of European career guidance policy documents, with an inductive approach (Graneheim & Lundman, 2004; Hsieh &
Shannon, 2005), followed by a sender-oriented interpretation (Hellspong &
Ledin, 1997) according to the textual context and various perspectives on the
career concept (Arthur et al., 1989) was conducted in order to explore characterizations and disclose underlying views of career and career development. The

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four texts analysedCouncil of the European Union (2004, 2008), European


Commission (2004), and European Centre for the Development of Vocational
Training (Cedefop) (2005)were selected because of the particular focus on
European strategies to improve and direct the guidance field in implementing
lifelong learning strategies in European countries. They represent a topdown
perspective. As the analysis gave reason to further explore the implications that
the characterizations and perspectives will have for the future role of career
guidance practice, an extension of the previous analysis was deemed necessary.
Therefore, an exploration of the key principles and mission of the career
guidance practice was conducted.
Declarations of ethics for career guidance practice were identified as proper
documents to explore because they communicate common principles for associated career guidance professionals. Two documents, from the Swedish context,
were located and serve as examples of how the role and mission for career
guidance practice can be expressed in a European context. The texts selected
represent previous and current ethical principles and guidelines formulated by
the Swedish Association of Guidance Counsellors (Sveriges Vagledarforening,
1989, 2007). The previous and current declarations of ethics for career guidance
practice were compared in order to identify similarities and significant changes
concerning key principles for the role and mission of practice. The comparative
textual analysis was based upon the model of analysing texts developed by
Hellspong and Ledin (1997). The texts were read to gain an overall understanding of the content and then extracted into smaller textual units. These were
marked with a code, referring to the text chronologically by textual unit and
page number. Each textual unit was pasted into a table structure in a Word document and then compared to look for similarities and differences in the texts.
The search for similarities resulted in some key principles of the role and mission
of career guidance practice that seem to be substantial and consistent over time.
The search for differences resulted in the identification of some major changes
that have occurred with the formulation of a new declaration of ethics in 2007.
To finally answer what kind of core understanding of career is being depicted
through characterizations of and perspectives on individuals careers and career
development, and what implications this will have for the future role of
guidance, a final analysis of the results from the previous analysis of European
policy documents on career guidance and the results from the second analysis
of declarations of ethics was conducted with a receiver-oriented interpretation
(Hellspong & Ledin, 1997).

The characterizations of and perspectives on career shaping


European career guidance
The findings are divided into three sections. The current section summarizes
and presents the essential characteristics of career and career development that
emerged from a previous analysis of European policy documents on guidance,
followed by an elaboration according to a sender-oriented interpretation
(Bergmo-Prvulovic, 2012). The next section will present findings from the
extended analysis, i.e. the key principles identified for the role and mission of
career guidance practice and the significant changes revealed between the

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present and previous declarations of ethics for career guidance practice in the
Swedish context. A third section will present the implications of EU policy for
career guidance practice that emerged from the final analysis.

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The characterizations of career


The language in the selected European policy documents depicts career and
career development in four characteristic ways which are captured by the
following categories: contextual change, environment-person correspondence, competence
mobility and empowerment (Bergmo-Prvulovic, 2012, pp. 160163).
The first category, contextual change, depicts career and career development as
characterized by instability, as well as preparation for instability. In various ways,
the texts depict requirements for individuals to be constantly prepared for recurrent life changes and multiple transitions at any time in their lives. Career and
career development includes preparation for change, instability and constantly
learning in a range of settings, where individuals shall manage their learning
and access to work. Individuals shall look ahead and be prepared for both
geographical and professional mobility. The texts communicate expectations on
individuals to respond to demands from surrounding unstable conditions, which
will bring multiple learning, work, societal and private transitions.
The second category, environmentperson correspondence, depicts the need for
individuals to adapt their careers according to the requirement of preparation
for instability. In line with the reference to careers as pathways in life
(European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (Cedefop),
2005, p. 24), the meaning of career thus implies that demands for preparation
lead individuals to adapt and adjust their pathways in life to a reality of contextual change to become adaptable and employable. Consequently, individuals
need to adapt, develop and relate their capabilities and abilities to correspond
with labour market requirements. Recurrent engagement in learning opportunities within and outside the workplace is expected to increase individuals
employability, adaptability and motivation. A certain type of transition learning is
required because of the ever-expected, recurring instability of contextual
change. Especially during times of transition, individuals need to learn about
the surrounding economic, business and occupational conditions, as well as educational systems. Moreover, individuals need to evaluate themselves, describe
their abilities, interests, and the skills they have acquired in various settings to
identify transferable skills. Consequently, individuals multiple transitions of various types require individuals to adjust or readjust their careerstheir pathways in
lifeaccording to market requirements.
The third category, competence mobility, depicts improved matching as the
character of career development. At different ages and stages in life, individuals
are expected to recurrently identify and describe their capacities and the
competences they have learned or used in different contexts to make them visible (visibility). Individuals are also expected to validate or otherwise gain
acknowledgement (recognition) of their non-formal and informal learning in
order to identify their transferable skills. The competences an individual has
previously learned or used in one context shall be used in a new context
(utility).

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The last category, empowerment, conveys expectations on individuals to independently control and self-manage their careers, and thus their life paths, in
learning, work and other contexts. The foundation for the empowerment of the
autonomous individual is constituted by the development of an individuals
career management skills, such as learning to learn, social and civic skills and a
sense of entrepreneurship. The texts convey individuals independence and
responsibility, or autonomy, as essential for personal fulfilment, professional
development and social inclusion; autonomous students, pupils, staff and trainees will be able and motivated to access and benefit from various learning
opportunities in different contexts. It is communicated that individuals are
responsible for managing and planning their learning, work pathways and
transitions in accordance with their life goals, while they also effectively relate
their interests and skills to the market. Consequently, individuals gain personal
fulfilment through self-government, preparation and adaptation in accordance
with the market.
The dominant perspectives in EU policy
The exploration, as summarized above, together with a sender-oriented
interpretation, revealed certain conditions and responses to these conditions
(Bergmo-Prvulovic, 2012, p. 163), which in turn disclosed some dominating
perspectives on career, presented below.
The first category, contextual change, and its subcategory of instability refer to
the context of changing economic and social conditions, which in turn can be
understood as a consequence of globalization processes and the transition to a
knowledge-based society in which the reality of instability seems to be taken for
granted. The second category, environmentperson correspondence, is closely related
to the category of contextual change. Within the environmentperson correspondence, the subcategories of adaptation, adjustment, readjustment and transition
learning can all be regarded as required responses to such changing conditions.
Preparation, in turn, as a subcategory of contextual change, appears to be a prerequisite for the required responses. Within these two categories appear very
clearly those senders representing labour market needs and those representing
enterprises and workplaces. Transition learning as a required response
addresses, in turn, a learning perspective on career and includes adjustment, adaptation and readjustment because of its adaptive approach. This learning approach
seems to be anchored in the theory of Parson (1909), where it came to include
the concept of adjustment with the approaches of personenvironment matching (Patton & McMahon, 2006). The person seems to be subordinated to the
demands from the environment, which consequently places the word environment before person in the second category, as the texts depict career as the
search for environmentperson correspondence (Bergmo-Prvulovic, 2012,
p. 165). Moreover, Bergmo-Prvulovic (2012) argues that the texts convey beliefs
about individuals career and career development that derive from an economic
perspective on career, regarding career as a response to market forces (cf. Arthur
et al., 1989). The career management focus, based upon adjustment to changes
(cf. Manninen, 1998), appears to dominate these categories as well. The learning perspective combined with the economic perspective can be understood,
according to Bergmo-Prvulovic (2012), in relation to the increased interest in

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lifelong learning driven by business and industry, as described by Jarvis (2009),


and also in relation to ideas of globalized capitalism (cf. Rubenson, 2009).
Together, the categories of competence mobility, embracing the subcategories of
visibility, recognition and utility, and empowerment compose tools and behaviour with
which to respond for the purpose of utility (Bergmo-Prvulovic, 2012, p. 164).
In the category of competence mobility, a career-designing focus (cf.
Manninen, 1998) in which individuals need to continuously identify and
highlight their capacities, interests and competencies is apparent. However, the
texts disclose in particular the needs of the senders through the meaning of utility, as it is business and industry that shall benefit from utilizing individuals
capacities and competences. The economic perspective, combined with the
learning perspective, leads individuals to respond to social and economic
conditions by adapting, adjusting or readjusting their interests and strengths
through validation in order for their capabilities to be available for other uses,
i.e. to be mobile (Bergmo-Prvulovic, 2012). The last category, empowerment,
reveals a political science perspective on career (Bergmo-Prvulovic, 2012) that
emphasizes autonomy as the leading objective of behaviour and regards career
as the enactment of self-interest (cf. Arthur et al., 1989). However, formulations
of the individual as independent and self-managing, combined with the requirements on individuals to respond to market forces, reveal contradictions. These
contradictions lead to the question of whether the career really belongs to the
individual, and with a rhetoric emphasis on the individual as autonomous, it
seems that the individual is being left with sole responsibility for responding to
market forces (Bergmo-Prvulovic, 2012).
The most prominent perspectives that seem to be shaping career guidance in
the twenty-first century are the economic, learning and political science
perspectives (Bergmo-Prvulovic, 2012).

Key principles and significant changes in the Swedish Declarations of


Ethics of 1989 and 2007
The purpose of both the earlier and present Swedish ethical principles is to
strengthen and promote guidance practice in terms of professionalism and good
ethics. The declarations also aim to support both applicants and guidance practitioners. One major difference occurs between the formulations: The earlier
declaration says that the practice is concerned with educational and vocational
guidance (Sveriges Vagledarforening, 1989, p. 1), while the present declaration
has added the words career guidance and career (Sveriges Vagledarforening,
2007, p. 1) to the formulation. Another difference between the formulations
concerns the contexts in which guidance practice is conducted. The former declaration emphasizes that guidance practice is conducted primarily within the
school system, colleges and universities and employment services (Sveriges
Vagledarforening, 1989, p. 1), while the current emphasizes that guidance
includes a variety of activities and areas, private or public, in both the educational and the employment sectors. The main difference is the emergence of
the private sector and the expansion of activities and areas where guidance is
conducted. This might be an influence from the EU resolution on guidance
(Council of the European Union, 2004), as career guidance as a term is used to

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refer to a broader range of activities and services. Both ethical principles are
based on the ethical values that may be found in the United Nations
Declaration of Human Rights (2012) and the International Labour Organizations Convention on Professional Guidance, No. 142 (1975), while the current
declaration of ethics (Sveriges Vagledarforening, 2007) also is based on the EU
Resolution on Guidance 9286/04 (2004).
The analysis of former and current Swedish ethical principles for career guidance has revealed some common key principles over time. The most apparent
ones are those focusing on the mission of career guidance practitioners, how
they conduct their practice, and what kinds of questions they work with in
meeting with their clients. Career guidance practitioners work to: support
applicants to make carefully considered choices, encourage individuals to
develop their self-knowledge and self-awareness, increase awareness, and
illuminate various options. They also adapt their guidance activities according to
applicants needs and acknowledge the applicants. In the present declaration,
some formulations have been added, such as understanding life as part of
self-awareness, and also the mission for the guidance practitioner to create
motivation (Sveriges Vagledarforening, 2007) in the applicant. Career guidance
practitioners use dialogue as a tool in their practice (Sveriges Vagledarforening,
1989) based upon expert knowledge in areas concerning human interaction.
The dialogue as central for the guidance practitioners work is much more
emphasized in the earlier declaration. Career guidance practitioners shall
possess self-awareness of their own attitudes and values towards individuals and
society and show respect for the unique and equal value of every human being.
They shall favour justice and equal opportunity and strive to oppose discrimination. The career guidance practitioner shall also provide information that is
relevant, clear and objective and strive for impartiality.
The analysis also revealed some major changes between the two declarations
which need to be highlighted. The main change is that the wording of the new
declaration is much more vague and general and appears to leave room for different interpretations. Both declarations emphasize that the career guidance
practitioner shall be uninfluenced by special interests. In the former declaration,
this is formulated as follows;
The guidance counsellor should be free from such pressures from
other stakeholders (e.g. employers, training providers) which would
restrict the applicants opportunity to make choices and decisions.
The guidance counsellor will serve as the applicants representative. (Sveriges Vagledarforening, 1989, pp. 23)
The present declaration has replaced the above with the following: The
guidance counsellor should focus on the individual and remain uninfluenced by
other considerations (Sveriges Vagledarforening, 2007, p. 2). Both declarations
mention potential conflicts between different interests in career guidance
practice. The previous statement describes these conflicting interests extensively:
The guidance counsellor often faces conflicting interests and conflicting demands. This can be a question of the balance between public

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interest and individual interests. The guidance counsellor may feel


vulnerable to pressure from authorities and employers to recruit
rather than guide and, for that purpose, may give incomplete or
biased details. Guidance work also entails a tension between power
and dependence in that the counsellor often meets people in
vulnerable situations. These professional conditions place great
demands on counsellors ethical awareness and this is the reason the
Swedish Association of Guidance Counsellors has adopted an ethical
statement as complement to legislation, regulations and other
governing documents. (Sveriges Vagledarforening, 1989, p. 1).
Conflicting interests were the main reason for the formulation of the
declaration of ethics in 1989, but this clarification has been excluded in the
current declaration of ethics. The current declaration of ethics has replaced the
above formulation with the following: there may arise conflicts in guidance
work between diverging interests, where different needs and obligations have to
be set off against each other, and the ethical guidelines are meant to aid in ethical consideration about such dilemmas (Sveriges Vagledarforening, 2007, p. 1).
The previous declaration emphasized that the guidance counsellor shall serve
both as the applicants agent and as representative of society (Sveriges
Vagledarforening, 1989, p. 1)something that is not mentioned in the current
declaration. The formulation that emphasizes the guidance counsellor as a link
between the individual and society (Sveriges Vagledarforening, 1989, p. 1) has
also disappeared in the current declaration.

Implications of EU policy for career guidance


Against the backdrop of key principles and significant changes identified in the
comparison analysis of previous and current declarations of ethics for career
guidance practice, the following section will pay particular attention to the role
and mission of career guidance, with its function and issues, as related to the
essential understanding of career that emerges through characterizations of and
perspectives on career phenomena.
The most obvious implication that EU policy will have on the role of
guidance in the twenty-first century seems to be a shift of emphasis within the
professional mission regarding for whom the guidance counsellor is working.
Career guidance counsellors have a mission to help and educate individuals
towards autonomy and self-awareness, which implies that career guidance counsellors work towards the mission of their objectsthe individuals. However, as
several authors (Loven, 2000; Nilsson, 2010) point out, their mission is much
greater than this. Intertwined in the mission are also the needs and goals of
institutions and society. The declarations of ethics examined (Sveriges Vagledarforening, 1989, 2007) emphasize that ethical commitment is needed. The
tension between the functions of being a representative of societal interests and
of the clients needs (Loven, 2000; Nilsson, 2010) and the risk of being under
pressure from other stakeholders was one of the reasons for formulating the
declarations in the first place. The comparative analysis reveals important

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changes that need to be highlighted in relation to the mission of career


guidance practice. It is obvious that the current formulations have reduced the
clarity of the career guidance counsellor as working on behalf of the individual,
i.e. as the applicants agent in situations of conflicting needs/goals of various
stakeholders, and that they have also reduced the mediating role as a link
between individual and society. This indicates an uncertainty regarding for
whom a career guidance counsellor is primarily working.
The uncertainty regarding for whom a career guidance counsellor shall primarily be working might be clarified to some extent if we understand the essence of
career as it is communicated through characterizations deriving from certain
dominating perspectives in such policy documents that will influence regulations
of career guidance practice. The concept of career employed in the current
ethical declaration (Sveriges Vagledarforening, 2007) also entails tensions
because of the various meanings given the term by different actors, stakeholders
and disciplines. The use of the concept of guidance in EU policy documents
seems to communicate a matching perspective based on fixed positions and stable individual differences, suggesting a more directive approach (cf. Savickas,
2008). However, the fact that the current ethical declaration in Sweden employs
the formulation guidance counsellors (Sveriges Vagledarforening, 2007) would
imply an ambition to include the non-directive approach connected with the
counselling concept (Savickas, 2008). Given the characterizations of career and
career development, together with the sender-oriented exploration and interpretation, a core meaning of career seems to emerge. As communicated in the EU
policy texts analysed, career seems to be characterized as a lifelong, recurrent, selfmanaged adaptation of life path in response to surrounding market forces. This implies
that careers belong to society, meaning those sendersstakeholderswho are
apparent in the texts, rather than the individual. The most prominent perspectives that are apparently shaping career guidance in the twenty-first century are
the economic, learning and political science perspectives (Bergmo-Prvulovic,
2012). The adaptation responses of various kinds are expected to be self-managed by the individual. Among the categories revealing various characterizations
of career, it is only the category of empowerment that seems to emphasize, to
any greater extent, career guidance as a mission on behalf of the individual. All
other categories seem to emphasize career guidance as a mission on behalf of
society, prior to the individual.
The aforementioned reduction in clarity in the current Swedish declaration
of ethics (Sveriges Vagledarforening, 2007) with regard to the primary focus of
career guidance leaves room for interpretation. The tension within the mission
of career guidance appears to have increased, rather than decreased. The dominance of the economic perspective in EU policy, which regards career as a
response to market forces, seems to imply that career guidance counsellors are
to work primarily on behalf of societyto serve the needs of business and industry in the first place. As illustrated by Bergmo-Prvulovic (2012), individuals
careers seem be subordinated to market forces, which would in turn lead the
practice of career guidance to be subordinated as well.
The second apparent implication of EU policy on career guidance is
concerned with a broadening of the field and functions. Based on the analysis
of previous and current declarations of ethics for career guidance counsellors
(Sveriges Vagledarforening, 1989, 2007), it is apparent that a shift has been

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INGELA BERGMO-PRVULOVIC

made regarding both the function of and who is working as a career guidance
counsellor. Earlier, the contexts in which career guidance counselling was conducted and how it connected with various public institutions were more clearly
defined. Now, the area and activities for career guidance counsellors have been
broadened and include the private sector and various activities. In the previous
declaration of ethics, there was also a greater emphasis on vocational and educational choice and decision-making as one of the main functions. In the current
declaration of ethics, the motivational function of the career guidance counsellor has been clarified. This becomes problematic, however, if the motivational
function is conducted primarily on behalf of stakeholders other than the
individual, which seems to be the case according to the dominating economic
perspective on career and the adaptive approach to learning within the learning
perspective (Bergmo-Prvulovic, 2012). As pointed out by Ahl (2006), motivation
might be seen as a euphemism for direction and control. Within the increased
focus on EU policy-making for career guidance, there follows an overall purpose
of education in its broadest sense, which implies a covert mission for career
guidance to construct adaptable workers (Bergmo-Prvulovic, 2012). This, in turn,
creates tension between whether career guidance shall be seen as directive
guidance practice, as described by Savickas as dominant during the industrial
age, as non-directive counselling or as a practice supporting self-construction, as
suggested to be the appropriate supporting method for contemporary and
future society (Savickas, 2008). The broadening of areas and functions can be
seen as a consequence of societal changes, including trends of lifelong learning.
Several authors argue that the profession of adult education (see e.g. Jutte
et al., 2011), including career guidance practice (Bergmo-Prvulovic, 2012),
seems to lose contour and visibility the more these become central subjects of
lifelong learning debates. Such trends also seem to influence the change in
functions and working tasks of career guidance practitioners. The increased
focus on recognition for prior learning and/or validation as important tools for
the adult education field (see e.g. Andersson & Fejes, 2011; Diedrich, 2012),
including career guidance practice (see e.g. Bergmo-Prvulovic, 2012), are
examples of changing functions. Career guidance practitioners seem to have an
important, yet diffuse, difficult and contradictory role to play. The fact that the
field of guidance has been broadened with additional actors and activities might
cause tensions and competition between various professions in terms of
professionalization.

Discussion
This paper explores the understanding of career and its implications for career
guidance practice according to meanings ascribed to the concept of individuals
careers through underlying perspectives in EU policy. The core of career that
emerges from this analysis seems to be far away from the career metaphor of
climbing the ladder from the era of high modernity (Savickas, 2008) and from
those predictable conditions of work in which loyalty and dedication were
rewarded by lifelong employment, job security and possibilities for hierarchical
advancement (Savickas, 2008; Savickas et al., 2009). The meanings ascribed to
individuals careers appear to be redesigned by stakeholdersbusiness, industry

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389

and policy-makers. This redesign seems to echo the concept of protean career
(Hall & Mirvis, 1996). The social organization of work appears to be under new
construction as a result of human activity affected by globalization and to influence the language of how we describe and explain the world of work of today
(Berger & Luckmann, 1966; Gergen, 2009).
The difficulties and challenges for career guidance practice arise from several contexts of change. While the meaning of career is under reconstruction
because of the changing world of work, career as a concept is added into
policy documents and ethical declarations without a clear definition or explanation from the senders. Because there are various disciplinary perspectives on
career and several interpretations and multiple meanings ascribed to career
among both ordinary people and guidance practitioners in various fields
(Collin, 2007; Kidd, 2006), career guidance would seem to be a mission impossible unless the concept is further clarified. The dominating perspectives on
career in EU policy documents challenge other perspectives on career. The psychological perspective, with self-realization as a humanistic position, has been
subordinated to the requirements of adaptation (Bergmo-Prvulovic, 2012). The
complementary view of career as mutually beneficial to individuals and
organizations appears to be challenged because the benefits to organizations
and society are emphasized prior to the individual. The unpredictability of
career, which is now constructed by the effects of globalization, makes educational and vocational choices difficult, as these are intertwined with future
dreams and thoughts of career. This, in turn, requires stakeholders from business and industry to reflect upon how to create new predictable conditions for
career, if career is to be continuously relational and complementary between
individuals and organizations. The on-going construction of a new social
arrangement of work might result in consequences that neither organizations,
nor individuals, nor society can foresee. Professional guidance counsellors
trained to represent applicants, in accordance with professional ethical guidelinesmay face tensions in practice as the mission for career guidance shifts
focus to primarily serving society and when pressures from other stakeholders
restrict the applicants decisions.
On a wider perspective, the conclusions drawn in this article may have
implications for future research on broader themes of European policies, in
both educational and labour sphere. It would be of interest for all actors who
have shown such increased interest in lifelong learning strategies and guidance
policy-making, such as business, industries and policy-makers, to return to and
re-analyse the understanding of career phenomena that exist in each specific
context. Career guidance, as highlighted in this article, lacks clarity both in
terms of the meaning career and in terms of how guidance as professional
practice may be understood. Muddled and contradictory understandings among
various stakeholders, and between local and transnational contexts are bound to
result in ethical dilemmas. Such dilemmas must be addressed. There is therefore
an urgent need for continued in-depth and comparative analysis of how career
is conceptualized and on how career guidance is practiced in each particular
context. The contradictions within the mission of career guidance, together with
the broadening of functions, activities and actors working with career-related
issues, as revealed in this analysis, indicates several needs within the field of
practice: to pay attention to the professionalism of the field (Athanasou &

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Van Esbroeck, 2008); to further explore the academic home of career guidance (Athanasou & Van Esbroeck, 2008, p. 707); and to clarify who is working
with career guidance counselling, what their work consists in, how are they working and for whom are they working.
Note

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1.

The analysis of the European policy documents on career guidance was first published in:
Bergmo-Prvulovic (2012). http://www.rela.ep.liu.se/issues/10.3384rela.2000-7426.201232/rela0072/
rela0072.pdf.

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