Bringing Theories to Life in the Classroom: Career Construction Theory

By Lisa Cardello and Jonathan Wiley

Defining Career Construction Theory

Developed by Savickas, Career Construction Theory (CCT) uses a narrative approach to help clients explore and reconstruct their career stories (Savickas, 2019). Savickas’ strategy in CCT aims to empower individuals to take an active role in shaping their career narratives. Savickas proposed that CCT offers a lens of self-construction and self-authorship that enables clients to revise their career macronarratives (the salient story of clients' careers) and vocational micronarratives (the latent stories about vocational experiences). With the support of career practitioners, the CCT lens can help clients reflect on and reconstruct their past, present, and future career experiences (Savickas, 2019).

CCT is an approach that helps clients move through three phases that lead them to deeper self-awareness and clarity:

1.    Phase 1: Involves problem formulation and exploring clients' vocational experiences. The Career Construction Interview is used in this phase to facilitate the exploration of client needs, interests, values, and competencies.

2.    Phase 2: Focuses on reconstructing the micronarratives identified in the first phase into a macronarrative to aid in formulating newly redesigned career plans.

3.    Phase 3: Includes reviewing actions to implement newly redesigned career plans, promoting practical action associated with these plans, and reflecting on encountered changes along the way.

Bringing CCT to Life in the Classroom

Counselor educators may want to consider integrating CCT into their instructional strategy when introducing the theory in the classroom. Exploring students' experiences and meaning-making related to the concept of creativity models CCT's narrative and constructivist spirit. Encourage students to reflect on what creativity means to them individually and then guide a conversation with them on deconstructing creativity. Facilitate connections to CCT, such as considering the historical, social, and cultural discourses that shape their conceptualizations of creativity, to help students understand the narrative technique of externalization. This discussion encourages students to consider their creativity rather than assessing whether they are creative. Foster in-class discussions such as these to model CCT topics to help students envision how to apply this approach with clients. This instructional strategy serves as priming to prepare students to engage in interactive activities, further their understanding and apply key concepts in CCT.

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Activities for Exploring CCT

Faculty teaching graduate-level career counseling courses can incorporate interactive activities to engage students in understanding and applying key CCT concepts.

Self-Reflection Exercises

Have students engage in reflective writing about their own career construction process, encouraging students to explore how their past experiences, values, and interests have influenced their career choices. Further, have students create narrative maps of their own or fictional characters' career stories. This activity may be expanded by analyzing the maps to identify themes, turning points, and the construction of meaning.

Simulation Exercises and Role Plays

Simulation exercises allow students to take on the role of career counselors applying CCT with a hypothetical client. Role play activities which require students to administer the Career Construction Interview (CCI) are particularly impactful. Such practice supports students in gaining familiarity with the interview components and increases their level of confidence in conducting the interview with future clients. The Career Construction interview protocol and related resources can be accessed for free at http://www.vocopher.com/.

Life Story Interviews

To promote cultural competence among counselors in training, ask students to conduct the CCI with individuals from diverse backgrounds and career paths. As an individual or group activity, the narratives can be analyzed through the lens of CCT to understand how personal and contextual factors shape career decisions.

My Career Story Workbook

The “My Career Story” autobiographical workbook (Savickas & Hartung, 2021) is available online for download and can be utilized in the classroom for guided self-reflection. Students may use this resource to engage in their own self-reflection, or to engage a client through simulation exercises. The workbook facilitates the translation of CCT concepts into practical application, aiding students in counseling skill development.

Case Studies and Analysis

Students may practice utilizing the CCT approach by applying its key principles to a case study. Ask students to analyze the case using CCT principles and encourage them to identify how the individuals within the cases construct their career narratives and make meaning of their experiences. An example of a case conceptualization assignment can be found on the NCDA Counselor Educator Academy resources page (for members only), “Case Conceptualization Culminating Activity” (Gibbons, n.d.). 

Sample case studies may be found in the The Career Counseling Casebook: A Resource for Students, Practitioners, and Counselor Educators (2nd edition) published by NCDA (2014). Alternatively, students may author their own case studies and present them utilizing a CCT conceptual framework. Provide feedback through debriefing sessions to discuss the application of theory in practice.

Applying the Theory to Future Clients

This article outlines innovative teaching strategies that can assist counselor educators in preparing their students to learn the core principles of CCT and implement the theory into practice. By incorporating theory-driven interactive activities, counselor educators can engage students in facilitating their understanding and application of the key CCT concepts and processes. These strategies help bring CCT to life in graduate-level career development courses and aid counselors-in-training in conceptualizing how to apply this theory outside the classroom with their future clients.

The activities discussed above can help students learn the core principles of Career Construction Theory and develop practical skills in applying the theory to real-life career counseling scenarios.



Gibbons, M. M. (n.d.) Counselor educator syllabi and assignments: Case conceptualization culminating activity. National Career Development Association. https://ncda.org/aws/NCDA/pt/sp/counselor_educator

Niles, S. G., Goodman, J., & Pope, M. (Eds.). (2014). The career counseling casebook: A resource for students, practitioners, and counselor educators. National Career Development Association.

Savickas, M. L. (2019). Career counseling (2nd ed.). American Psychological Association. https://doi.org/10.1037/0000105-000

Savickas, M. L. & Hartung, P.J. (2012). My career story: An autobiographical workbook for life-career success. http://www.vocopher.com/CSI/CCI_workbook.pdf




Lisa Cardello 2024Lisa Cardello, EdS, is a doctoral student in the CACREP-accredited Ph.D. in Counseling and Supervision Program at Kean University. She also serves as the Executive Director of Career Preparation and Experiential Learning at Rowan College at Burlington County and an adjunct professor at Rider University and The College of New Jersey where she teaches graduate-level counseling courses. Lisa is a National Certified Counselor, Board Certified Coach, Licensed Associate Counselor (NJ), and Past President of the New Jersey Career Development Association. Lisa may be contacted at LisaMCardello@gmail.com.


Jonathan WileyJonathan Wiley, Ph.D., LPC, NCC, is an assistant professor of counseling in the Department of Counseling & Psychology at Tennessee Tech University. He was chosen as a 2023 Counselor Educator Academy cohort member by the National Career Development Association. Before his current role as a counselor educator, Dr. Wiley worked as a counselor and supervisor in multiple counseling settings ranging from individual, group, and family counseling to crisis counseling, school-based mental health counseling, and residential treatment. Jonathan may be contacted at jwiley@tntech.edu.


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