The Career Counselor's Handbook

Book Review by Hope Deighton and Kyung Hee Kim

The Career Counselor’s Handbook (2nd Ed.) by Howard Figler & Richard N. Bolles. Ten Speed Press, 2007, 301 pp. ISBN 9781580088701. $19.99


Both Figler and Bolles have over six decades of experience in the field of career development, and both have written best sellers about the subject, including The Complete Job-Search Handbook (Figler, 1999) and What Color is Your Parachute? (Bolles, 2009). Figler and Bolles have combined their experience to produce a practical guide with The Career Counselor’s Handbook. The book includes a discussion of the history and definition of career counseling, a sample of tools, tips for dealing with difficult clients, an overview of the values that shape career work, and guidelines for establishing and maintaining a career in this field.


Figler and Bolles present career counseling within a person-centered framework. Figler writes: “Clients need purposes that include economic survival, but also transcend it” (p. 22). Counselors are frequently reminded to help clients identify and pursue meaning in their careers. Counselors are also encouraged to approach career counseling holistically and foster a strong counselor-client relationship, the single most important factor in producing positive counseling outcomes.


One unique feature of this book is that it is intended to help career counselors with both personal and professional development. Figler and Bolles encourage counselors to do their own self-assessment of values and biases, to avoid professional isolation, and to pursue ongoing professional development. True to their person-centered framework, the authors emphasize the importance of creating solid relationships with both clients and colleagues, and to focus on providing quality service over volume. In addition, career counselors are encouraged to engage in advocacy and promote themselves and the value of career counseling in the community. Promotion and positive publicity is valuable not only for the profession as a whole, but for counselors trying to increase their clientele. It is this aspect of the book, and its sections focused on professional development specifically for career counselors, that sets it apart and creates specific value for our profession.


Figler and Bolles also dedicate an entire section to the integration of spirituality in career counseling, including the potential role spirituality can play in career development. Because spiritual and religious beliefs can play a significant factor in career-related decisions, counselors must be willing to acknowledge their importance for clients, and integrate these factors into counseling where appropriate. Figler and Bolles provide an overview of how to effectively address this topic.


Figler and Bolles provide an entire section on tangible resources and tools that counselors can take and immediately apply, including career exploration charts and forms that the authors offer for reproduction. Figler and Bolles also have suggestions for exploratory questions and group activities, as well as references to helpful books and websites. This section also discusses the misuse of various resources and why some commonly used career related tools are ineffective and should be avoided in certain instances.


One of our favorite sections gives five suggestions for how career counselors can stay fresh (p.299):

  1. Take risks;
  2. Meet with three professional soul mates;
  3. Write at least one article;
  4. Give public presentations; and
  5. Ask others to observe you at work.

Especially for taking risks, Figler suggests career counselors develop novel techniques to try and test exciting ideas about what might work better for clients. Figler also suggests counselors be bold and open to new ways of doing things. This is important for all types of counselors because highly creative individuals and highly effective counselors share many of the same characteristics (Carson, 1999): Both take risks, exhibit open-mindedness, use both divergent and convergent thinking processes, hold seemingly contradictory information simultaneously, and pursue different information retrieval processes which may include inner sensations, symbols, images, dreams, and fantasies. Creativity leads counselors to achieve larger and more comprehensive perspectives and to transcend imposed dichotomies, allowing them to link divergent factors (Frey, 1975).


However, this book does have some weaknesses. Its primary weakness is the lack of evidence to support the claims of the authors. For instance, the authors make a point to criticize career assessments without support. Admittedly Figler and Bolles, as experts in our field, may be qualified to make claims about the content validity of career assessments, but their resources were not mentioned. A review of the Strong Interest Inventory states that there is evidence for both concurrent and predictive validity (Kelly, 2003). Kennedy and Kennedy (2004) recommend using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, and Shearer and Luzzo (2009) recommend using the Multiple Intelligences Developmental Assessment Scales and suggest that these tools can provide many benefits for clients. Regardless, Figler and Bolles claim, without citing any support, that assessments are not helpful in career counseling. In contrast, Figler and Bolles reference primary and secondary sources throughout the book concentrated largely in the discussion of the history of career counseling and as suggestions for further reading.


The book also fails to adequately address multiculturalism in career counseling. There are entire chapters devoted to spirituality, difficult clients, and history of our field, but none that discuss multicultural approaches to career counseling. This is an unfortunate omission, because the literature suggests it is important for career counselor to effectively integrate multiculturalism into their work (Byars-Winston & Fouad, 2006).


Overall, this book is a solid overview of career counseling and a helpful resource for practitioners. Its clear organization and concise chapters make it user-friendly and ideal as a quick reference guide. Although intended for career counselors, we also recommend it to counselors in a variety of fields as career concerns can be intertwined with various mental health issues. Therefore it may be useful for all counselors to have a resource on hand to address career topics. The Career Counselor’s Handbook, with its ease of use and relative comprehensiveness for a book of its length, would be our recommendation for that resource.



Byars-Winston, A. M., & Fouad, N. A. (2006). Metacognition and multicultural competence: Expanding the culturally appropriate career counseling model. Career Development Quarterly, 54, 187-201.

Carson, D.K. (1999). The importance of creativity in family therapy: A preliminary consideration. Family Journal: Counseling and Therapy For Couples and Families, 7, 326-334.

Frey, D. H. (1975). The anatomy of an idea: Creativity in counseling. Personnel and Guidance Journal, 54, 23-27.

Kelly, K. R. (2003). [Review of the test Strong Interest Inventory]. In The fifteenth mental measurements yearbook. Available from EBSCO Host.

Kennedy, R. B., & Kennedy, D. A. (2004). Using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator in career counseling. Journal of Employment Counseling, 41, 38-44.

Shearer, C. B., & Luzzo, D. A. (2009). Exploring the application of multiple intelligences theory to career counseling. Career Development Quarterly, 58, 3-13.




Hope DeightonHope Deighton, M.Ed. htdeighton@gmail.com, received her M. Ed. in Community Counseling from the College of William and Mary and her B. A. in Psychology from Purdue University. Her professional interests include career development, college counseling, and academic advising. She is a National Certified Counselor and a member of the National Career Development Association.

Kyung Hee KimKyung Hee Kim, Ph.D. kkim@wm.edu, is an Associate Professor of Educational Psychology at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA. Her research interests are: understanding, assessing, and nurturing creativity with respect to environmental and cultural interactions. Dr. Kim serves on the editorial board of the International Journal of Creativity and Problem Solving and the Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts. Her research has been recognized as major contributions to Educational Psychology by Newsweek, U.S. News & World Report, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Metro, Superinteressante Magazine, Periodista La Tercera, Korrespondent magazine, The Globe and Mail, and others.

Printer-Friendly Version