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Career Development in New Zealand: culturally aware strategies start in schools

Every day during Canada Career Week (November 4-8, 2013), the ContactPoint and OrientAction online communities will publish guest blogs on the state of career development around the world. Today’s post was written by Sam Young, from the Career Development Association of New Zealand (CDANZ).


Diagram illustrating influences on career decisions


While the idea of training for a calling has been around for centuries, I feel that it is only in the post-industrialisation era that we have had the critical population mass with career choice for the development of a careers field in New Zealand. While arising independently in Europe and the UK, modern career guidance appears to have largely begun with a single man; an American, Frank Parsons. As a social reformer, Parsons was pivotal for his holistic view of vocations, training and matching theory development (Parsons, 1909; Bookrags, n.d.).

Americans appear to have taken to career guidance like ducks to water; due initially to the rise of Scientific Management (Robbins, 1991), and post-WW2 via returned servicemen undertaking testing in order to enter tertiary education (Sharf, 2010; Robbins, 1991). Hofstede (1980) in his study of cultural dimensions, scores Americans as highly individualistic, reasonably comfortable with the gap between rich and poor (power distance) and a more masculine society than New Zealand. The American dream – being a ‘self-made man’ – sits comfortably with Hofstede’s correlation scores of US culture.

It is normal, embedded behaviour in the US to seek professional career assistance. I feel America is still almost alone in this, particularly compared to New Zealand, where we have a more collective culture (the nation is as important as the individual), a highly fair society, and are less overtly assertive (cf ‘aggressive’) and confident (cf ‘boastful’) than in the US.

We Kiwis can learn a lot from the Americans, providing what we adopt suits our context.

New Zealand government careers strategy, adopted from the OECD, underpins the activities of CareersNZ, and the development of NZ curriculum career standards in line with our National Education Goals (Ministry of Education, 2009). Karen Sewell, Secretary for Education, said “participation in the 21st century workforce […] demand[s] lifelong learning and an enduring capacity to manage change” (Ministry of Education, 2009, p. 4).

From meeting Te Tiriti1 responsibilities and from South Pacific influences, NZ career practice will gain a truly local dimension. Part of New Zealand’s careers strategy is to create proactive knowledge within schools (Ministry of Education, 2009), so seeking career expertise becomes normal.

Once students transition to employment, it is hoped that seeking out career development professionals to assist with their career journey becomes an embedded behaviour.

The co-ordinating body for career development professionals in New Zealand is the Career Development Association of NZ (CDANZ). Our members work in all community sectors including secondary schools, tertiary education, corporates, not-for-profit, government agencies and private practice. We cover diverse areas encompassing rehabilitation, career development, training needs analysis, job seeking, skills development, coaching and transitions navigation.

To ensure our members’ capability suits our local environment, CDANZ requires our members to continuously enhance their knowledge and skills to work effectively and appropriately within our New Zealand/Aotearoa context, meeting the CDANZ professional practice competencies and adhering to the CDANZ code of ethics.

Mary McMahon’s model (Ministry of Education, 2009, p. 12) shows clients (students) sit in the model’s centre, surrounded by first by their Whānau2, then by their choices, influences and macro-environmental factors. Whānau (family) is a key part of New Zealand career development.

Sitting well with developmental theory, the duality of Whakapapa Tikanga3 – the spirituality of representing all those who have gone before us; and ownership of cultural protocol – adds uniqueness to New Zealand career practice. That an individual has a duty to their Whānau2, Hapu4 and Iwi5 sits well with founding British concepts of noblesse oblige; we are merely stewards for generations to come.

On their website, Te Kete Ipurangi6 (n.d.) quote Jarvis (2003); “Career development is a lifelong process of skill acquisition and building through a continuum of learning, development and mastery [, enabling…] people to be in charge of their own career, with enough focus and direction for stability and enough flexibility and adaptability for change”.

I like Jarvis’ statement immensely. I feel that not only does it leave freedom enough for each person to develop a career to suit their needs, but for each nation to develop a career practice to suit their unique population.

Sam Young
(CDANZ Executive Member & Treasurer, Career Practitioner, Lecturer, Director & Business Consultant. Follow at &


[1] Te Tiriti O Waitangi (The Treaty of Waitangi) is New Zealand’s founding document: a contract between Māori (Tangata whenua, people of the land pre-1840) and Pākehā (everyone else via the Crown of the Commonwealth). Read more at and

[2] Their ‘family’; a broad concept of group unity encompassing the support network of those tied to us by family and custom; extended family or community of related families who live together in the same area

[3] the spirituality of representing all those who have gone before us; and ownership of cultural protocol

[4] Clans or descent group from one area, sub-tribes

[5] Collection of Whānau / Hapu into the major tribes or tribal groups, encompassing both the living and the dead. NZ Government prefer to negotiate at Iwi level

[6] The New Zealand Ministry of Education’s curriculum website



  • Bookrags (n.d.). Encyclopedia of World Biography on Frank Parsons. Retrieved 18 November 2010 from
  • CareersNZ (n.d.) Global perspectives. Retrieved 22 November 2010 from
  • Hofstede, Geert H. (1980), Culture’s Consequences, Sage, London.
  • Jarvis, Phillip S. (2003). Career Management Paradigm Shift: Prosperity for Citizens, Windfalls for Government. Retrieved 22 October 2010 from
  • Johnson, G., Scholes, K. & Whittington, R. (2005). Exploring Corporate Strategy: Texts and Cases. (7th Edition). UK: Prentice-Hall.
  • Ministry of Education (2009). Career Education and Guidance in New Zealand Schools. Retrieved 22 October 2013 from
  • Parsons, Frank (1909). Choosing a Vocation. USA: Houghton Mifflin
  • Patton, Wendy & McMahon, Mary (2006). Career Development and Systems Theory: Connecting Theory and Practice. Netherlands: Sense Publishers.
  • Prideaux, L., & Creed, P. (2002). A review of career development research in Australia and New Zealand from 1995–2000. International Journal for Educational and Vocational Guidance, volume 2, issue 1 (pp. 21-38)
  • Robbins, Stephen P. (1991). Management (Third Edition). USA: Prentice Hall.
  • Sharf, Richard. S. (2010). Applying career development theory to counselling. (5th edition). Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks Cole.
  • Te Ara (n.d.) The Encyclopedia of New Zealand Search Page. Retrieved 6 November 2013 from
  • Te Kete Ipurangi (n.d.) NZ Curriculum: Why career education is important – quote from Jarvis, Phillip S. 2003, p. 7. Retrieved 22 October 2013 from


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