A Six-Moral Story: Career Development & Mental Health Research Project!

Connections count in career development. Dave’s involvement in the field is due to Kris Magnusson, a classmate in our PhD program many years ago. Kris Magnusson introduced Dave and Michael in the early 1990s. Without that introduction, we would likely not have met and, even if we had, may not have connected in the same way. Over 30 years after meeting in a grad course, Kris attended a talk we gave on career development and mental health at the Cannexus conference. This led to a coffee with Kris to talk about research possibilities in the area. Kris, then the Dean of Education at Simon Fraser University on Canada’s west coast, talked about a funding opportunity with Canada’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC, which all academics pronounce “shirk”) targeting partnership development between researchers and community stakeholders who would benefit from and participate in the research.

In a parallel connection stream, Dave and Michael found themselves in a meeting with a career development researcher from the University of New Brunswick, José Domene. We didn’t have much opportunity to connect with José during the meeting, but we all had the opportunity to learn a little more about each other. 

Back to Kris… Part of the idea of a partnership project is to have multiple academic institutions work with multiple community partners. So, when we started to think about who to partner with, and then discovered that José was moving to Dave and Michael’s province to take a position at the University of Calgary, it seemed natural to see if he was interested.

Applying for SSHRC grants is a ridiculous amount of work; it’s a big ask to request someone to join the project. Fortunately, we knew that José was going to be at Alberta’s provincial career development conference. We found the time to meet and José indicated his interest in the project, particularly if it was focused on the career development and mental health of youth.

Fast forward to today, and we are extremely pleased to announce that Simon Fraser University was awarded a Partnership Development Grant for a project entitled Connecting Career Development and Mental Health in Schools. On the academic side, Kris, José, and Krista Socholotiuk (an SFU prof with an interest in child & adolescent mental health) will lead the project along with collaborators Pete Robertson (Edinburgh Napier University) and Simon Viviers (Université Laval). The community partners are from British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and New Brunswick and include provincial education ministries, school districts, an employment-related ministry, and an industry-education council.

The overarching aim of the 3-year partnership is to map out a research agenda to study the impact of career development on mental health among youth in secondary education in such a way that the results of the research have practical as well as conceptual value. 

We are pleased with the turn of events, and we hope you are, too. You may have attended our presentations or workshops, and you may be one of the many who have contributed significantly to our thinking about career development and mental health. Like our book, the SSHRC grant would likely not have happened without your contribution. The voice of front line practitioners was central in our thinking when we were developing the models that eventually made their way into the book, models that will inform this 3-year research project. We will be involved in the research as consultants and trainers and will have you and your contributions in mind. 

The morals of this story?

  • Relationships matter.
  • Letting people know what you are interested in matters.
  • Finding out what people are interested in matters.
  • Serendipity or Krumboltz’s “planned happenstance” matters.
  • Small investments of time and energy can often yield dramatic results.
  • There is considerable interest in career development and mental health.

Stay tuned for more info on this project. A virtual symposium for the partners, spread over October, November and December, is currently being planned.

Finding Our Place(s) in an Uncertain Transition

Our book was officially launched in virtual form in Australia last month! Our part in the festivities (we’re imagining there were fireworks in all the big cities; too bad no one took pictures) included a webinar hosted by the Career Education Association of Victoria (CEAV –, also known as the Australian Centre for Career Education. We outlined some of the key messages in the book, including 1) the effects of career development that positively influence mental health and 2) a model of stress and coping that explains some of the mechanisms underlying the career development role in mental health support. We were pleased to have the opportunity to work with Australian career development practitioners and to be guided by their feedback and comments as we assembled the book. Many thanks to Bernadette Gigliotti and the CEAV whose initial enthusiasm and support for the book were instrumental to the success of the project. Also, thanks to Joanne Webber for her careful review of the manuscript. Among other contributions, Joanne made sure our language and approach would work with Australian readers.

Also known as…

In addition to the Australian launch, all of our work since the middle of March has been delivered online. Like many of you, our scheduled in-person workshops, presentations, meetings, and conferences have been either cancelled or postponed while we all wait for a future date when it will again be safe to gather. The global pandemic has us all adapting and learning to cope with demands we hadn’t anticipated and weren’t necessarily prepared for. As career development practitioners, we tend to see ourselves as uniquely adaptable to many things, especially to career-related demands, but this particular transition has challenged us all. We’re grappling with new technology and translating our in-person strategies so they work remotely while worrying about the future and our capacity to manage. We are experiencing the concerns that regularly plague many vulnerable clients, COVID or no COVID, and so are many of our friends and colleagues. In the face of these challenges, our skills as career development practitioners may be more necessary and helpful than ever.

We know that career development help will be needed in the face of unprecedented job loss. What we have learned while navigating the realities of COVID is that our work on attending to mental health in career development is both effective and vital. We are seeing how stress can be managed not only by typical stress management efforts such as exercise and healthy eating, but by effective career development strategies. For example, we and our colleagues are reducing demands through perspective-taking (“we are all in this together”) and priority setting (the previously onerous demand of looking good seems far less important in a COVID world). We, our colleagues, and our clients are also increasing coping skills to meet reality’s requirements. We figured out Zoom, WebEx, and other videoconferencing systems; we run and participate in meetings in new ways; and we have learned new ways of showing we care without the use of hugs or face-to-face conversations. We certainly haven’t eliminated COVID-related stress because of these efforts, but we’ve found out that we have some tangible and palpable control over our responses to COVID.

A closing note: We’re moving to a new system and this is the first of our automated blog posts, meaning new followers can sign-up through our website and the posts will go out automatically to the list. No more cutting and pasting e-mails for us. Along with the automation is a plan going forward to post on a more regular basis. We have a few topics in the hopper and there are many exciting things to report on in the coming weeks and months. And, as we’ve mentioned before, we’re always interested in blog content focused on career development and mental health and would be happy to include your piece in a future guest blog. 

Free Career Development & Mental Health Webinar Coming, and More

Our book (Strengthening Mental Health through Effective Career Development) launched in January at the Cannexus conference ( in Ottawa. In all, about a thousand delegates took home copies of the book and some have already read and provided evaluations through the links we set up on our website (please go to to complete the evaluation if you have not done so already, even if you have not read the whole book). The reviews and evaluations are positive and speak to the timeliness and relevance of the topic not only for career development practitioners, but for all career development stakeholders (organizations, schools, post-secondary institutions, clients, and parents).
If you were not at Cannexus and would like to order the book, go here — — to see the options (CERIC’s promo is at the very bottom of this email).

We’re now focussing on the next phase of the project, which includes working with CERIC to produce and deliver a free webinar (see below) and possibly a webinar series; deliver workshops across Canada on the topic; and support an upcoming Australian book launch with the Career Education Association of Victoria. We will have more information about all of our post-launch activities as locations and dates are finalized. 

One thing that has been scheduled is our first free CERIC webinar which is coming up on April 3. In this session, we’ll provide an overview of the general topic of career development as a support for positive mental health and a more in-depth discussion of models and mechanisms explaining career development’s role in mental health support. We’re hoping to spend some time on evaluation of mental health outcomes and ways to communicate with interested stakeholders. Registration for this free webinar is available at A copy of the recording will be provided to all registrants, so it’s worth signing up even if you know you cannot attend on the webinar day. 

One of the most rewarding aspects of our work on the topic has been hearing from, talking to, and working with others who are keenly interested in the topic. One of the compelling challenges that comes up in this work is involving key stakeholders in the implementation of strategies and measures that explicitly link career development and mental health. Over the past few months, we were able to work with and learn from the Career and Volunteer Services team at Simon Fraser University. Penny Freno, Career Education Manager, had attended our session at Cannexus last year and cajoled the Director, Tony Botelho, into running a workshop. They then had the idea of following the workshop with a consultation session the next day in which the team could really dig into how to incorporate, measure, and communicate positive mental health outcomes into their work. This idea soon led to a consultation with not only the Career and Volunteer Services team but also the entire Student Services leadership group, representing housing, recreation, health, financial aid, and more! SFU’s Health Promotion team had already been doing great work on the health and wellness front, so the leadership group was primed and receptive. Of the many ideas packed into the session, one stand-out was how great it was for each unit to see other Student Services units’ contributions to mental health. The recreation team focuses on relationships, for example, whereas the academic advisors attend to meaning/purpose. Other teams home in on contribution, happiness/satisfaction, or coping/mastery. As a whole, the dominant components of mental health are all touched on by the entirety of Student Services. We were pleased to be included in their process and we’re excited for SFU and their leadership in considering and implementing a strategy that includes mental health among the key outcomes of their career development and other student services. We look forward to hearing them tell the story as it unfolds. 

One final note for this edition. Many thanks to you for signing up and following this soon to be official “blog.” We’re currently in the process of setting our web presence and creating a permanent web repository for our work on career development and mental health. This is going to lead to a better, more systematized, and regular process for sharing information about the topic. As we mentioned earlier in the series, we’re looking forward to having guest contributions on the topic and would love to hear from you if you have some ideas about topics or are interested in contributing something yourself. 

Book Launch!

Next week we’re off to Ottawa attending Cannexus (, Canada’s national career development conference. We try to attend every year because it is always a rewarding use of time—a chance to learn about our field’s work, connect with friends and colleagues, and meet and learn from career development practitioners working on the front lines in Canada and around the world. This year is different because it coincides with the official launch of our book: “Strengthening mental health through effective career development: A practitioner’s guide.” Thanks to CERIC and its knowledge champions (Simon Fraser University, Wilfred Laurier University, Ryerson University and the Australian Center for Career Education), each Cannexus delegate will receive a copy of the book. For those not attending Cannexus, it will be available as a paperback or ebook via CERIC, Amazon and Chapters/Indigo (see links below). We think it will also be available from Apple Books. It will also be available as a free pdf download from CERIC. It will soon be available for distribution in Australia, too!

Our intention, along with CERIC and our sponsors, through all of this, has been centered on making a case for the role of career development as a support for positive mental health. Although we had been presenting on the topic for the past six years, preparing the book has been an opportunity to pull all of the pieces together in one document, to provide the evidence along with models and a skillset practitioners can use to include mental health and mental health awareness in their practice. Our work as career development practitioners will be the same: We’ll be focusing on career development concerns, but we’ll also be teaching our clients and other stakeholders about our role and function as a support for positive mental health. 

We’re also hosting a Cannexus session (Career development and mental health: Coping becomes hoping) on Monday, January 27, from 10:10 to 11:25 a.m. in room 206. This session goes beyond the evidence base and covers the mechanisms underlying career development’s role as a support for positive mental health and wellbeing. We look forward to seeing you at the conference.

Lastly, as part of the official book launch, we hope to work with CERIC to deliver a series of workshops across Canada in 2020. We will provide more details as they become available.

Order from:


Amazon –,aps,190&sr=8-1

Why Connect Career Development and Mental Health?

Why make the case for career development as a mental health intervention? As we’ve pursued the Career Development and Mental Health project, we’ve become increasingly aware of the values underlying the initiative and, through working with interested others, with a rationale for carrying on. Obviously (this is true for us, but because you’re reading this, we also think it’s probably true for you), we are committed to making the case for career development as a mental health intervention because the evidence is telling us career intervention supports mental health. Finding ways to share that truth is probably the most important reason for continuing to “make the case,” but there are a few others:

  1. We care about career development intervention. Like most career paths for most people, we stumbled on a focus on career development while we were heading somewhere else, but after having worked in the area for thirty-plus years, we appreciate more than ever the central place career decisions have in most people’s lives. Our work as career development practitioners is important and relevant.
  2. It’s helping us learn more about career intervention. Making the case has helped us understand more about how career intervention works. Whether intended or not, career development intervention is also an intervention for positive mental health. Exploring this relationship has helped us learn more about how career development works and how it produces effects and outcomes that have both direct and indirect impacts on mental health. Revealing these connections will help us all to understand and be more intentional in our career development practice.
  3. We value our career development community. As a community, we are unified by our interest in and caring for the people we serve and our relationship with them. Whether in your local community of colleagues or at the level of regional or national community, we’re certain you’ve felt like you’re part of an important group of kindred spirits. Your tribe is interested in and cares about making a difference in the lives of clients and others who benefit from your work as a career development practitioner.
  4. Our work makes a difference. Although we’ve been mining the evidence supporting the positive mental health outcomes of our work, we are also reminded of and moved by knowing that career development intervention has an impact on client lives far beyond learned skills and tangible outcomes such as employment. The way individual lives change no doubt contributes to wellbeing, but we also know these positive changes have direct effects on our clients’ communities, personal networks, and families.
  5. There are large economic outcomes associated with our work. This reason refers to our role generally – helping individuals make fitting career plans optimizes their participation in work, the labour market, and local, regional and national economies – and also specifically in terms of the effects of career development intervention on positive mental health. Recent estimates by the World Health Organization place the cost of lost productivity due to anxiety and depression alone to be one trillion dollars per year. That’s a big number. Further, they estimate that for each dollar spent on intervention, there is a four dollar return on productivity (World Health Organization, 2019). At this point, we can’t estimate the future economic returns of career development intervention, but we can say with certainty that for most people, most of the time, career concerns, whether held by a youth trying to decide on a path or a mid-career individual attempting to relaunch after job loss, are among the most important demands faced in life and they impact every other part of our lives. Career development intervention supports clients to cope with these important demands and thereby also serves to reduce stress and its mental health consequences. Career development intervention addresses the immediate career-related needs of our clients while simultaneously providing support for positive mental health now and in the future. We anticipate that at some point in the near future we’ll be able to show economic returns for career development intervention that parallel those for mental health intervention.

That’s why!  

*Reference: World Health Organization. (2019). Mental health in the workplace. Retrieved August 19, 2019 from

Career Development Impacts Mental Health: “Uh-Duh” or Evidence is Needed?

People have received help with their career development from time immemorial. Masters led their apprentices, students worked with teachers, daughters and sons worked alongside mothers and fathers, and the young have been guided by Elders all in the service of helping individuals hone their craft(s) and progress along a vocational pathway. This help, however, had little to do with the choice of vocational pathway and much more to do with competence along the path. 

Formalizing help regarding work selection – choosing the kind of work individuals want to pursue – is a relatively recent development in history[1]. Efforts to help people, particularly young people, choose their work seems to have started gathering steam in the late 1800s in America. In 1881, Lysander Salmon Richards published Vocophy: The New Profession. A System Enabling a Person to Name the Calling or Vocation One is Best Suited to Follow (you can download it here: It’s difficult to tell how much impact this book had, but there’s evidence that some high school courses around that time were devoted to vocational choice.[2] Also, we like to speculate that Frank Parsons, who lived in Boston, was influenced by Richards. Parsons, in 1908, established the Vocation Bureau, the first service to explicitly help individuals (young men) choose their vocation. His book, Choosing a Vocation, articulates the broader aim of choosing “a line of work to which he is adapted”: “If a young man chooses his vocation so that his best abilities and enthusiasms will be united with his daily work, he has laid the foundations of success and happiness[3].” (Our apologies for the sexist language here.)   

With “success and happiness” firmly in sight, Parsons and many after him dove into the minutia of vocational choice – interests, characteristics, values, skills, aptitudes, labour market trends, job openings, salaries, decision-making and more – and it seems that “success and happiness” just became taken for granted as the natural outcomes of vocational choice. The pursuit of these wellbeing concepts and mental health generally as outcomes of career development was mostly abandoned, with occasional sparks of interest by career development theorists and thinkers such as Brown and Brooks (1985), Herr (1989) and, more recently, Blustein (2006), McIlveen (Kossen & McIlveen, 2017), Peruniak (2010) and Robertson (2013).

The lack of enthusiasm to actively identify career development and mental health connections in a sustained way may have been due to:

  • The “uh, duh” factor – i.e., the general connection is so obvious as to not be worth studying (Super (1957) alludes to this).
  • Our collective focus on and prioritization of employment related outcomes. We have done a good job measuring placement outcomes because our livelihood as a profession has depended on being accountable to the interests and preferences of our funders. 
  • The difficulty in generating direct evidence for the mental health outcomes of career development. As a field, we have very little solid evidence that our interventions help with career development, never mind mental health!
  • The perceived need to get our theoretical house in order regarding career development before pursuing broader connections. Like other areas in social science, we have a lot of theories and models, and maybe as a profession our collective energy has been going into creating these. As an example, consider the recent CERIC publication of over 40 current career theories/models (
  • A generally subdued interest in mental health as compared to mental illness. Although mental health (addressing or preventing mental health concerns such as stress, depression, anxiety and addictions) is front-and-centre in the minds of the public, governments, educational institutions and organizations, it has not always been this way. In the mid-1900s, Maslow was considered a real innovator with his focus on the best that humans could be rather than on their failings. He and Carl Rogers led what would become the humanistic psychology movement, a movement that examined health as well as illness. In the late 80s and 90s, others, such as Frederickson, Keyes, and Seligman, followed suit with the positive psychology movement. These efforts, as well as very strong economies in the Western world, have culminated in cultural shifts toward deliberate pursuits of happiness, satisfaction, balance, meaning, and positivity, all potential indicators of mental health.

Why should we care about this historical background, you may be asking? The answer is reasonably simple: So we can figure out how to maintain the momentum to keep pursuing career development and mental health connections in theory, research and practice until we know what the connections are, how to improve them, and how they relate to other predictive factors. Our goal with this and a few other related projects is to maintain and sustain a focus on the mental health and wellbeing outcomes of career intervention. Finding evidence for the mental health outcomes of our work as career practitioners will help us as a profession to make a strong case for our value, but it will also certainly have positive long-term impact on the wellbeing of the clients we serve. It goes without saying that making the career-mental health connection and helping career intervention to find its proper place among other health and well-being interventions, will also address some of the significant economic consequences of mental health concerns for individuals, organizations, and national economies. But more on that interesting topic two blogs from now.

We’re working pretty steadily on the book – check CERIC’s recent update: We would love to hear what you would find useful/interesting in our emails to you. We are also looking for a guest blogger or two who could write specifically about how their career development practice has created mental health outcomes for clients (500-700 words). We will continue to share evidence we’re finding, but we’d like to also share practitioners’ success stories.


[1] We’ll come clean now that when we use terms such as “history,” we’re referring to “Western world” history, particularly history that has made its way into the English language. We’re simply not knowledgeable enough to discuss career development history in other parts of the world such as Asia or the Middle East, nor do we claim to understand traditional Indigenous career development approaches in Canada or elsewhere.

[2] Brown, D., & Brooks, L., & Associates (1996). Career choice and development (3rd Ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

[3] Parsons, F. (1909). Choosing a vocation. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, p. 3.

Book Announcement

We’re Writing a Book on Career Development & Mental Health!

At long last, we have a partnership agreement with CERIC to write a book about the impact of career development on mental health! The book’s primary audience will be front-line career development practitioners in employment centres, schools, post-secondaries, and career counselling offices. It will be backed with enough research and evaluation information to make it also useful for supervisors/managers, researchers, policy-makers, and academics. Expect to see the book in the spring of 2020. We will soon be posting a description of the book on CERIC’s projects page:

CERIC will publish the book as well as partially fund its development. Australia’s Career Education Association of Victoria (CEAV –, the Life-Role Development Group Ltd. ( and Simon Fraser University’s Faculty of Education are also contributing funds and in-kind resources. CEAV will also “Australianize” the book for distribution within Australia. Many thanks to Riz Ibrahim, Executive Director of CERIC, Bernadette Gigliotti, Executive Director of CEAV, and Kris Magnusson, Dean of Education at SFU, for making this happen.

For those of you who indicated your interest in following and/or contributing to our progress on the career development-mental health agenda, our apologies for the delay in communicating (special apologies to those who signed up over a year ago!). We have not been idle, but have also not been in a position to open a consistent line of communication with you.

In the next missive, we will provide an update of what we have done to date, why we would like to continue communicating with you, and possibly how you might become involved in the initiative. These communications will soon become a blog but will start out as emails manually sent your way.

If you have received this and did not want to, or do not want to be on this mailing list in the future, simply reply to this email indicating your wish to unsubscribe.