The focus of this chapter is on new trends in theory development in career psychology which has a long history and a diverse and well-established theory base. For some time, however, critics have questioned whether the theory base is relevant for the current times especially as the effects of globalization and internationalization have become more apparent. In particular, career theory’s relevance and application across cultures and countries has been questioned as has its relevance and application to the twenty-first century world of work. Central to such questions are the Western dominance of career theory and also the logical positivist philosophical base that has underpinned career theory and practice throughout its history. These factors give rise to concerns about career theory’s cultural relevance to diverse populations within both its home countries and other countries. A further criticism of career theory is that it has a predominant middle-class focus and has lost touch with its social justice origins.
More recently, new trends have emerged in the development of theories that are underpinned by the philosophical bases of constructivism and social constructionism. Such theories include contextual action theory (Transition to adulthood: Action, projects, and counseling, New York, 2011), the Chaos Theory of Careers (The chaos theory of careers: A new perspective on working in the twenty-first century, New York, 2011), career construction theory (Career development and counseling: Putting theory and research to work, Hoboken, pp. 42–70, 2005), the Systems Theory Framework (Career development and systems theory: Connecting theory and practice, Rotterdam, 2006) of career development, and the relational theory of working (The psychology of working, Mahwah, 2006). These more recent theories have a greater capacity to accommodate complexity and the subjective perspectives of clients, and place more emphasis on the connectedness between individuals and their contexts, meaning making, personal agency, and the use of narrative discourse than more established career theories. It has been suggested that these theories may have some potential to address longstanding criticisms of career theory. The differences between the philosophical bases of the more established and more recent theories result in different contributions to the field, all of which are valuable.
Despite the emergence of new trends in career theory, it remains of concern that these have also emanated out of Western contexts and there remains a pressing need to encourage and privilege non-Western theoretical perspectives. The prevailing dominance of the more established theory base in its influence on psychology training, research methodology, publication, and practice raises questions about the capacity of the voices of the new trends in theory development to be heard and for new voices from non-Western contexts to emerge that could enhance understanding of culturally relevant approaches. Only time will tell therefore, whether new trends of theory development in career psychology become well established and whether, in combination with the more established theories, a richer and more sustainable discipline of career psychology that is culturally relevant in contexts beyond its traditional Western base will be constructed.