Believe it or not


Some beliefs are junk

The recent post on Transactional Analysis looked at certain belief patterns (or scripts) that can determine the way people live out their lives and their careers. Beliefs are also at the heart of the highly influential Social Cognitive Career Theory (SCCT) developed in 1994 by Robert Lent, Steven Brown and Gail Hackett. This was based on the broader Social Cognitive Theory proposed by Albert Bandura.

The two key types of belief in SCCT are:

  • Self-efficacy — Your beliefs about what you are capable of — your confidence in your ability to perform certain tasks effectively.
  • Outcome expectations — Your beliefs about what is likely to result from behaving in certain ways or taking particular actions.

This is great. I find it really useful to work with clients’ belief systems and a handy way of analysing them is good. However, it’s a bit broad. I would quite like a slightly longer list of common types of beliefs to be on the look out for.

John D. Krumboltz (who had a hand in Planned Happenstance) also developed a theory based on Bandura, which he called the Social Learning Theory of Career Decision Making (SLTCDM – snappy!). Linked to this he developed the Career Beliefs Inventory. This has 25 different scales intended to diagnose potentially problematic belief areas.

This is great too, but it’s a bit too big (and expensive). I want something simpler that I can carry around in my head. to the rescue. I’m a big fan of the site It’s a vast collection of bits and pieces of information and ideas, all centred around the idea of communication and persuasion. I have a feeling that the site’s author David Straker is a bit of a theory magpie like me. So it came as no surprise that buried amongst the various treasures of this site is a typology of beliefs. He identifies five main categories of beliefs:

  • Existence (A) — Believing that something exists (or doesn’t exist).
    E.g. ‘A perfect job exists for me somewhere.’
  • Association (A:B) — Believing that certain things are linked in some way (or not linked).
    E.g. ‘I need to find a career that’s connected to my degree.’
  • Equivalence (A=B) — Believing that certain things are the same as each other (or not the same).
    E.g. ‘All office jobs are boring.’
  • Enaction (A happens) — Believing that certain events do (or don’t) happen.
    E.g. ‘People from this university find it easy to get jobs.’
  • Causation (A -> B) — Believing that one thing leads to or causes something else (or doesn’t).
    E.g. ‘I’m finding it hard to get a job because I don’t have a masters.’

OK, it’s not perfect. I have trouble separating Association and Causation. But I find it quite useful as a way of spotting potentially handicapping beliefs. And I can keep it in my head.

  • What common beliefs have you come across in clients and do they fit in this framework?
  • How do you approach challenging potentially harmful beliefs?

Related post: Constructing successful careers


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  1. #1 by Dave Straker on 18 February 2010 - 14:41

    Causation is clearly A causes B. Association is looser and includes correlation (‘ice cream sales and drowning at the seaside are related, but one doesn’t cause the other) or just some relational connection (such as ‘I am father to my son’).

    Thanks for the reference to, by the way, and also for an excellent blog!

    • #2 by David Winter on 18 February 2010 - 15:00

      Thanks for the comments Dave.

      I guess I was having trouble thinking of examples of career-related beliefs for Association. Each one I came up with ended up being a Causation belief. My problem – limited brain capacity and time.

      Happy to point people to, I think it’s a fantastic site.

  1. Cultural beliefs in careers guidance « Careers – in Theory

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