The beginnings of career studies coincide with the development of industrial type of production more than one hundred years ago. Eventually, the career decision has become the subject of interest for the individuals and for the society. In Chapter I, we have presented the transformation of industrial society to information society and further to the contemporary knowledge society. The type of society has affected the view on career. It is significant for industrial society to be organized in a hierarchical and static way. The labour market was predictable with the existence of strong national economies. With the development of transport and information communication technology, the competition intensified, forcing the companies to invest more and more into constant development of their products. The labour market has become unpredictable. The educational level in particular has become one of the more important advantages of an individual to succeed in this type of a market. Recent international data indicate that knowledge based companies, producing services, are among the most successful ones. In this respect, the social scientists perceive contemporary society as knowledge society. The employment statistics in Slovenia indicate the increase of unemployed people with higher and academic education. The share of those with part-time employment has also increased. Although contemporary society bases on knowledge, the educational level does not imply key success factor in career any more. In this relation, we have set the central question within the research of career choice in social and cultural context as follows: Why do certain individuals, all of whom involved in the same educational system, regardless of their achieved educational qualifications, have successful careers (succeeded in using knowledge) and some of them do not.
Observing the theoretical overview in the career development field, career choice and career decision-making skill, we have researched how changing social context has affected the view on an individual career in the past one hundred years. We have discovered that the set of knowledge in this field has been upgrading and changing. We have identified two main theoretical discourses, i.e. psychological and sociological theories. The former justify that the career path of individuals is determined by: knowing their traits, abilities and interests; being aware of educational and employment opportunities; having decision-making skill; having skills to transition between educational levels and types, respectively, as well as between education and employment. On the other hand, the sociological theories justify that individual’s social and cultural background implies the type and success of a set of career decisions that result in their career path. Community Interaction Theory combines psychological and sociological approach and researches individual’s career path from both the social and individual aspect. Its main premises are that individuals develop their career interacting with the community around them. Regardless of theoretical discourse, the main difference between past and more recent theoretical discourses shows that the individual career decision has been perceived as a repeating activity being integrated in the individuals’ career paths rather than a single act sealing the future career path.
In the chapter on application of theoretical concepts into guidance practices and policies, we have researched how the theory influences the conception of guidance practices, the recent guidance practices in Slovenia and the recent European and national guidance policies. We found that the psychological theories have affected the guidance practices the most. Practices focus on helping individuals to identify the traits, abilities and interests, learn about the available training options, decision-making skill and in transitioning between different levels and types of education. Following the definition of lifelong guidance, the guidance practices, beside helping individuals in decision-making, also focus on helping managing the career. This reflects in career education, namely learning career management skills. The overview of guidance practice in Slovenia shows that the school environment is dominated by those, who are focused on helping individuals in decision-making, especially in choosing their further education. Career education activities have been implemented in Slovene schools as an exception. Strategy papers and documents on education policies in the EU and Slovenia most commonly put forward lifelong learning and the achieved educational level as career success factors. Documents on guidance policies attribute the main impact on the career success in contemporary knowledge society to the learning of career management skills (that enable individuals to make appropriate decisions on their career paths). On the other hand, drawing on the determination of social and cultural backgrounds, which is a characteristic of sociological theories, the latter do not leave a lot of room for guidance practitioner’s intervention. Therefore, we have not detected any significant effect of sociological theories in school guidance practices and in guidance policies.
In the field of theoretical debates, we have not detected any significant efforts in searching connections between representatives of the two theoretical discourses. The Community Interaction Theory is the only exception to this. This theory argues that the environment has an impact on the design of individual characteristics, abilities and interests and that it provides a framework in which an individual develops a career. Despite this, the theory is not exact in the interpretation of the mechanisms that allow such an interaction. To understand the career decisions in the social and cultural context it is also crucial to identify these mechanisms. In the empirical part, we have examined the connection of elements that we have identified as key to the individual and to the society. To the individual these elements are in the form of career management skills and to the society, these are social, cultural and economic capital. The research results show that the individual's career path correlates statistically significant and positive with career management skills and economic capital. Among all career management skills, the decision-making skill correlates the least with the adequacy of career path while self-awareness skill correlates the most strongly. In this respect, the adequacy of the career path depends on the following individual skills: the individuals’ knowledge of their abilities and their own restrictions on the way to a career objective; knowledge on effective learning; knowledge on their own interests; perception of work as a virtue; desire to learn new things; belief in the ability to achieve the objective (the indicators of self-awareness skill). Career management skills correlate statistically significant and positive with all three forms of capital. Career management skills correlate the most strongly with economic capital, whereas the least with social capital. Among the various indicators of economic capital, the career management skills correlate the most strongly with the satisfaction of the personal financial situation, but the least with the number of technical goods. Among all career management skills, the economic and cultural capital correlate the most strongly with the self-awareness skill, but the least with decision-making skill. The correlation between career management skills and the social capital is just the opposite. Social capital correlates the most strongly with the decision-making skill, but the least with self-awareness skill.
An individual's level of education as a category of cultural capital was considered separately in search of an answer to the key question raised at the beginning: Why do certain individuals, all of whom involved in the same educational system, regardless of their achieved educational qualifications, have successful careers (succeeded in using knowledge) and some of them do not? The research confirms that, amongst all indicators of cultural capital, the achieved educational qualification correlates the most strongly with the adequacy of an individual's career path. The research also confirms that the achieved educational qualifications correlate statistically significant with career management skills. However, the correlation is weaker between career management skills and the achieved educational qualifications than between career management skills and reading literacy and participation in cultural events. Research also shows that the achieved educational qualifications correlate the most strongly with the transition skill (knowledge of the essence of job interview, knowledge of writing job applications, applications for enrolment in education, focus on career goal). On the other hand, there is no statistically significant correlation between the achieved educational qualifications and decision-making skill. Likewise, the research shows that the differences between the employed and unemployed in relation to the achieved educational level are not statistically significant. There are also no statistically significant differences between the employed and unemployed in cultural capital, social capital, opportunity awareness skill and decision-making skill. However, there are statistically significant differences between unemployed and employed in the following variables (in order from most to least important): career path, the economic capital, transition skills, self-awareness skill, and career management skills. We have explained the origin of the differences between the unemployed and employed in relation to the economic capital by the fact that unemployed status itself relates just to the economic capital. In regards to other elements, we have found that the level of educational attainment does not reflect the adequacy of career path and the development of career management skills, especially transition skills and self-awareness skill. As the research has confirmed, they are essential elements of the employability success.
The empirical part thus confirms the connection of elements that we have identified as key to the individual and to the society. In this respect, we have contributed to the exactness of the theoretical concept on community interaction, i.e. we have identified a possible mechanism that allows the interpretation of this interaction. In accordance with the findings, we suggest further research questions as follows: what is the impact of different cultures (language, economic minorities) to develop self-awareness skill; how can schools train individuals for career management skills within existing educational programs (courses, mandatory and optional programs, respectively); what can society do to maximize the economic, social and cultural capital in terms of the development of career management skills, particularly in terms of self-awareness skill and transition skills.