Reviewer by: Martha Scott Johnson
University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
[email protected]

Academic and Career advising are inextricably related; a student’s career decision making process will affect their personal and academic life as well as inform their major choice.  Study of career theory can inform an advisors practice and provide a foundation for guiding conversations related to career decision making that arise during advising appointments.  This review will look at the strengths and weaknesses of the Handbook for Using the Self-Directed Search: Integrating RIASEC and CIP Theories in Practice (Reardon and Lenz, 2015) as it relates to the advising practice.

The Handbook for Using the Self-Directed Search’s primary purpose is to supply its audience with a “comprehensive range of materials and ideas to help clients who are experiencing varied career problems” (Reardon and Lenz, 2015, p. 137).   The authors seek to achieve this goal by providing in depth context and background information about John Holland, RIASEC theory, Cognitive Information Processing (CIP), and offering practical applications for the Self-Directed Search (SDS). In addition, the book compares and contrasts other related Holland-based career interventions with the SDS, and provides strategies for developing career programs, as well as tools for implementation. Though academic advisors on campuses that have dedicated office for career services may not have access to the SDS, an understanding of RIASEC and CIP theories can provide a useful framework for evaluating readiness, guiding students during their career decision making process, and preparing them for career advising appointments.

In many respects the authors of the Handbook for Using the Self-Directed Search succeed in their goal of providing a comprehensive range of resources for career problem solving. The book provides extensive background on many different career theories, and addresses an impressive number of Holland-relevant career interventions. The case studies and sample exercises found in the appendices offer pragmatic solutions for implementing theory-based career advising, and the section on building a career program would be useful for a burgeoning career team. As an academic advisor; however, with little previous knowledge of RIASEC theory and associated career inventories, I was overwhelmed by the scope of material covered in the book. The authors seek to provide both breadth and depth on topics relating to John Holland’s work, and in doing so miss the mark in offering a well curated set of tools for practice. The book lacks a strong organizational framework and the authors fail to synthesize information for the reader, instead presenting their argument as a series of thoughts for the audience to analyze and draw conclusions on their own. I found it challenging to find and retain salient points.

While the Handbook for Using the Self-Directed Search: Integrating RIASEC and CIP Theories into Practice does provide a wealth of information on relevant career inventories and theory, I would not recommend it as a starting place for academic advisors.  The book may be useful as a reference book, but would likely be better suited for a career or academic advisor with some previous understanding of these theories and inventory looking to broaden and improve their use of the SDS.

The Self-Directed Search: Integrating RIASEC and CIP Theories in Practice. (2015). Robert C. Reardon, PhD Janet G. Lenz, PhD, Lutz, Florida: PAR Incorporated. 236 pp., $49.00, (Paperback), ISBN #978-0-9970120-0-2, http://www4.parinc.com/Products/Product.aspx?ProductID=SDS_PRAC_GDE.

Posted in: 2016 Book Reviews
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