Career Advancement

Career advancement has been for decades a topic of many books found in the self-help, career, and especially the business sections of bookstores. It is not a topic commonly found in career counseling or vocational psychology textbooks or journal articles. There are several assumptions and key concepts and characteristics commonly found in books about career advancement. These include the broad assumption that in general people are ambitious and urgently seek to improve their employment situation. These books typically assume that promotions are very important to many people. In other words, these books employ a stereotype worker profile that may be appropriate for some, but is not for all kinds of workers, occupations, job settings, and careers.

The books mix common sense, social science, and self-promotion—all of which presume that the readers are ambitious, active, even aggressive and that they surely want to improve their career by following the advice found within. The books include information on how to set career goals, overcome workplace fallacies, become a coach or use a coach, find a mentor, evaluate one’s job personality, survive the workplace jungle, get ahead if one is employed in the government, and otherwise cover a wide range of ideas that then concludes with rules to follow or steps to take. Books on career advancement often oversimplify the ideas they present. Perhaps this fact is what makes them maintain their readership.

In fact, these assumptions and stereotypes may fit some individuals who are employed in business or management jobs. However, these assumptions do not fit many other workers, occupations, job settings, and careers. For example, these concepts may not fit well, or even at all, with people in social service, trades, health care, technical, or artistic careers.

These how-to-do-it books are aimed at people who want help with perceived problems, and so the books are full of advice. Some of the sources for some of the advice offered in these books are extracted from social, organizational, business, or vocational psychology research or theory, and some are borrowed from career guidance and career assessment fields.

These books typically claim to have answers that will help readers handle ongoing or immediate needs. An example is the book by Richard Bolles, What Color Is Your Parachute, which was first published in 1972. It has been a best seller. It presents a philosophy and many ideas derived from psychology, and it even employs a version of John Holland’s theory of occupational choice, but it presents it in a derivative format rather than using the terms found in Holland’s work. The author’s background was neither psychology nor counseling. His first career was the ministry.

The topics covered in these books are wide. They are written for adult readers seeking information about topics such as how to handle a job interview or write a good resume, how to get the next promotion or make career progress over time, or how to handle difficult people at work or even acquire The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People as described by Stephen Covey in his 1989 book. Covey’s training and employment background is in business. A business background is common with the authors of these publications. Some of the career advancement authors have been employed in human resources positions, or they have been executive recruiters prior to writing a self-help book.


  1. Bolles, R. (1972). What color is your parachute. Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press.
  2. Covey, S. (1989). The seven habits of highly effective people. New York: Simon & Schuster.
  3. Washington, T. (2004). Interview power: Selling yourself face to face. Bellevue, WA: Mt. Vernon Press.

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