John D. Krumboltz, Ph.D., has demonstrated throughout his life and work that counselors can help clients with career, academic, and personal problems to explore and expand their learning experiences; challenge unhelpful beliefs; embrace unanticipated opportunities; and take positive actions to create more satisfying lives for themselves. He received from the American Psychological Association the Award for Distinguished Professional Contributions to Knowledge (2002) and the Leona Tyler Award (1990), the nation’s foremost award in the field of counseling psychology. A leading theorist in career development, in 1979 Krumboltz proposed a social learning theory of career decision making. In 1996, he expanded this into a learning theory of career counseling and has since added the concept of planned happenstance.
Krumboltz views career indecision as a consequence of ineffective learning (e.g., unsatisfactory or insufficient learning experiences). He maintains that the role of career counselors is to use career assessment tools and cognitive-behavioral counseling methods to help clients expand their learning about current and potential interests, skills, values, beliefs, personal qualities, and work habits. To progress beyond the counseling goal of insight, Krumboltz developed the Career Beliefs Inventory and a workbook titled Exploring Your Career Beliefs to help clients not only think and talk about their assumptions that might facilitate or impede their career development, but also take action to test out these assumptions and learn more helpful behaviors.
Furthermore, in order to create a satisfying life in the context of a constantly changing work environment, Krumboltz posits that career counselors can teach their clients to generate and transform unplanned events into opportunities for learning. He notes that unanticipated events attributed to luck are often a result, at least in part, of effective behavior that can be taught. Although the concept of planned happenstance pairs seemingly contradictory terms (i.e., how does one plan for chance events?), Krumboltz suggests that clients can learn to act in ways that maximize the frequency of beneficial chance events as well as plan to be receptive to and capitalize on chance opportunities.
Readily admitting that his own career path was not totally the result of rational planning, Krumboltz has shared that he was undecided in selecting an undergraduate major when he attended Coe College. He had explored one option (economics) that he learned was not satisfying for him. When the coach of his varsity tennis team, who also happened to be a professor of psychology, suggested that he major in psychology, Krumboltz did so. Since then, he has capitalized on this chance opportunity to expand his learning in psychology, explore fascinating questions in counseling psychology and career development, and make significant contributions to the science and practice of counseling.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Coe College and a master’s degree in guidance from Teachers College, Columbia University, Krumboltz worked as a high school counselor and taught algebra in Waterloo, Iowa. Dissatisfied with the nondirective counseling approach that he had been taught to apply and seeking more scientific and practical methods, he obtained a Ph.D. in counseling and educational psychology from the University of Minnesota. Then he served as a research psychologist when called to active duty in the Air Force. He continued to pursue his interest in behavioral psychology as an assistant professor at Michigan State University. At Stanford University since 1961 and currently a professor of education and psychology, Krumboltz has served as a revolutionary role model for lifelong, challenging, and positive learning.
- Krumboltz, J. D. (1994). Improving career development from a social learning perspective. In M. L. Savickas & R. W. Lent (Eds.), Convergence in career development theories: Implications for science and practice (pp. 9-31). Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press.
- Krumboltz, J. D. (1996). A learning theory of career counseling. In M. L. Savickas & W. B. Walsh (Eds.), Handbook of career counseling theory and practice (pp. 55-80). Palo Alto, CA: Davies-Black.
- Krumboltz, J. D., & Levin, A. S. (2004). Luck is no accident: Making the most of happenstance in your life and career. Atascadero, CA: Impact.