Gottfredson`s Theory Number





Throughouthistory, mankind has sought to achieve maximum potential in terms ofproductivity in respective occupational capacities. From the huntersand gatherers of ancient times to today’s professional workforce,the common goal is to achieve sustainable output. However, with therevolution of the labor force overtime occupational capacities orcareers hold a more personal appeal in modern day. This led to thedevelopment of career guidance and counseling, especially indeveloped nations to maximize output, curb unemployment andaccommodate technology. This discipline aims at enabling individualschoose their most edifying career in line with their personal traitsor strengths. In addition, careers are also developed based ontechnology, environment and culture. To help understand this thememore clearly we shall review one of the theories on careerdevelopment the Gottfredson’s theory[ CITATION Ste13 l 1033 ].

Inthe modern world, the aspect of careers guidance and counseling hasbecome prominent among people as they sought to identify and exploretheir careers. With the focus on career counseling, the main focushas been on the issues such as career change, individual personaldevelopment as well as career exploration. With the increased forindividuals to understand their careers perfectly, different ways orapproaches has been devised to help in understanding the issuesrelated to careers. One of such approaches toward the issue ofcareers development and guidance is the theory by Linda Gottfredson(Gottfredson’sTheory).This paper focuses on the Gottfredson’sTheory with reference to careers development.

Gottfredson’sTheory of Circumscription and Compromise

Thistheory was developed by Linda Gottfredson in 1981. It postulates thatyoung people choose careers based on their sex, prestige level andfield of work. Basically, developing adults from their occupationalchoices based on their self-concept and image of the occupation.Self-concept refers to the view one has of themselves in terms ofgender, appearance, personality and abilities. On the other handimages of occupations or occupational stereotypes are views one hasof different occupations based on their perceptions of personalitiesin that field in terms of their prestige, values, conditions andrewards. These images form the cognitive map of occupations fromwhich young adults rank different career options. Individuals thenform their career choice based on circumscription and compromise[ CITATION Wen14 l 1033 ].

Circumscriptionis the process of ruling out unacceptable options in the context ofcareer choice. Youngsters formulate their zone of acceptable optionsto accommodate their self-concept and cultures. Circumscriptionoccurs in four stages of development:

Orientationto size and power (age 3-5)this is the first stage, and is characterized by children ceasereferring to fantasies and realize they will one day become adultsand take on their roles in the world. Secondly, there is the‘Orientationto sex roles (age 6-8)at this stage, children form simple dichotomous distinctions on theirsurroundings and hence classify jobs based on gender (whether one ismale or female). The next step is the Orientationto social values (age 9-13), whichentails children becoming more exposed to different occupations andbegin to classify jobs based on sex type, education, income andprestige. They identify acceptable roles based on their socialenvironment. Finally, there is the last stage, which is Orientationto internal unique self (age 14 and above)at this stage individuals are progressing into adulthood andtherefore form occupational choices based on conscious and complexconcepts of personality, interest and abilities[ CITATION Lin02 l 1033 ].

Compromiseon the other hand, involves making sacrifices and adjustingaspirations in line with reality based on the existence of barriers.This is done through assessment of personality, sex, type and moreimportantly social status. The principles of compromise are:Developingconditional prioritiesindividuals rank the importance of sex type, social status and fieldof work differently based on the circumstances and severity of thecompromise in career choice. Secondly, there is the Optingfor the good enoughindividuals compromise to settle for the good and not best choice dueto their inability or unwillingness to struggle and achieve the best.Next there is the Stavingoff the not good enoughwhen individuals are not satisfied with any state they may opt todelay in making their choice and explore other alternatives. Finally,there is the last principle, ‘Accommodatingto compromise’individuals are more likely to compromise first based on field ofwork, then prestige, and lastly on sex type[ CITATION Lin02 l 1033 ].Compromises are difficult and involuntary and therefore it requiresone to also apply circumscription and self-analysis to ease thedecision making process.


Today’ssociety has very high expectations from individuals in differentoccupational capacities because we are privileged with a large massof career options. However, most individuals are faced with thechallenge of settling for the career option they are in. Thedevelopment of different career development and counseling programshas gone a long way to help young people in finding their niche inthe context of careers. The Gottfredson’s theory in particular hasplayed a vital role in my personal career option as well asunderstanding my desires in terms of career realization andachievement.

Tobegin with, the theory postulates that one chooses their career basedon their self-concept, which is one’s view of oneself. Growing up Iwas always very active and was able to multi task with ease. Inaddition, I considered myself an integral and patient person, and anefficient communicator. In choosing my career option as a courtclerk, I was positive of delivering quality results because mypersonality complemented my responsibility. My career requiresmobility in terms of dealing with different cases and moreimportantly, integrity and sound judgment are key in handlingsituations. Therefore the Gottfredson’s theory applies in linkingpersonalities to career options.

Secondly,the principle of circumscription applies in narrowing down careeroptions. As I developed from childhood to adulthood I weigheddifferent occupations based on certain criteria. These evolved fromvague fantasy experiences to simple primitive distinctions based ongender. As I progressed in age, I developed concrete, rationaldistinctions based on culture and social status. This is not a smoothprocess and as Gottfredson stipulates it is common to haveoverlapping interests and concepts which change constantly due toshifts in the environment and exposure. In my case, choosing a careerin child support was geared by the moral status of the job and thegratification derived in advocating for justice. In addition, thiscareer is a gateway to countless opportunities and thereforeGottfreddson gives a factual account by asserting circumscription incareer choice.

Thirdly,and more importantly, Gottfredson’s theory recognizes the existenceof barriers in choosing careers through compromise. Ideally, allindividuals would have their way and be in the careers they aspirefor. However, aspirations are far from reality and most careerchoices are functions of circumstances. Compromises are made based oneducation, vocational interest, employment opportunities, prestige,sex, type and family obligations, which are inevitable factors inreality today. I compromised a career in law due to lack ofeducational background and settled for a career that would still bein line with executing justice. Thus, Gottfredson’s theory goeshand in hand with occurrences in life.

Gottfredson’stheory is an important contributor to career development andcounseling as it offers factual concepts which are applicable inreality. It continues to play a vital role in enabling youngstersmake rational career choices using its principles of self-creation,circumscription and compromise. This theory should be emphasized toenable individuals make career options that are fulfilling to selfand society at large. From the theory by Linda (Gottfredson’sTheory), the theory can be an empowering tool for individuals. Thissis due to the fact that, every person has inherited constraints,there is also an opportunity for every person to excel. In summary,Linda puts it that, “everyindividuals environment entails both effect and cause, and in turnindividuals shape the immediate environment that shapes them”.The theory lets people identify their limits, but also they shouldavoid being limited by them.


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Gottfredson, L. S. (2002). Careers Choice and Development. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

Patton, W., &amp McMahon, M. (2014). Career Development and Systems Theory: Connecting Theory and Practice (3rd Edition ed.).