Photo of Dr. Charles Chen

Charles P. Chen, PhD, is Professor of Counselling Psychology and a Canada Research Chair at the University of Toronto.  He is an Honorary/Guest Professor at several major universities around the world. He is also a keynote/plenary speaker at conferences.  His book: “Career Endeavour” received the 2008 Canadian Best Counselling Book Award.  He is a prominent social scientist featured in Canadian Who’s Who and Who’s Who in the World.

Dr. Chen will be presenting a lecture on Human Agency and Action in Life-Careers.

Presentation Abstract:

Human Agency and Action in Life-Careers

Among the theoretical perspectives in the postmodern vocational and career psychology, action theory and the notion of human agency are two interrelated parallels responsive to individuals’ careers needs in a dynamic, challenging, uncertain, and very often chaotic world of work of our present time. To gain a more in-depth and comprehensive understating of the correlation between these two theoretical constructs can provide a beneficial foundation that informs the best practice. Hence, the purpose of this presentation is to discuss and analyze the correlation between action theory and human agency, examining their critical function and relevance in promoting people’s vocational wellbeing. In particular, the presentation considers the utilization of these two theoretical constructs in professional helping and self-helping practice for career development purposes. To this end, it argues that despite some differences, the two constructs appear to share important common ground in explaining and shaping the constructive prospects such as meaning, intentionality, purpose, and action, within the broad context of human career construction experiences and vocational behavior. It also takes an optimal view in considering the unique and different aspects between the two constructs, contending that these differences may generate supplementary and complementary effect in invigorating people’s integral functioning in their life career course. Agency without action leads to no end, and action without agency loses its momentum. Arguments as such provide a rationale for further exploring and understanding the two constructs, especially the possibility for them to integrate in the career development and career counselling intervention process.

Following the above goal and rationale, this address will begin with a brief review of the theoretical and research background of the two perspectives in order to form a conceptual basis for discussion. It will then identify some of the connections between the notion of human agency and action theory, recognizing differences while focusing more on the common ground shared by these two conceptualizations. It will conclude by proposing some career counselling implications that aim to comprehend, facilitate, encourage, and empower individuals’ action orientation and agentic functioning in their life career development, along with ideas of workable helping strategies for practice.