by Donald A. Schutt, Jr.
In A Strengths-Based Approach to Career Development Using Appreciative Inquiry, Donald Schutt presents a comprehensive overview of how career development professionals can adapt an organizational appreciative inquiry process in their work with clients. Schutt makes an argument for the point that every individual possesses fundamental strengths that can serve as a launch pad for creating positive change in one’s career journey. Schutt begins the text by sharing details on career development and the appreciative inquiry model separately. He then moves on to explain the connections between career development and appreciative inquiry, explaining the strengths-based approach to career development and comparing appreciative inquiry with other strengths-based approaches. Schutt provides a thorough explanation of appreciative inquiry and outlines the process of comparing the career development process with the appreciative cycle. He provides a detailed guide that presents the overlap between both models and provides an example that presents the strengths-based approach to career development in practice.
The most obvious strength of this book is its focus on approaching clients from a place of abundance and not deficit. Inherent in this appreciative inquiry approach is the idea that all clients have innate strengths that can be leveraged in their career journey. It is the job of the career development professional to guide the client in discovering what Schutt refers to as their “positive core strengths” and then discovering career choices that align with those strengths and creating an action plan for achieving career goals.
In addition, Schutt provides a detailed workshop example complete with presentation slides that a career development professional could modify and implement as a workshop. The presentation example provides a potential agenda; a breakdown of the workshop and each slide has comments that could be used with clients. With this example, Schutt makes it easy for a career development professional to either replicate a version of this workshop with a group of clients or even modify the contents for the presentation to work with clients in a one-on-one setting.
Furthermore, Schutt provides scripts, activity guides, and the “Appreciative Inquiry Interview” guide in the appendices. These resources make it easy to visualize Schutt’s concepts to gain a deeper understanding of the process while reading the book. Additionally, the resources create a ready-to-implement intervention that career development professionals can use without too much extra research outside of the book.
A limitation of this text is not in the content, but rather in the layout. Schutt spends the first chapter of the book providing a brief overview of appreciative inquiry—the shift from organizational appreciative inquiry to working with clients, the connections between career development and appreciative inquiry, and so on. However, for the reader who is unfamiliar with appreciative inquiry, they still are left asking the question “What is appreciative inquiry?” for most of the first chapter. It is not until Chapter 2 that Schutt answers that question by presenting a detailed definition of appreciative inquiry and its principles, and then the concepts from Chapter 1 begin to make sense for the reader.
There is an interview component to this approach that involves partners pairing with each other to reflect and deliver feedback. This component is what makes Schutt’s appreciative inquiry process ideal for career development professionals who are interested in working with groups or delivering workshops. That being said, the appreciative inquiry process as presented by Schutt can be modified for working with individuals in a one-on-one setting. The resources provided are easily modified and the concepts are easily adapted. The process seems to be most ideal for adult clients who are willing to engage in self-reflection to uncover their strengths and develop action plans for turning their strengths into goals and, in turn, reality.
Schutt, D. A., Jr. (2018). A strengths-based approach to career development using appreciative inquiry (2nd ed.). Broken Arrow, OK: National Career Development Association.
Reviewed by: Mary O. Edwin, NCC, University of Missouri–St. Louis
The Professional Counselor