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Creative Use of the Career Construction Interview.

Designed as part of an individual career construction and life design counseling intervention, the Career Construction Interview (CCI) and My Career Story (MCS) workbook aid career counselors and other career service providers in helping clients construct, deconstruct, and reauthor their career stories. Recently, some career counselors have developed ways of using the CCI and the MCS in group settings. In this article, the author offers 3 additional ways to use the CCI and, thereby, add creativity to the career counseling process. These 3 ways include use of written exercises, career collages, and career portfolios. The article concludes with a call for career practitioners to continue to think creatively in using the CCI with clients.

Keywords: Career Construction Interview, My Career Story, career construction counseling, life design counseling, creativity in counseling


The genesis of career construction theory (Savickas, 2013a) and career construction counseling (Savickas, 2013a, 2015) dates to when Savickas (1981, 1989, 1998) first formulated and presented his career theory and practice ideas (for a history, see Savickas, 2013b). Full development of his concepts took years, yet both the theory and the practice method have gained tremendous promise, use, and popularity as a viable way to understand vocational behavior and assist clients with resolving career challenges and finding meaning in their work lives. Meanwhile, Savickas et al. (2009) and Savickas (2012) articulated the life design paradigm to build on 20th-century person-environment fit and developmental models and to comprehend careers better in the 21st century. More recently, Savickas and others have generated discussions and research resulting in what Savickas (2015) called life design dialogues. Practitioners facilitate collaborative life design dialogues with clients through use of the Career Construction Interview (CCI).

Savickas (1981, 1989, 1998, 2013a) introduced the CCI (Savickas, 2013a, 2015) as part of an individual career construction counseling intervention. He proposed that the intervention take place over two meetings with the first meeting constituting the CCI and the second meeting involving creating a life portrait from the client's stories told in response to the CCI questions. Throughout the two sessions, counselor and client work collaboratively in constructing, deconstructing, and reauthoring the client's story, with the expected outcome of resolving the client's presenting concerns. The ultimate goal is to aid clients in creating meaning, purpose, and fulfillment in their lives and, in particular, their work lives.

Over the years, Savickas (1998, 2006, 2013a) and others (e.g., Maree, 2015, 2016; Taber, Hartung, Briddick, Briddick, & Rehfuss, 2011) have provided case vignettes to illustrate the CCI in practice. In addition, Savickas and Hartung (2012) developed an autobiographical workbook, My Career Story (MCS), which incorporates most questions of the CCI to provide a self-directed career construction intervention. Those completing the MCS might do so independently (Hartung & Santilli, 2018), or they might complete the MCS and then meet with a career practitioner for further exploration around their responses. The MCS is available in several languages (see, including English, French, Portuguese, and German, and initial research supports its validity (Hartung & Santilli, 2018).

Most practitioners implement the CCI and the MCS on an individual basis in a variety of settings (e.g., university career centers and private practice). Others have developed ways to use the CCI and MCS in group settings, and empirical data show promise with their use in this manner. For example, Di Fabio and Maree (2012) provided encouraging research results from their group work in an Italian context. Their participants included adult entrepreneurs (n = 38) who received group-based counseling with the CCI as the intervention and a control group (n = 34) who did not receive a counseling intervention. Results indicated a decrease in career-decision-making difficulties and an increase in career decision-making self-efficacy for the experimental group. Likewise, Barclay, Stoltz, and Wolff (2011) delivered a framework for using the CCI in a group setting. Later, Barclay and Stoltz (2016a, 2016b, 2016c) refined the framework and produced initial research supporting the use of the CCI in a group setting. A recent study also supported use of the MCS in a group-based setting with middle school students (Santilli, Nota, & Hartung, 2019).

The prolific existing career construction theory and practice literature demonstrates clearly the importance and value of this approach in working with clients in the postmodern era. In addition, opportunities for career construction counseling training, such as the Career Construction Institute ( and professional development workshops at conferences, have grown tremendously. My aim in the present article is to offer additional and creative ways to use the CCI in career counseling. First, I consider creativity in counseling and career counseling generally and then consider it in life design counseling specifically. Then, I introduce three creative ways counselors can use the CCI in practice.

Creativity in Counseling

Perhaps Sam Gladding (1979, 2008, 2010) stands as the most productive advocate for creativity in counseling. Gladding (2008) touted creativity as "essential" and "good for everything" (p. 98). According to Gladding, creativity in counseling changes clients' perspectives on their worlds and aids them in overcoming difficulties in their lives and making progress toward a more actualized existence. He cited Frey (1975), who believed in the "creative enterprise" of counseling that helps clients "generate a new plan, develop a different outlook, formulate alternative behaviors, [and] begin a new life" (p. 23).

Likewise, others set an early tone for the use of creativity in counseling. Benjamin (1984) cited creativity as "a fascinating dimension of mental functioning" (p. 2) and created an informative fact sheet that provided creative approaches for the integration of creativity into the counseling experience. Some of those approaches encompass futuristic points of view, imagery, and fantasizing. In 2015, Lawrence, Foster, and Tieso promoted incorporating creativity training in counselor education. These authors offered ways to incorporate creativity training into several courses found in most graduate-level counselor education programs of study. They recommended classroom activities that push students to deal with ambiguity and the assignment of risk journals that require students to explore and expand their comfort zones.

At the same time as authors were promoting creativity in general mental health counseling, several others were promoting the concept within career counseling. Heppner, O'Brien, Hinkelman, and Humphrey (1994) set the stage based upon results from research by Heppner, O'Brien, Hinkelman, Flores, and Bikos (1994) that indicated clients perceived career counseling as boring and lacking creativity. Study participant comments suggested a need for greater depth and dynamics within the career counseling experience. Hollingsworth (2008) asserted that using creativity in career counseling could assist clients in thinking differently about their situations, help them eradicate barriers to making decisions, and aid them in gaining courage and traction in areas where they feel stuck. She continued by offering several creative interventions career practitioners could use to add creativity to counseling sessions. Her suggestions included mind mapping, guided imagery, and daydreaming.

Heppner, O'Brien, Hinkelman, and Humphrey (1994) recommended several strategies for including creativity in career counseling sessions. Similar to Benjamin (1984), they recommended guided imagery, as well as written exercises, use of metaphors, systemic approaches, art, and the analysis of heroes and heroines. The value of creativity in career counseling continued with McMahon (2006, 2017) advocating for creativity as "fundamental to constructivist approaches to career counselling" (McMahon, 2017, p. 223). McMahon has written extensively on the use of various forms of creativity in career counseling, including the use of metaphors (McMahon, 2006) and storytelling (McMahon 2006, 2007, 2009). Later, McMahon and Watson (2010) continued the theme of storytelling as a creative method for working with clients in constructivist career counseling.

Creativity in Life Design Counseling

McMahon (2017) touted constructivist career counseling as "an inherently creative process" (p. 223). Certainly, the CCI (Savickas, 2011, 2013a, 2015) and the MCS (Savickas & Hartung, 2012) are creative approaches in that they are interactive life design counseling techniques in which career practitioners assist clients in weaving together the deconstructed components of their previously constructed stories. Both the CCI and the MCS align with many of the benefits of creative career counseling. Some of those benefits include clients gaining a new perspective, developing a different outlook, being aided in gaining courage and traction in areas where they feel stuck, and making progress toward a more meaningful existence. In an article in which he outlined phases of creativity in counseling, Gladding (2011) insisted that "counseling is creative and can help both counselors and clients understand themselves and their environments differently and, in the process, lead to new and better ways of living" (p. 3). This is the major aim of the CCI and the MCS: clients reconstructing a story that helps them get unstuck (Savickas, 2015) and gain traction to new and better ways of functioning in work and life.

As noted earlier, Savickas designed the CCI as an individual practitioner-to-client intervention. Later, others developed ways of implementing the CCI in groups. Although many authors promote creativity in career counseling and, in particular, constructivist and social constructionist counseling (see Kang, Kim, & Trusty, 2017), few publications exist related to the efficacy of collecting CCI responses in ways other than Savickas designed or those developing methods of facilitating the CCI in groups have used. However, collecting CCI responses in creative ways might respond to the need for greater depth and dynamics within the career counseling experience emphasized by the participants in the study conducted by Heppner, O'Brien, Hinkelman, and Humphrey (1994).

For example, in a recent professional development workshop in which I taught participants how to facilitate the CCI in a group setting, I wrote the voluntary "client" CCI responses on sheets of flip chart paper (one sheet per CCI prompt) and taped those to the wall. Then, I led die group through a theme-mapping process in which I circled similar words with colored markers. Each identified theme had its own color. After building die life portrait, the volunteer client emphasized two elements of this process that increased awareness of herself and gave her a new perspective. The first was taping the CCI responses to the wall, which provided her story visually. The second was the color theme-mapping process. She stated, "The green really stood out for me and emphasized how much [that] is a theme in my life. This is something I would not have recognized as easily had I not seen the green." The volunteer's comments suggested that adding creativity in collecting CCI responses adds depth and dynamics and produces many of the benefits touted by those contributing to the literature on creativity in counseling.

The first venture outside a one-to-one or group intervention was the MCS workbook (Savickas & Hartung, 2012). Hartung (2012) promoted the workbook as a guided self-reflection intended to aid clients in gaining the ability to articulate their life story. Later, Hartung and Santilli (2018) were able to provide results from a latent semantic analysis that indicated strong (r = .81) correlation between participants' MCS life portraits and those constructed for participants without the use of the workbook. Hartung and Santilli concluded that the MCS "shows some initial promise for self-guided career intervention" (p. 308) for increasing self-reflection, reflexivity, narratability, and intentionality. In Hartung and Santilli's study, participants completed their MCS workbooks and the construction of their life portraits individually and independent of a career expert. The authors offered follow-up consultation and discussion of the completed workbook; however, none of the participants requested any consultation. Hartung and Santilli indicated their personal encouragement for use of the MCS as a self-guided narrative career intervention. This suggests, also, the use of aspects of the CCI independently or as a precursor to career counseling sessions.

In the next sections, I introduce three ways in which career practitioners might use the CCI creatively with clients. These three ways include (a) written exercises, (b) career collages, and (c) career portfolios. Each method represents a way in which individuals can respond to CCI prompts prior to meeting with a career practitioner, thus saving time in the counseling session for discussion and construction of a life portrait.

Written Exercises in Counseling

Written exercises are not new to counseling. Many individuals benefit from journaling (Lent, 2009; Miller, 2014; Utley & Garza, 2011), which gives them a way of processing and reflecting upon their experiences and sharing their deepest thoughts with their counselor. Davis and Voirin (2016) introduced reciprocal writing as a strategy for engaging clients in the counseling process. Supported by solution-focused (de Shazer, 1985) and narrative (White & Epston, 1990) therapies, reciprocal writing provides a "back-and-forth writing sequence to solve client issues" (Davis & Voirin, 2016, p. 69).

As pertains to use of the CCI in written format and as mentioned earlier, Savickas and Hartung (2012) developed the MCS as a tool for collecting written client responses to the CCI prompts prior to the counseling session. In another use of the CCI in written format, Di Fabio and Maree (2012) implemented written assignments within their experimental research with groups of agricultural and trade entrepreneurs. Such assignments included an imaginary or ideal curriculum vitae, as well as written exercises focused on both known and hidden areas of career interests. Similarly, Taylor and Savickas (2016) used the MCS in their study investigating the utility of a combination of MCS and pictorial narratives (Taylor & Santoro, 2016) in fostering reflection and agency. Taylor and Savickas concluded that the use of these combined interventions helped participants create "deeper meaning and new intentions" (p. 77) in solving their career problems.

Although limited research exists in implementing the CCI in written form, what exists is promising. For example, Barclay and Wolff (2012) were able to demonstrate that readers of college student responses to a written form (Barclay, 2012) of the CCI were able to agree on participant three-letter Holland (1997) RIASEC (i.e., Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, Conventional) codes (r = .710) and achieve an overall moderate correlation (r = .455) of those results to Strong Interest Inventory (Donnay, Thompson, Morris, & Schaubhut, 2004) results. In another study, Hartung and Santilli (2018) established efficacy for use of the MCS with a group of master's-level students (n = 10) in an Italian university. Results indicated that the MCS aided users in being "able to meaningfully and accurately construct life portraits that largely agree with expert life portraits constructed for users" (p. 318). What follows next is an example of one way in which career practitioners might facilitate the CCI in written format.

The Career Narrative Project

The career narrative project (CNP; Barclay, 2012) is a written assignment developed originally for use in an undergraduate career and life-planning course. The CNP contains seven questions from an earlier version of the CCI (i.e., the Career Story Interview; Savickas, 2011) that preceded the current and renamed version of the CCI (Savickas, 2013a, 2015). The current version contains five questions and is easily adaptable for the CNP. Administering the CNP in a classroom setting depends on the number of sessions within the term or semester. Typically, the CNP is a semester-long project, and every few class sessions, the instructor provides students with a question/prompt from the CCI, along with instructions on points to consider in relation to the question. For example, the second CCI question requires students to reflect on early life role models. Associated prompts might include Write about what you admired about each of these role models and Write about how you are like/unlike each role model. Likewise, the prompt regarding favored magazines, television shows, websites, podcasts, and/or YouTube/Vimeo videos might include Write about what you like related to these preferred items or spaces and When you go to your favorite website, what grabs your attention first? These questions can be especially relevant for social media sites, such as Facebook. Often, I describe the social media login as the "door" to the site "room" and will ask, Where do you go/what do you read first after you enter the room ? The goal is to have students reflect deeply and provide as complete and detailed a response as possible. The instructor provides no instructions or explanations regarding theory or the CCI before students engage in this assignment, other than to instruct students that they are to respond to each prompt as thoroughly as possible. Instructors should provide assurance that the instructor will explain everything at the end of the assignment. Restricting students to a one- to two-page response keeps the reading manageable for the instructor, especially if there are a large number of students enrolled in the course. Instructors can adjust or eliminate this restriction if desired.

As students submit responses to the assigned CCI prompt, the instructor provides the next CCI question to students. While students are working on the next question, the instructor reads submitted responses and offers thoughtful feedback on each student paper. Helpful to the process of providing feedback are attempts at increasing reflexivity that Savickas (2011) defined as "self-conscious reflection that constructs continuity across the past, present, and future" (pp. 15-16), and instructor feedback can facilitate this process. Instructors should provide measured, intentional, and thought-provoking feedback, so students engage in processes of both reflection (i.e., learning about self) and reflexivity (i.e., using reflection to change the self in some way; Savickas, 2016). These processes are vital to life design counseling in that students can use instructor feedback as reflective self-awareness tools. The expectation is that self-awareness will lead to reflexivity, which is the intentional meaning-making activity of changing self and behavior and planning for the future (Maree, 2016; Savickas, 2016).

This reciprocal process continues until students have submitted all CCI responses and the instructor has furnished feedback on each. At that time, the instructor spends one or two class sessions (depending on the time allotted to each class session) explaining career construction theory and the CCI. Instructors follow this explanation with a demonstration of the CCI and construction of the life portrait (Savickas, 2015). Instructors can use their own story, or they can gain permission from a student to use his or her story as an example in moving through the CCI and building the life portrait to respond to the presenting career concern (i.e., the first CCI question, which for this assignment might be How do you hope this course will be helpful to you?).

The thememapping process developed and used by Barclay (2017), Barclay and Stoltz (2015, 2016a, 2016b), and Stoltz and Barclay (2015, in press) in their own career counseling work is beneficial to this process and engages students visually in following the CCI process of identifying patterns and themes in the story and constructing the life portrait. Instructors will want to allow plenty of time for questions from students. In addition, instructors will want to offer students the opportunity to meet individually with the instructor for discussion related to their assignment responses and to aid students in the process of building their own life portrait. Results from a study (Barclay, 2012; Barclay & Wolff, 2012) using this approach indicated a moderate correlation (r = .46) between theme-coded CCI participant responses and their Strong Interest Inventory (Donnay et al., 2004) three-letter RIASEC codes.

A noticeable limitation that exists with facilitating the CCI as a written assignment, such as the CNP, is that a career practitioner is not readily available to the student during the response collection process. When conducting the CCI in person, the career practitioner can assist the client in alternative ways of thinking about how to respond to CCI prompts. For example, if a client cannot seem to think of a favored television show or website, the career practitioner might nudge the client a little by asking about a favored video or cartoon. That said, however, Davis and Voirin (2016) noted that using written interventions might be especially beneficial for those clients who are more introverted than extroverted. Likewise, Di Fabio and Maree (2012) derived favorable results in their study implementing the CCI through written exercises. On the basis of studies by Barclay and Wolff (2012), Di Fabio and Maree (2012), Hartung and Santilli (2018), and Taylor and Savickas (2016), incorporating the CCI in written exercises seems to be a viable way of assisting clients in resolving career issues.

Career Collages

Another creative way to implement the CCI is via a collage. Much like the use of journaling in counseling, collages offer a way for practitioners to facilitate the counseling process. Research indicates that creative processes (e.g., expressive arts) provide for a collaborative process between the practitioner and the client and allow occasions for clients to gain self-awareness (Hess, Magnuson, & Beeler, 2012; Jacobs & Schimmel, 2013; Vernon, 2009). Lusebrink (2010) described the effect art therapy has on an individual's brain and indicated that art therapy is a way of reaching parts of the brain for processing information that are inaccessible for verbal processing. In Lusebrink's example, the counselor had the client, an 8-year-old girl, use crayons and paint to provide a visual representation of the anxiety she had been experiencing since the birth of her baby brother. Results indicated influence on the kinesthetic, perceptual, and cognitive levels of brain activity.

In their work, Burton and Lent (2016) proposed vision boards as a means for therapeutic intervention. They described the vision board as "a collage of images" (p. 53) clients create as a depiction of the things clients value and desire in life. In short, the collage is a meaning-making tool for clients. Similarly, Butler-Kisber and Poldma (2010) touted collages as useful for informing qualitative research because of their ability to move unspoken ideas to an overt position for exploration. This exploration can lead to new insights and awareness for researchers. The benefits Butler-Kisber and Poldma proposed for using a collage in research translate easily into the client-counselor experience (e.g., visualizing various perspectives on a situation, increasing reflexivity).

In the same manner in which clients use the MCS, they can create a collage to respond to CCI prompts. If creating their collage with paper and paste, they can paste images of those who represent their role models, heroes, or heroines; images of their favorite magazines, websites, and television shows; and so forth. Clients can either create one large collage, to encompass all CCI responses, or they can create several collages that represent each of the CCI prompts. Images can come from print materials (e.g., magazines), be printed from online sources, or be pictures clients possess. In addition, clients might choose to add text to these images using markers, crayons, or another medium.

There are many online collage-building websites should clients prefer the online environment. A quick internet search produced millions of hits, and many sites are free to use (e.g., Spark, by Adobe; befunky. com; Most sites include templates and allow users to upload photos or images from their own libraries; other sites allow users to build collages from scratch. Some of my favorites are Canva (www.canva. com) and Piktochart ( Both sites allow users to build a collage using templates and graphics located on each site. Users can upload images as well. Upon completion of the collage, each site allows users to enter presentation mode, which would be useful for sharing with the practitioner in the counseling setting. Presentation modes offer both manual slideshow (with multiple presentations effects) and scrolling functions. In addition, users can share their collages; thus, a client could share the collage with the practitioner prior to the counseling session, which would allow the practitioner time to review it before the session. This feature would be useful, also, in the virtual counseling setting (i.e., distance credentialed counselors). Both Canva and Piktochart permit users to keep their collages private, although users can make their collages public if they desire.

Collages seem a natural way for clients to capture responses to the CCI prior to meeting with the career practitioner, especially for those clients who process information from a visual perspective. Collages provide a visual complement to life design dialogues between practitioner and client. defines collage as "an assemblage or occurrence of diverse elements or fragments in unlikely or unexpected juxtaposition." Clients seek career counseling when they are stuck (Savickas, 2015) in their current career or life situation. Their lives might seem fragmented, and they need assistance in segregating the pieces and reconstructing the puzzle. Clients can do so using a collage. Much like the intended outcome of the CCI, the use of collages assists clients in breaking impasses, visualizing their future, and gaining momentum in fulfilling their future. Again, clients can build their collage either online or via paper and paste.

Career Portfolios

The use of portfolios for professional and career development and employment has been a long tradition (Crowley & Dunn, 1995; Hunt, 1986; Lester & Perry, 1995; Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education, 2001; Seattle Public Schools, 1994). Often, individuals have used career portfolios as a means to showcase their professional identity and their knowledge, skill, and work experience to potential employers (Coleman, 2004; Eliot & Turns, 2011; Kennedy, 2006; Schneider, 2007; Smith, 2011; Yu, 2012). Likewise, the use of portfolios for instructional purposes has existed for decades (Hunt, 1986). Portfolios can be age specific (Stevens, 2008) or subject specific (Crowley & Dunn, 1995). Additional purposes for portfolios exist, such as capturing narratives of individuals as they proceed through the CCI. One portfolio that serves well for this purpose is LiveBinders (, an online portfolio that users can customize to their needs.

LiveBinders requires users to register for a free account. Afterward, users log into their account and begin building their binder by selecting "New Binder." Users can assign a name to their binder (e.g., My Career Narrative) and create multiple tabs and subtabs to create sections within their binder. For example, users could title the first tab "Role Models," and within the role models tab, users would create subtabs for each role model. An example of this would be the individual who identifies Nancy Drew, Dr. Garavaglia (medical examiner), and Lucy (from the Peanuts series). LiveBinders allows users to upload an assortment of media to each tab and subtab. Users have the option of making their binders public or private. For career counseling purposes, users could share their binder with the practitioner either before or during the counseling session(s).

Of course, LiveBinders is neither the only online portfolio system nor the only way to capture CCI responses electronically. A quick web search produced multiple links to additional e-portfolios, as well as systems for building websites (e.g., Weebly, Wix, WordPress). Users will want to select an e-portfolio or website system they believe captures the essence of the career construction narrative and one in which they can add photos, graphics, and web pages.

Use of online portfolios is ideal for those clients and practitioners who are primarily visual learners. In addition, a pictorial binder or one that includes direct links to external websites provides a more dynamic and in-depth experience for both the client and the practitioner. These links could be to descriptors of role models, magazines, television shows, or web pages that would be useful when working with clients who experience limited verbal expression or limited vocabulary. Clients and practitioners will want to be sensitive to confidentiality. Many sites allow both private and public availability. Clients should have the choice as to whether they want to make their e-portfolios available for public viewing.

A Call to Career Counselors

Often, individuals seem limited in their ability to think creatively; however, sometimes a suggestion from the practitioner opens avenues clients have not considered before. Some of the ideas presented in this article are only a beginning with respect to how practitioners might have clients express their CCI responses, especially prior to sessions wherein time is limited (e.g., higher education settings). Having clients complete their CCI responses prior to the meeting allows practitioners to use the session time more fully in guiding clients in constructing their life portrait and developing a plan for moving forward.

Other ideas might be having clients capture their responses through art (e.g., painting or drawing). Harking back to the idea of using written exercises, some clients might be inclined to express their CCI responses through poetic prose (e.g., poetry or song lyrics/composition). Others might create something via the simple use of presentation software (e.g., PowerPoint, Prezi, or Keynote). I encourage career practitioners to continue to think of additional creative ways in which their clients might present their individual career stories.


Creativity in career counseling is vital. Clients seek assistance when they are struggling in their career journey and need help with visualizing their future. An important component of the counseling process is being able to look at situations from multiple perspectives. Career practitioners can use the creative arts in facilitating the counseling process and helping clients gain traction in moving toward a meaningful future. The key is striving to seek ways in which career practitioners might reach the maximum number of individuals who wrestle with career challenges and trajectories in a world filled with technology and virtual reality.

One way could be the use of the CCI in a myriad of creative approaches. In implementing the CCI creatively, practitioners will want to remain true to the underlying theory of career construction (Savickas, 2013a), the life design paradigm (Savickas, et al., 2009), the principles of life design counseling (Savickas, 2015), and supporting research.

Gladding (2011) spoke to the nature of creativity in counseling with his indication that such creativity helps "clients understand themselves and their environments differently and, in the process, lead[s] to a new and better way of living" (p. 3). Ultimately, this is the goal of life design counseling through use of the CCI--helping clients gain new perspectives and momentum toward a better life for themselves. One way to do that might be by communicating their career construction responses in creative ways.


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Received 06/12/18

Revised 08/31/18

Accepted 09/14/18

DOI: 10.1002/cdq.12176

Susan R. Barclay, Department of Leadership Studies, University of Central Arkansas. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Susan R. Barclay, Department of Leadership Studies, University of Central Arkansas, 221 Mashburn Hall, Conway, AR 72035 (email:
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Author:Barclay, Susan R.
Publication:Career Development Quarterly
Date:Jun 1, 2019
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