A Strengths-Based Approach to Career Development Using Appreciative Inquiry, Second Edition

Book Review by Craig Benson

Schutt, D. A. (2018). A strengths-based approach to career development using appreciative inquiry (2nd edition). Broken Arrow, OK: National Career Development Association. 102 pages.


In this second edition monograph by Donald Schutt, the author reaffirms the power of building on strengths and looking from a positive perspective of what creates success instead of working from a deficit perspective. Schutt suggests that a strengths-based approach to career development results in individuals having a more positive self-image and being able to imagine more options for their future. The applied nature of the monograph would appeal to any manner of career development and related professionals looking to help people with future career decisions.



Schutt links the organization-based work on Appreciative Inquiry to the individual-focused Strengths-Based Approach as an example of just one of many ways to apply Appreciative Inquiry to career development. In doing so, Schutt kept the key elements of Appreciative Inquiry alive, such as seeing the best in others, the use of inquiry to focus attention on a positive future, a full system approach, and an emphasis on the specific language used. The major contributions of this monograph, though, are both the application of the Appreciative Inquiry principles to individuals instead of organizations as well as the highlighted connection between Appreciative Inquiry and the career development process.


More specifically, Schutt overlaps the career develop process of Assessment (Who Am I?), Exploration (Where am I going?), and Action (How Do I Get There?) on top of the 5-D Cycle (Define, Discovery, Dream, Design, Delivery) from Appreciative Inquiry to show where the ideas converge in the Strengths-Based Approach. Schutt notes that this is not a new theory, but rather is an approach that one can use with current career development models and theories.



The author organized this monograph in a series of four chapters and three appendices. The chapters build off one another, first in telling the story of the development of the Strengths-Based Approach and then in displaying an example of implementation of that approach. Chapter 1, titled “Shifting To a Strengths-Based Approach,” provides an overview of the important concepts and definitions in the book. This chapter, which is an outline of how Schutt combined the career development process with the 5-D Cycle of Appreciative Inquiry, acts like an origin story for the Strengths-Based Approach. Chapter 2, “An Appreciative Inquiry Primer,” adds more depth and history about Appreciative Inquiry. The third chapter, “Appreciative Inquiry and Career Development,” expands on the 5-D process and its combination with the career development process in the Strengths-Based Approach. Chapter 4, “Implementing the Strengths-Based Approach,” contains a practical example of how to apply the Strengths-Based Approach in a workshop setting. This chapter includes sample presentation slides with presenter comments to provide the reader with a helpful guide to recreate the workshop experience.


The three appendices included follow along the workshop example from Chapter 4. Appendix A is the “Building on Your Strengths Activity Guide,” with more detailed instructions on how to use the activities in the monograph. This includes eight activities, such as how to use the interview guide from the next appendix, a guided imagery activity, an activity aimed at discovering one’s personal strength themes, and more. Appendix B is the “Building on Your Strengths Interview Guide,” and features an interview protocol outlining how to proceed with individual interviews using the Strengths-Based Approach. Appendix C is the “Building on Your Strengths Participant Guide” for workshop participants to follow in the workshop.



For the second edition, Schutt updated comparisons to other strengths approaches and upgraded the practical tools available in Chapter 4 and the Appendices based on a decade of refinement since the first edition. The monograph also features new examples of the use of the Strengths-Based Approach and updated resources for more information on Appreciative Inquiry and related topics.



Schutt has applied his knowledge and experience of the Strengths-Based Approach well in this monograph. In particular, he did tremendous work in translating Appreciative Inquiry to a narrative-based constructivist approach applied to the career development of individuals. His thought process is structured and easy to follow. His examples and activities are useful and helpful in showing a variety of ways to apply Appreciative Inquiry ideas in career development. This negates what could have been a weakness of the monograph; that Appreciative Inquiry on its own is primarily a systems approach applied to organizations.


Perhaps the bigger challenge that might keep readers from using the Strengths-Based Approach is that far more strengths-based tools exist now. A review of many of these assessments is included in the monograph, and most are far quicker to use with individuals than the six-hour workshop format that Schutt outlines. While many individuals may choose to use other strength inventories and approaches, the Strengths-Based Approach has a place for those who have the time to co-create life stories with individuals. Schutt has provided all that a facilitator, counselor, coach, or instructor would need to provide others with a rare and authentic opportunity to reflect on positive experiences and project the life-giving forces in their lives into a glimpse of a hopeful future.



Strengths Based Approach to Appreciative Inquiry 2nd edThe Strengths-Based Approach to Career Development using Appreciative Inquiry, Second Edition is available through the NCDA Career Resource Store for $35 in print or ebook (PDF) version.



Craig BensonCraig Benson, MEd, MBA, works at the University of Missouri as an Assistant Director of the MU Career Center. There, he co-manages more than 35 student employees who provide drop-in career guidance to MU students, leads strengths development programming for the campus, and coordinates multiple career exploration classes. He can be reached at BensonCA@missouri.edu

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