NCE – Self-Efficacy

QUESTION: “…many children in residential treatment, as well as adults, experience low efficacy as a result of many ‘failures’. How will this low self-efficacy impact the career choices of both children and adults…”

Sharf, (2006), defines self-efficacy as “people’s judgments of their capabilities to organize and execute courses of action required to attain designated types of performances” (p396). Additionally, our textbook notes that our interests and outcome expectations are influenced by our beliefs of self-efficacy (Sharf, 2006). In other words, our perceptions of, “what is possible”, is a reflection of how we view ourselves. In the question above, we are asked to consider how low efficacy impacts the career choices of both adults and children. If a person doesn’t get to experience a sense of self-efficacy, they haven’t had a chance to learn the true breadth of their capabilities.

Understanding the importance of context in which self-efficacy develops can be a useful starting point in career counseling for individuals in the above example. The background influences of a socioeconomic status, cultural values, or gender expectations on an individual’s influence our perceptions of self-efficacy in ways we don’t often realize. Utilizing this insight as a way of understanding how we form a sense of self-efficacy, allows one to question it with a more critical eye. This might be a useful first step in situation as described in the above question.

QUESTION: “… How can you build up someone’s sense of self-efficacy without setting them up for more disappointment?”

As stated above, a useful first step will be helping the client understand of the background context in which a person’s sense of self-efficacy develops. With this mindset in place it is possible to then re-examine how past career choices reflect our sense of self-efficacy. For example, how has one’s self-efficacy determined their understanding of outcome expectations? How are their interests influenced by self-efficacy? How do these concepts define their career goals, and actions (or lack thereof)? Finally, focusing more directly on the proximal influencers we have more control over can help build a sense of self-efficacy. For example, if a client addresses financial barriers to education through student loans, a sense of possibility and self-efficacy develops. As I consider the application of these concepts to the above example, the process starts with a readjustment in the client’s thinking. The critical final component involves taking action to actively rebuild one’s sense of self-efficacy based on new experience.


Sharf R.S. (2006). Applying career development theory to counseling. 6th Ed. Belmont
CA: Thomson.

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