US expert's studies delve into the psychological secrets of employment and its effects on workers and bosses.

Award-winning American author, professor and researcher David L. Blustein is visiting Auckland this month and he has a few things he wants to say to New Zealanders about the meaning of work in people's lives.

His idea is that work offers a means of:

• Survival and power

• Social connection


• Self-determination

He believes the notion of career development as a planned and thoughtfully selected path towards increasing responsibility and status is unattainable for most people and is a socio-cultural concept that no longer fits with the degree of change and globalisation affecting our workforce.

Blustein's approach offers a more realistic view that fits for most people in today's working environment. More particularly, it gives helpful ways to address the work/career needs of those who are often overlooked because of forms of social prejudice on grounds of age, gender, disability status, sexual orientation, immigration status, poverty, or lack of access to material and social resources and opportunities.

Blustein is a professor in the department of counselling, developmental, and educational psychology at the Lynch School of Education at Boston College in the United States. He is the author of The Psychology of Working and editor of the recently published Oxford Handbook of the Psychology of Working.

These two books, and much of his recent work, are devoted to creating a broad and inclusive approach to understanding the role of work in people's lives.

Blustein prefaces his book on the psychology of working with a quote from C.L. Hulin: "Work influences throughout our lives as no other activities do - no other choice we make - with the possible exception of our spouse, influences each of us, our families, our children, our values or our status as much as our choice of a job or occupation. Throughout our lives, but especially from our later teens, early 20s to 60s we spend more time engaged in work activities than any other pursuit."

Although he spends much of his time these days focussing on those less fortunate in the employment scheme of things, Blustein points out that his own upbringing in New York was traditional and his career development somewhat privileged.

Mindful of his own circumstances, he continues to advocate for those less privileged.


Raised by working-class parents in a small apartment in Queens, he attended the State University of New York where, with an interest in rock music and political movements, he studied psychology.

During his Auckland visit Blustein will hold workshops for practitioners and people working in fields such as career coaching, counselling, HR practitioners and trainers on what he means when he writes about expanding the mission of all practitioners to better understand the role of work in people's lives and to embrace those with fewer choices.

Another of his goals is to stimulate research informing public policy on education, training and labour issues.

Blustein has consulted with state and national government agencies on issues pertaining to career development education and the school-to-work transition process.

As the director of career development services at the Child and Family Psychological Services, he provides career interventions and psychotherapy to adults and couples.

He also offers consultation to organisations applying the psychology of working perspective to the challenges of dissatisfied workers, talent management, outplacement counselling, and motivational issues.

Blustein, despite his interest in music, may not be a rock star, but in the world of career development he has the X factor.

People from as far afield as Dunedin, Rotorua and Hawkes Bay have signed up for his two Auckland workshops on May 26.

Some of the key themes of the workshops include:

• How essential human needs are met through work, career development, workplace culture and attitudes.

• The relational aspects of working and its importance for individuals to feel connected.

• The role of advocacy in practitioners' work and how practitioners' work should include the promotion of social change through influencing social policy.

• Ideas about work, career, mental health, and social change.

• Engaging in social advocacy to enhance opportunities for dignified work.

• Information on the Auckland workshops is available on