Career guidance is an important service

Career guidance describes the services which help people of any age to manage their careers and to make the educational, training, and occupational choices that are right for them.

This includes informal services such as advice from family and friends. Career guidance helps people to reflect on their ambitions, interests, qualifications, skills, and talents, and to relate this knowledge about who they are to who they might become within the workforce.[1]

Career guidance is a continuous process throughout life

We no longer have careers for life. All New Zealanders will experience multiple career transitions in their lifetime, such as:

  • transitioning from school to work
  • returning to work from caring or study
  • promotion or changing type of work
  • imposed career changes such as redundancy, injury, or major industry changes (such as technological change meaning skills are no longer in demand).[2]

Each year in New Zealand around 20% of people change jobs and a further 18% exit the labour market.[3] The reasons why people change jobs vary, and it can be an active choice, or one imposed upon them.

Career changes impact people within our community differently, and the type and amount of support they require will differ. For example, Māori, Pacific People, and young people are more likely to be impacted and lose their job during an economic shock and take longer to recover and find their way back into the labour market.[4]  To be inclusive, career guidance services need to be accessible to all, particularly those who are already struggling in the labour market and those who need training but are not getting it.

Career guidance helps support people into meaningful and sustainable employment

Good quality and accessible career advice is important to assist people in our regions to make informed decisions about their next steps in life. Making career decisions and career changes are not one-off events and the process requires skills and personal insight to successfully navigate. This includes being aware of the available opportunities and how to access them, having accurate information about the reality of working within a particular industry, and knowing how to achieve personal career goals.

Access to career advice is an important part of this, particularly as the nature of work changes. As roles are disestablished and created due to changes in technology and sunrise industries, workers need to be supported to make decisions about their next career steps. Good career advice supports a dynamic and responsive labour market that supports people to transition between roles and industries.[7]

Career development research helps inform effective career guidance. For example, it can be used by industries to better understand issues like the nature of job and career satisfaction, how career decisions are made, how technology affects how work is done, what career misconceptions exist, and what resources are needed to improve career information and advice.[8] Good quality career information should be informed by this to best support industries to attract and retain skilled staff. Many sectors (for example primary industry, aged care, and tourism) identify negative perceptions as a key barrier to recruitment. If information about training and career pathways is clear and accessible, it assists people to make informed decisions about whether to go into a particular industry, rather than relying on perceptions.

Career guidance is also helpful for people already working within an industry or workplace, as it supports them to progress within their career to higher skilled and better paid roles.

In New Zealand, the government funds a wide range of career guidance support. For the most part this is targeted at defined groups, such as the unemployed (for example, MSD work brokers) or youth (such as school career advisors). Career advice is also provided privately through individual workplaces, user pays services, and industry bodies promoting career pathways. These are explored further in this report.


[1] OECD (2019) 'Investing in Career Guidance'

[2] Careers Development Association Australia (2021) 'Navigating life’s career transitions'

[3] New Zealand Productivity Commission (2020) 'Job-to-job transitions and the regional job ladder'

[4] New Zealand Productivity Commission (2020) 'Job-to-job transitions and the regional job ladder'

[5] New Zealand Productivity Commission (2020) 'Job-to-job transitions and the regional job ladder'

[6] Reserve Bank of New Zealand (2022) 'Labour Market Cycles Across Different Groups: What Does History Tell Us?'

[7] New Zealand Productivity Commission (2020) 'Technological change and the future of work: Final report' page 71

[8] Careers Development Association Australia (2021) 'Navigating life’s career transitions' page 18

Last updated: 07 December 2023