Career Development in a Life-Long Context

Posted by: John Stewart on September 16, 2011 1:53 pm

Being privy to the career development needs of a wide variety of people, it is clearly evident that career has different meanings depending on where you are in life.  At the age of thirteen, career can mean needing a job for spending money.  At eighteen, and with high school in the past, the primary task may be trying to figure out what to take in university. And for the middle-aged woman, with a career and family demands behind her, re-entry into the workforce may be of foremost concern.  Donald Super viewed career as a life-long endeavor, or as he referred to it, a life span cycle.  The cycle, as he described it, constitutes numerous stages over the lifespan and in the coming months we will be addressing some of these stages along with the tasks characteristic of each.  In brief, the life span cycle includes the following stages and tasks:

  • Growth (birth to age 14 or 15) – fantasy, interests, capacities
  • Exploration (ages 15-24) – crystallizing, specifying, implementing
  • Establishment (ages 25-44) – stabilizing, consolidating, advancing
  • Maintenance (ages 45-64) holding, updating, innovating
  • Disengagement (age 65+) – decelerating, retirement planning, retirement living

Typically when the topic of career is raised, the perception is that the most salient aspect of career is the actual decision on what occupation to pursue.  We know now, however, that the incidence of someone making a single career decision at some point in life and then persisting in that occupation until retirement is rare.  Over the summer we have expanded on a career decision-making model that implements knowledge about self and knowledge about occupations in making an effective career decision. It is common to focus on the importance of making an appropriate decision in the years surrounding high school graduation, but as our family has come to see first hand, information about one’s interests and skills along with familiarity with a variety of occupations is not sufficient for planning a career.  There are numerous skills and areas of knowledge that are developed during the growth stage that will impact the ease with which subsequent career decisions are made.  These include an understanding of the role of work in one’s life and the development of a work ethic, the ability to motivate self to work, the recognition that sacrifice is important to maintaining balance between work and leisure, and the valuing of education.  The growth stage, according to Super, includes the tasks of fantasy and role-playing of potential work-related roles, along with the development of interests and abilities.  The areas of knowledge identified above, however, are more related to values, an aspect of self that frequently remains an abstract concept during the youth and early adulthood stages of life. 

During the coming months John and I will be expanding on the broad areas of exploration and development, specification and crystallization of a career decision, career maintenance issues, and issues around recycling in a career. Our hope is that in the process we may increase reader awareness of the numerous factors important to effective career development that are often left unconsidered as a result of simply focusing on a decision.

 By: Jeff Landine and John Stewart




*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

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