New Directions

By Jim Ward

New Directions
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What is a career?

The definition of a career is a series of lifelong role-related experiences over a person’s life. Traditionally, careers were paternal, providing stability and direction. One’s career was simpler to manage because control was in the hands of the employer. There was generally one employer and one career field across the life span. We now know that the new realities of managing one’s career are more complicated. These sequences can be carefully planned and orchestrated or simply managed haphazardly. Regardless, this process can be totally frustrating or lead to personal fulfillment, depending on the individual and circumstances. Due to globalization, rapid changes in technology, outsourcing and economic turbulence, managing one’s career is growing more complex. As mentioned in my last posting, the economic ups and downs since the 1970’s have required us to think about work and career differently. As a result of all this change, we have experienced the death of the psycological contract between employer and employee. The concept of “lifetime employment” is essentially dead. Employees now regard themselves as free agents.

Donald Super was an early pioneer in the field of career development and one of the first thought leaders to do serious research on the subject. Initially formulatted in the 1950’s, his career model is based on the belief that one’s self-concept changes over time and develops as a result of our lifelong experience. Super’s theory of career development identified five life stages that individuals go through where vocational maturity increases with age:

  • Growth stage (birth to 14)
  • Exploration stage (15-24)
  • Establishment stage (25-44)
  • Maintenance stage (45-64)
  • Disengagement stage (65+)

In addition, we know that in our 30’s and 40’s unique changes take place in our life, leading to a new view of career.  At some point, plateaus are reached and climbing the hierarchy of the corporate ladder is no longer the goal.  Individuals are now viewing their relationship to work in new and different ways.  Work-life balance has crept into one’s thinking.  We are no longer putting the company before all else in life.  So what has replaced the organizational man/woman?  The self-managed career has replaced the traditional view of career.

Next posting, the self-managed career defined.


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