The way we live and work has been dramatically altered. The move to a knowledge economy and a flexible workforce encourages individuals to have multiple careers in their lifetime. The ‘job for life’ concept is lost in this process as individuals take greater responsibility for their careers, earning an income, marketable skills and attributes, and ways to feel fulfilled.
The result is an evolving workforce in which individuals seek out multiple careers and identities, rather than staying within their original vocational choice. These may be concurrent (where a worker has two simultaneous careers) or sequential (where a worker adopts a new career after having worked for some time in another career). Both may occur for different reasons.
Workers with concurrent multiple careers work at 2 careers simultaneously. Often, such careers are also regarded as a “hyphenated” professional identity. Examples, a “teacher-painter” might refer to an individual who works for nine months of the year as teacher, and three (summer) months of the year as a painter. Or, combine both roles in different capacities. A “doctor-actor” might refer to an individual who works as a doctor during the day, but works as an actor on a casual basis when suitable roles are available.
Some consider the hyphen “-homemaker” or “-caregiver” as suggestive of another type of concurrent multiple career worker. Increasingly, as adults care for grand children and older generation parents, the “X-caregiver” worker has emerged where a worker completes the tasks of career-X and simultaneously cares for the needs of grandchildren or elders.
Workers can adopt concurrent multiple careers for a number of reasons including: economic for additional income, educational such as multiple degrees in multiple fields, or personal such as interest or lack of fulfilment in one career.
Economist, Richard Florida, suggests that some “hyphenates” pursue multiple concurrent careers in order to fulfil creative needs. A “doctor-actor,” for example, might pursue ceramics for creative fulfilment as well as profit, and professional development.
Workers with sequential multiple careers change their professional identity over time. Thus, a worker in one career, over time may then switch to a related career or an entirely new career. For example, a teacher who has spent many years in the profession may change their career to being a fitness instructor. Over a lifetime, individuals can expect to change their careers 5-7 times.
The reasons for multiple careers reflect the life stages of the individual and the state of the economy. With improved educational opportunities, individuals are encouraged to develop themselves and enhance their career opportunities. As life-expectancy increases, an individual may seek a career that is less time consuming and demanding, or perhaps, the desire to express another side of him/herself. This will give rise to careers that have individual hobbies at their core, such as wine making, or baking.
However, with a slow economy, many individuals seek to hold onto a job for security reasons, so that there is less job hopping. Dr Donald Super argued that people pass through these five career stages during their life span that reflects their life stage, and will make appropriate career changes, adjustments and transitions during each stage.
Growth until the age of 14, where individuals “Try out” through classes, work experience, hobbies.
Exploration from the age of 15-24. Various occupational options are explored though school, leisure, part-time work, volunteering and hobbies. “Trial jobs” may be tested before finding a more stable and appropriate fit.
Establishment from the age of 25-44. A suitable occupation is selected and efforts are made to secure a long-term place in the chosen career. Obtaining certifications, credentials, and advanced degrees may be the norm.
Maintenance from the age 45-64. This stage is characterized by either Holding on (stagnating or plateauing), or Keeping up (updating or enriching).
Sometimes people feel risk adverse with various career options which may lead to frustration or even depression.
In middle adulthood individuals may reflect on what they have done with their life, or, what they truly want.
Disengagement or New Beginnings from age 65, where there is a decline from formal employment to finding new roles with a view to retirement.
In the ‘new beginning‘ retirees are preferring to work in some form while pursuing new or renewed outside interests. They may assist or mentor younger members of the industry or organisation, seek self-employment or a new work role.
With many changes in the economy, work patterns and to the individual’s career over a lifetime, the role of career development practitioners is important to support individuals during challenging times to redefine their careers and skill set for employment, and lifelong learning for lifelong earning.
Career counsellors are needed at all levels of the job market, by individuals, schools, tertiary sector, and organisations. With the dynamic changes described, it is not surprising that career development is a growing profession.
Career development is the corner stone of the psychological contract between employer and employee. It is about ensuring the individual can create a meaningful and rewarding career in return for performance that adds value to the organisation. Increasingly, employees are being encouraged to take ownership of their development and careers.
Managers supervise staff, and are involved in staff performance reviews, and responsible for their work results. Additionally, they may manage their staff development through training, employment and mentoring.
Many managers attain their roles through their work experience, but are not always qualified for their role or in career development, to support their staff’s career progress and professional development needs. Yet, the careers and income of others may be reliant on such expertise.
With a dynamic career development industry, and changes to careers, employment, education and training, as career counsellors, we have the responsibility to navigate these changes and support clients with professional services during a time of uncertainty and insecurity in their lives. To professionally offer this role, it’s incumbent to encourage individuals to attain professional qualifications to strengthen our profession.