A new paradigm for career development has come about as a result of the massive change that has happened in the business environment over the last 5 or so years. For the applied psychology, coaching, career counselling and mentoring fraternity this means that we need to rethink our approach to doing career work with clients.
Organisations and individuals who use the services of career practitioners come to us with a very different set of challenges than they did 5 years ago. People are now dealing with enormous amounts of complexity.
Traditionally, where work environments were stable and roles defined, career assessments based on ‘sound’ career theory provided us with a level of understanding about the career congruence potential for an individual. Career theory was rooted in the assumptions that personal traits are stable and that career development follows a sequence of predictable life stages.
Although assessments and inventories are very useful, the competencies and confidence required to navigate the work environments of today require so much more than understanding an individual’s values, interests and career drivers. So much more is also required from the practitioner to assist the client to transform the contextual limitations and issues they experience.
The knowledge economy of today calls for new approaches and much more dexterity and wisdom from practitioners. No longer is it enough to do an assessment or two, arrive at some idea of what career congruence might mean to the individual and then leave them to get on with it.
Now, we need to enable our clients to construct lives that are meaningful by opening up possibility for higher levels of control and flexibility and help them to recognise that meaning is co-constructed; that is, that identity is formed through relationship and context. Career identity is not separate from whole-of-life reality.
A recent paper published by Mark Savickas et al in The Journal of Vocational Behaviour (April 2009), suggests that practitioners should develop the “discipline of change”. In other words, they need to be ‘change agents’ who deliver ‘life-design’ interventions that help people to deal with and actualise a personal identity that supports their meaning-making in a chaotic world.
We know that change is constant now, but more than that, it is difficult to identify any stability in life, regardless of life stage. This lack of stability presents the need for a whole new framework for career development.
A framework that focuses on:
1. Adaptability: being open to addressing developmental tasks, workplace traumas and transitions
2. Narratibility: identifying through story, subjective experience, life themes, vocational personality and resources
3. Activity: engaging in diverse activities and feedback to build new life and career dimensions
4. Intentionality: imposing meaning on experiences and future aspirations by patterning a life-theme.
In summary, career work now requires a process that offers more in-depth work with clients to enable them to cope and respond to the challenges we face in this new world with greater confidence.