What Is a Career?

A career can be defined as a sequence of positions, successions, roles or jobs held by a person over a relatively long time span usually ten or more years. It can also be defined as a sequence of separate but related or connected work/life activities that provides continuity, order and meaning in the person’s life.

In today’s world careers are about connectivity with a connected world. Career is not confined to one organization in a traditional way. It could cut across organizations and roles each interrelated with one another. A career represents an organized path taken by an individual across time and space with a horizon. It is planned for some, for others it could just happen on account of circumstances, situation, current location, etc. Career happens for those who wish to make it happen. The smarter transition planners make their career change into a Career Choice . . . By deploying behavioral careers as against skill-based careers – Meaning – Don’t depend on “what” you do, rely on “How” you do . . .

One immediate observation of careerists which contrasts with many not so satisfied career professionals, is that they try hard to keep central controls to a minimum compatible with the fulfillment of their objectives. To be able to do that, of course, they must first have a very clear understanding of what those objectives are. Because people further down also understand the broad objectives, it is rare for these companies to use their control systems for slamming on the brakes. On the contrary, a fulfilled careerist is rather like a lively horse and trap, where both the animal and the driver know where they are going. All that is needed is an occasional gentle tug at the reins.

Why Are Careers Important?

1.   Career as Life

Career is important because it represents the person’s entire life in the work setting. Also, for most people, work is a primary factor in determining the overall quality of life. Work provides a setting for satisfying practically the whole range of human needs—physiological, safety, social, ego, and self-actualization (using Maslow’s typology); achievement, affiliation, and power (usng McClelland’s trilogy); and other needs, such as aggression and altruism, autonomy, and applause. Indeed, there is some evidence that mortality rates increase immediately following retirement. Therefore, it is important to study careers because work plays a key role in person’s life.

2.   Equality and Diversity Through Careers

A second consideration is that work is a fundamental area in which to achieve social equality, workplace diversity, and personal liberation. Many underrepresented groups have been seeking equality in job hiring and promotion practices for years, and the measures of results usually include assessments of career outcomes. There is legal and social pressure on organizations to eliminate job conditions that threaten the physical or emotional well-being of the employee.

Indeed, in recent years job quality (not just employment per se) has been used in political campaigns as a means of fighting social inequality, and it may become an even more important issue in the future. Therefore, because the career is so important to the person, and because the work career is being recognized as a primary target in the politics of social change, organizations will be forced to give more attention to the nature of the career experiences they provide for their employees. This challenge has become more critical as organizations have outsourced work and produced legions of independent contractors and temporary workers, who often represent the downside of the “new” careers, with even more opportunities for exploitation.

3.   Career Mobility

Another reason for the current emphasis on the importance of careers is the increased mobility resulting from the thrust toward personal liberation in our society. It is no longer necessarily seen as undesirable to have changed jobs frequently; rather than suggesting personal instability, it represents varied experience and personal drive (Arthur et al., 1999).

Taking advantage of better job opportunities and searching for a better match between job characteristics and personal interests and needs can cause frequent job changes. This is also a hedge against obsolescence; the person who specializes by staying in one job or organization too long may have difficulty finding and adapting to other work if technological, economic, or company policy changes force him out of his current job. Thus, with our current social norms favoring freedom of choice and “doing your own thing,” employees—from storeroom clerks to company presidents—are far more likely today to change jobs and careers if they are not currently fulfilled or otherwise satisfied.

Related to this tendency toward greater career mobility is the growing reluctance to sacrifice personal and family gratifications for the sake of one’s career. This may be reflected in more frequent refusals of job transfers, even with promotions and pay raises; more weight givne to location and physical environment in selecting a job; and the challenging of work hours, personal appearance, and job involvement.

More dramatically, this increased sense of career-related freedom is seen in the decision of bright, high-performing youth not to go to college or to pursue conventional careers; the decisions of employees to opt for balance between families and careers; and the decisions of many established professionasl and executives to leave their current occupations and take up quite different lines of work, often requiring years of additional education. All these moves toward grater personal choice represent a significant change in the norms and internal environment of the organization. Increasingly, organizations and administrators will not be permitted the “luxury” of overlooking the impact of their actions on the personal lives and careers of their employees (Fletcher, 1998).

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  • References
    1. Desmet, P. M. A., & Pohlmeyer, A. E. (2013). Positive design: An introduction to design for subjective well-being. International Journal of Design, 7 (3), 5 – 19.
    2. Hall, D.T. (1976). Careers in organizations. Pacific Palisades, CA: Goodyear.
    3. Kogan, N. (2002). Careers in the performing arts: a psychological perspective. Creativity Research Journal, 14, 1 – 16.

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