Career-Life Preparedness: Revisiting Career Planning and Adjustment in the New Workplace

By Lent, Robert W. | Career Development Quarterly, March 2013 | Go to article overview

Career-Life Preparedness: Revisiting Career Planning and Adjustment in the New Workplace


Lent, Robert W., Career Development Quarterly


Although the economic and social context of work appears to be changing for more and more people, the author argues that time-honored and empirically supported theories of career development continue to be relevant and useful. However, these theories and the core assumptions that underlie them (e.g., the "matching metaphor") may need to be augmented by models and methods that help students and workers to prepare to a greater degree for difficult developmental transitions, obstacles to preferred career paths, and negative career-life events such as unplanned job loss. The author offers a view of "career-life preparedness" that, while informed by social-cognitive career theory, is largely compatible with other approaches to career development and is linked conceptually to other recent work on career adaptability, resilience, and coping.

These are both challenging and exciting times for the field of career development and counseling. Much has been written about transformations in the nature and context of work (e.g., Blustein, 2006; Hesketh, 2000; Savickas, 2011). Wrought by sweeping change in such areas as technology, the global economic environment, and demographic and immigration patterns, the work world has become faster paced, more diverse, and less and less predictable for more and more workers. Many work organizations have been trimming their ranks of full-time workers, outsourcing some of their functions, and opting for part-time, contract, and project workers who can be moved around more flexibly and who do not require the same level of investment in employee benefits or career development (Blustein, 2006; Friedman, 2005; Savickas, 2011). Even in the public sector, long associated with job security, employers have been downsizing their workforces and looking for ways to function more nimbly and cheaply. Such changes have stimulated new conceptions of "protean" or "boundary less" careers (as opposed to traditional notions of linear, hierarchical, predictable, organization-centric careers; Savickas, 2011) and recommendations that workers take greater control of their own career development, for instance, by thinking of themselves in terms of the metaphor "Me Incorporated" (Hesketh, 2000, p. 472).

Recent economic downturns have put many people out of work, rendered others more vulnerable to employment instabilities, and doubtless affected the well-being of many more. This is reflected in the number of people seeking career services (Sampson, McClain, Musch, & Reardon, 201 1 ) and, most likely, has affected the types of issues for which clients seek help (e.g., involuntary job layoff, work-family conflict, work dissatisfaction or career plateaus compounded by the perceived need to "stay put" for the sake of a steady paycheck). In addition to these larger shifts, career theorists, researchers, and practitioners are responding to a host of internal developments and innovations. For example, technological advances, particularly the Internet, have increased access to career assessment and intervention (Gore, Leuwerke, & Kelly, 2013). New models of career counseling and development are emerging (e.g., Blustein, 2011; Savickas, 2011). Greater efforts have been made to expand the range and relevance of career services beyond the middle class (e.g., Blustein, 2006), and the field has increasingly become an international enterprise, with many cross-national efforts to enhance understanding and promotion of career development (e.g., Trusty & Van Esbroeck, 2009).

Depending on one's perspective, many of the aforementioned developments - particularly those that are outside of the field's control, such as the economic downturn and shifts in global business practices - may represent an impending crisis, a Sturm und Drang (i.e., storm and stress) that threatens the very concept of career, along with the ways in which career counselors have sought to understand and promote it. Emblematic of this view are the claims that traditional conceptions of career are obsolete and that existing or traditional theories of career development are no longer adequate (e. …

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