Personal Development: Career Management

Introduction

For quite a long time, the study of guidance has always been majored on adolescents with adult materials being very rare. In fact, some writers put it that psychology textbooks give an impression that age 21 is the zenith of human development. This has made the study remain based on adolescents until few years ago when more scholars changed their perspective to come up with holistic models that consider the whole human life cycle and which address specific adult subjects (Sugarman, 2001). The new awakening has brought with it changes in the scientific community thus triggering an in depth study in the adult life. In terms of career management and practice, the study has given scholars an insight to dig deep in the recent changes both demographic and technological that are implicating greatly on the careers of adults. These changes coupled with uncertainties in the economic environment and changing individual attitudes towards work are the root causes of the change in perspective towards the adult subjects. This essay will therefore explore the changes in the approach on the subject of career management, exploring the new trends taken by researchers and finally explore the implications that the new strategies offer on the lives of individuals and organizations.

History of Study

It was until the 20th century that the scientific study of vocational psychology came up. It was triggered by the need to compare the professional demand in relation to the individual abilities of an individual during his work entry stage. This approach to the study was referred to as the trait-factor. It based its approach on the ideas of Frank Parson’s book Choosing a vocation.

According to Parson (2008), career guidance is made up of three stages. The first stage includes the analysis of one’s abilities, aptitude, available resources, the limitations and any other quality that one possesses concerning the job in question. The second stage involves the analysis of the work environment. This involves the demands of the job, its conditioning factors, the advantages and disadvantages associated with the job and finally the opportunities. Thirdly, it involved a comparison of the two factors by bringing out the relationships between them.

Later, it came to be understood that the subject of career development was a more complex affair as compared to the three stages offered by Parson. This led to the formation of other theories that tried to capture other aspects of life that had not been given priority in Parson’s study. It was after this development that the study of differential psychology and psychometry evolved during the 1930s. Later in 1942, the psychotherapeutic aspects of this subject were explored with some relationship with the individual based counseling. This gave more focus on, “motivational and affective aspects.” (Sugarman, 2001). This was evident in its thorough approach on self acceptance and also on self understanding.

The field of career development achieved actual changes in the fifties when theories on lifespan career development emerged during the 1950s. In these theories, the approach was based on the human psychological changes that occur during different stages of his life span. It involves all individual personality, physical, intellectual, social, affective, and vocational development changes that occur during the life of a human being (Sugarman, 2001)).

The recent approaches

As mentioned above, the field of career development that encompasses the whole life cycle of a human life has been one of the most recent topics. Under these new developments, the scholars have come up with career education that encompasses the adults in terms of their career management. Developers of these theories also put emphasis on the adjustments and developments that are always expected in the course of life (Arthur et al, 2001). These scholars view career adjustments to include changes that occur in terms of career motives, frustrations and conflicts that one encounters during his working life, mechanisms that allow adjustments and finally self perception of job satisfaction and success. These adjustments do not operate on their own. They depend highly on the interplay of other issues like culture, the climate offered by the organization, an individual’s characteristics and psychological disposition and finally through the prevailing demographic attributes.

Arthur et al (2001) argue that an individual is motivated by certain drives to attain a targeted level of success and satisfaction in his career. The drive might not be destructed in case of lack of demotivating agents thus causing no need for career adjustments. On the other hand, presence of obstacles can easily call for a career adjustment. These obstacles include external forces in terms of frustrations and internal conflicts that may occur to an individual. An effective response to these obstacles thus defines the quality of one’s adjustment. Success and work satisfaction are determined by the obstacle removal mechanisms capability and the outcomes that one has experienced over time.

This approach clearly defines several parts of my life as an individual and also the organization that I work with. To come up with an appropriate career plan for me, the organization will be forced to put into consideration the new studies in the field of career development that encompasses the changing traits of my life. For example, formerly, my main objective in life was to ensure that I have enough education so that I can continue with the family business but now this has seized to be my appropriate desire. With time, my career aspirations have changed and I need to work for an international organization with a great salary and which will give me ample time to interact with my family. This shows the second change that I have undergone within my duration of growth. I now value a family something that I did not give much priority before.

This is therefore relevant to note because changes are inevitable and career aspirations do change with different stages of life. To develop a good career management plan, therefore, the organization that I work with must always learn to work jointly with me in order to identify my new trends and inclinations.

Among the most recent approach to the issue of career theory was the Social Cognition Career Theory which drew many ideas from Albert Bandura’s Social Cognition theory. In this approach, the theorists consider several issues that had not been given consideration in other theories. These issues include gender, culture, social context, genetic endowment and other events in life that are unexpected but which impact strongly on the career choices. The main focus on this theory is the individual’s expectations of the outcome, his self efficacy and the individual’s set goals (Bandura, 2001).

According to this theory, an individual’s career decision is based on the individual’s beliefs which he learns and cultivates under the influence of four major role players which are personal performances that one has accomplished, one’s efforts in terms of learning, the social persuasion, and the reactions and states of physiology. When a person succeeds in an endeavor, he develops a belief that he will always succeed in other endeavors that entail the same ability. This is a process that develops from childhood and as one grows up, he narrows his spectrum to all endeavors that he has done successfully and builds his career choice from these abilities. The greatest influencing agent is the extend to which one views the activity as his most successful and the rewards and compensations that are associated with the activity. Other contextual activities play a later role. For example, if the individual perceives barriers, he might consider the career decision but if the career path seems to have no barriers, the chances of one taking this as a career are high (Bandura, 2008). In his views, Herriot has a different position.

This theory development has also a great impact in the development of an individual’s career. In my context, I knew that I could make a good manager. I loved the field of business management. This was also reinforced by my father’s decision. I therefore went for my studies as an undergraduate in business management. Later I wanted to adjust to a higher level of masters. But as the theory portrays, career adjustments can come in terms of external and internal forces. The probability of bigger jobs in a bigger international organization has thus made me adjust my career aspirations from a mere taking over of the family business to a manager of a bigger institution especially a hospitality firm or an airline industry. This is as a result of new possibilities of greater benefits that have thus acted as a force to make me change my position. On the other hand, experiencing hardships could have distracted me. For example, if my clients at that point were exposed to a better quality and cheaper product from a competing company which also had good marketing strategies, they could have opted for that making me not perform greatly with my strategies. This could have acted as an impediment making me consider other options in my career.

According to Herriot, the word career has experienced even more complex revelations that have rendered the old theories insufficient and full of short comings. In recent times, the challenges of career growth for both the individual and the organization have been revealed to be based on some major challenges (Herriot, 1992). These are the challenges that are faced by the HR during our time to ensure that they remain afloat in the coming decade. The first issue is time. This involves both the past and the foreseeable future. This enables us to know where we are in relation to the past, the events that made us be where we are and also the future in terms of where we are likely to be in a given duration of time.

According to Herriot (1992), time bears with it changes that cannot be projected based on the background events. He purports that the success of the past should not be used to gauge the success of the future for both the career of an individual or the continuity of the organization. At some point, when an organization boasts monopoly of the market, the success can be clearly seen with their future projections in terms of training and development and other needs of the organization put in place. In such an environment, one can easily project his career prospects in relation to the job requirements and definitions according to the future projections of the organization. Problems can only chip in when there occurs some unexpected changes like economic hardships or deregulations allowing for a stiffer competition from other providers.

Herriot therefore puts it that the best way to manage one’s career both as an individual or an organization is by understanding the inevitability of change and thus constructing the future plans completely independent from the past. Basing on the past success to construct a future can lead to great downfall in a career development strategy.

According to Herriot, only time to time readjustment and career thinking in relation to the company’s needs and expecting changes that occur with time can lead to a real lucrative career. This directly applies to me. That is if I maintained the same dream I could not have worked to my best abilities. I have had career readjustments and thinking to the extend that I go with the new developments. This is what Herriot views as the most appropriate way of career development.

Basing on my trends, I can be sure of success in my career. In his theory, time carries with it changes that an individual might sometimes fail to recognize. These changes might end up rendering all my effort to null. For example, I could have learned that I am good in the sales department of my former company but I cannot use the same to build my career plan because my strategies and success could have been attributed to a good economic base of my clients. In future, the current economic crunch that is rocking the world could interfere with my performance. My strategies could fail to improve on the volume of sales in another company because they don’t put into consideration the economic crunch.

So, what is the importance of these theories to an individual’s career and the organization? The organization plays an important role in the career decisions according to the contemporary theories. For a successful career path, the individual strategies must be in harmony with the organization’s needs. This is important not only in the career development of the individual but also in the general growth and sustainability of the organization. This forms the second issue faced by HR in the current career development strategies. The relationship between the individual and the organization over a given period of time is one issue that must be considered in terms of career development (Herriot, 1992). In this issue, one has to critically analyze his relationship with the organization in relation to the time he has spent there. For example, he can trace his career path not for himself only but also for other people in a given department and understand whether they were promoted from within or were hired from outside.

Other than the subjective analysis, one can also do an objective analysis by asking himself whether he is on the right track and in time or whether he has lost track or lagging behind in time. One can also try to check on how fairly he has been treated in relation with the others that he was hired with. In addition, one can analyze the organization’s values concerning careers. Thinking from these perspectives, most people have therefore trusted their careers as the only key to success. This, according to Herriot is not the right career path because it can lead to serious problems when the aspirations of the organization differ from the individual strategies. It is therefore important for an individual to engage in career thinking which will act as key to successful careers and which will help an individual understand the change experienced and those likely to be experienced in time. Also it will help in the harmonization of the individual and organizational goals and expectations and finally, it will help an individual to relate historical events with experiences that can impact on his career (Herriot, 1992).

this theory is very relevant to my career plan. One thing is conspicuous in my career aspirations. This is that I try to make myself as equipped as possible so that I can fill any management gap in any company. This contravenes Herriot’s position of thought. In a good career strategy, I will be forced to make better plans when I am established in a company after my studies. This will be important because I will base my needs to the company’s needs so as to come up with long term career plans that will not be full of knowledge that is irrelevant to the needs of the company.

With my interest in Hospitality industry, I could be hired because of my linguistic ability and not my sales prowess history. From there, I will be forced to develop my career in the same line and see the future needs of the company in relation to my abilities. From there, I might decide to strengthen my linguistic ability instead of my sales prowess. In addition, the company could be preparing its own candidates for the post sales manager, therefore, my own effort to sharpen my sales management skills might prove not very relevant to the company if its real shortage is French speaking employees.

What is the other relevance of these new perspectives to an individual and the organization? It is important that one understands the connection between the individual’s aspirations and the role played by the organization in assisting him realize them. In contemporary career theories, Arnold (1997) highlights the relationship between the organization and the individual in ensuring that career management within the organization is formulated to help them realize their ambitions and at the same time offer the organization a competitive edge in terms of an appropriate workforce that meets its HR needs. He purports that individual growth can be achieved in two ways. The first one is the aggressive self-growth and the second one is the supportive self-growth.

In the aggressive self-growth, the organization assumes a “hands off” type of career management giving individuals the role to take care of themselves. The approach in this point of view is that the organization is prone to the many changes and therefore not the best way of managing one’s career. The supportive self-development is what contemporary theories campaign for. This is not as in the olden days where organizations took total control of the individuals’ career development, but a new approach which calls for the organization to play an assist’s role in ensuring that its employees meet their defined development goals.

This perspective is very important when it comes to career development because it defines the role of career development as a symbiotic dependence between the individual and the organization. A coordinated effort is most appropriate in the identification and development of careers. Arnold (1997) outlines several obligations that the organization has to adhere to in order to ensure a good career growth for its employees. These are career intervention programs like succession planning, career workshops, career action centers, personal development plans, mentoring, career canceling, developmental job assignments, development centers, networking and in some cases outplacing. These are the supportive roles that the organization is supposed to offer to its employees so as to ensure an aim-oriented career growth.

What therefore is the relevance of Arnold’s position towards career development in relation to my personal career? He purports that a good career development scheme must involve a symbiotic relationship between the organization and the individual. Therefore, it is my responsibility to play my part in terms of studying hard in school and improving on my levels of education and diversifying my skills. This will be in terms of aggressive self development according to Arnold. But in order to succeed in my career, I need to work with the relevant organization which will realize my potential and put them in a scale with the future needs of the organization before coming up with an appropriate design.

Arnold, therefore, makes the issue of career development an affair that involves the coordination of both the organization and the individual. The organizations should therefore be obligated to make sure that it makes appropriate career plans in relation to the personal efforts. This will be very important in the production of the organization.

The Social Cognition Theory underscores the importance of culture in the issue of career development and decision making. In career decision making, role and values are very important. These are the same issues that are considered in terms of cultural approach to career formation. Subsequently, many researchers have come up with literature showing the importance of a culturally oriented career theory that addresses a multi cultural workforce (Hartung, 2002). To show the importance of culture in the field of career development and management, Hartung points out that most of the theories have in most cases been designed to major on the characters of “college educated, white, and middle-class men.” (Hartung, 2002).

More studies from other scholars have come up with the same hypothesis that most of the samples used in order to come up with the theories have been the above mentioned. As a result, this causes sidelining of some groups, especially minorities, who do not share the same beliefs and values as those expressed in most of the researches and studies. Furthermore, this raises the issue of individualistic point of view of the personal perception of values and the collective interdependence of values. While some people may construe values as an individuals own independent phenomenon, others construe values to be a communal affair that is interdependent between all members of the society. Hartung goes ahead to explain that although most cases of career development and practice are hindered by bias established through monoculturalism, he purports that the bias does not arise in terms of the theories themselves instead, it comes as a result of the counselors and researchers’ mindset which confines them into using theory without considering other contexts.

This therefore called for a new breed of scholars who championed for a multicultural approach to the issue of culture. In this new school of thought, they campaigned for a, “…philosophy and attitude of openness, inclusiveness and tolerance.” (Arthur et al, 1999). The success of this new theory will therefore act as the building stone for theories and a guide for research inquiries that will portray the validity of the issue of culture in career management.

Many scholars have therefore included culture as part of their career theories. Among them is Super’s theory which highlighted the importance of values and roles in the issue of life-span. In the dimensions of life-span of this theory, the role played by cultural identity formation in the lives of both racial and ethnic minorities as crucial. This called for an inclusion of the issue of cultural identity in the process of developmental career assessment so as to enable an individual’s career to be analyzed under the context of his cultural background. In addition to Super’s model, the issue of cultural context was also captured in the social cognition career theory, the Values-based model of Brown and the Learning theory of career Choice and Counseling.

The issue of culture is very relevant to me. Language makes one large part of culture. For example learning of a language entails understanding of other parts of culture in order to have an in depth understanding. It is therefore important that I understanding English language which is believed to be the language of business worldwide. This is the reason as to why I have embarked on learning several languages which will diversify my understanding of other cultures and thus give me the ability to work in a wider range of professions.

The knowledge of different languages has also inspired me to consider working in the field of hospitality. This means that culture plays a role in a person’s career decision making. This is evidenced by the change in career as experienced by me under the influence of knowledge of different languages.

Career choice is therefore a process that has its roots deeply founded in culture to the extend that making career theories that fail to address the issue of culture is out of question (Osipow, 1996). This is based on the belief that culture plays the biggest part in an individual’s behavior and interaction. In a society, members internalize values transmitted to them through culture. These values then act as their guidelines in their individual patterns of beliefs, decision making, assumptions, problem solving, relationship with nature, time and activity orientation, etc. these issues form the basic rules applied in the choice and formation of a career. It is therefore important that they are incorporated in the career theories.

Understanding individual values on their own can sometimes not fulfill the purpose. It is therefore important to ensure that the broader cultural values are considered because they are the shaping blocks from which the specific individual values are constructed. In a study by Schwartz from 41 different countries, ten different sets of motivational types of values were constructed. They included power, stimulation, achievement, self-direction, hedonism, universalism, security, benevolence, conformity and tradition. These values are made up of five individualist values and other five values that are collective themes of culture. Hartung (14) therefore argues that career choice is more of a function of values than interests. Therefore, values should be given an upper hand in career theories than personal interests.

To further elaborate on culture, I can use Hartung’s motivational values to see how they implicated in my life’s career decision. By studying hard, I am likely to develop confidence that I have enough power in my field of profession. This is achieved through my attainment of a master’s degree in business management. This eventually will give me stimulation to apply for bigger positions in bigger companies. With success in this, I will attain a definite career direction which of course I have started building. With good papers and ability to speak different languages, I develop a sense of universalism and security on the job of my choice. This means that the contribution of values which in turn are shaped by culture is so great in the field of career management.

The organizations that I expect to work with will have to consider my values and beliefs before making the necessary decisions on my career. For example, they have to put in consideration the issue of my determination in order to identify where I fit most. This will help the organization to also benefit from my strengths apart from contributing to my sense of success and career satisfaction.

As mentioned in several parts of the essay, from childhood, I had the desire to excel in the field of business. This was also encouraged by my father who kept encouraging me and advising me. I later went to university in Portugal where I did Business Management before I started working as sales manager.

This taught me the challenges that are faced on the real job. Although my performance was exemplary in terms of changing the fortunes of the company, I had the feeling that I had to further my studies and expand my skills. I did this through my decision to pursue a Master’s Degree in Business. It was from this level that most of my career dreams took a new turn. I developed the desire to venture into new fields like hospitality or the airline industry.

My career aspirations have changed from going back to Portugal to manage family business to working with a big international organization in Spain. I have the desire to get a job that will be well paying and which will give me job satisfaction and enough time to interact with my family. Otherwise, greatest desire is to reach the greatest level of management.

Conclusion

In conclusion, career management has taken a new turn away from the theories of yesteryears. It now embraces new ideas that include culture, gender, and other environmental factors to help in career management. It also calls for a collective effort from both the organization and the individual to come up with strategies that will go in harmony and thus avoid clash of interests. This is what the HR strategists of the new era will be forced to adhere to in order to avoid sinking during these tumultuous times.

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