What is a Career?

The concept of career has changed over the last 20 or 30 years. Whereas a career used to be a job for life, this is rarely the case anymore. It is no longer the situation that a person is employed in one or a series of jobs with one employer and then comfortably retires at 65.

People now, on average, change their jobs or careers at least 7 times over the course of their life. In addition, there is no guarantee of retiring at 65 and many people are working well into their 70’s and 80’s.

The impact of the recession, changing technology, globalisation, competition, mergers, stress, increasing change and the pace of life has changed the traditional career.

According to ‘Wikipedia’, a career is classed by the Oxford English Dictionary as an individual’s “course or progress through life (or a distinct portion of life)”. It is a series of successive situations or activities that make up a person’s occupation.

A career may be focused around progression in a job or a series of roles, or a process of parallel career changes in the search for greater income and personal satisfaction.

A career is made up of a process of continuous learning and personal and professional development. This enables a person to keep up with changes within the workplace and be competitive when seeking a new job.

A career is often made up of activities outside of the traditional paid working environment. These may include voluntary or charity work or working within the community, such as helping out in sporting clubs. In addition, the skills required in a career can come from other activities such as running a home and raising children or looking after elderly relatives.

A career may be made up of a variety of different roles, commonly known as a portfolio career, where a person carries out a range of different jobs often including self employment and working with different organisations to make a living.

A career is no longer just for people who work full time. Many people, and not just women with children, are seeking increased flexibility, more effective work/life balance and part-time working to have a career that works for them. Also people are driven by different things at different stages of their career, such as when they face a life changing event. It is not unusual to take a career break or change roles to fulfil important values at different times during their lives.

Despite the current economic climate, more and more people are seeking self employment as their values no longer meet the values of their organisation or they want greater fulfilment and personal satisfaction. In 2006, 12% of the UK’s working population were self employed with predictions that this could swell by up to 10 million people by 2011.

What is the implication of the changing nature of a career?

For many people, the implication is that there is no longer a career for life, so people need to be flexible in their response to change, whether this is due to redundancy, restructuring or finding a better way to make an income. On the other hand, as there are thousands of career options available today, there is increasing choice, but this can often feel overwhelming as well.

Many people are also finding their is a values shift between their personal values and the changing culture within their organisation. It is when this is out of alignment that many people seek out new employment or a new start to change the focus of their career.

To be successful, workers need to start to focus on their strengths and their skills to develop a plan for their future. In addition, they need to know what else is important in their life to make sure that their choices and decisions are congruent with other parts of their life.

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