By: TOM MCLAREN
It is important to view career development as a continuous cognitive process, not as a discipline, a learned skill, something to which proficiency can be achieved, or a fixed path. Career is a behavior, it is not a linear, or sometimes even logical, sequence of events. So hold on; learn, grow, and enjoy the ride. &nbs
The good news is that you hold the key; you have ultimate control. Career development is your responsibility, not your employers, your parents, or your teachers. Only you can fully appreciate how you have morphed, matured, and adapted; you change, you control your now, and you control your future. To quote Muhammad Ali - 'A person who views the world at fifty as they did at twenty, has wasted thirty years of their life'.
When working as an Industrial Designer/Product Developer at a specialist rotational moulding company (circa 2005), a very important design law was that plastic products expand and contract with heat. So, a plastic seat will actually grow in the sun, and contract when cooling. This goes unseen with a standalone product but if two parts were conjoined post moulding, or attached to something like a metal frame (which is the case with a floating pontoon), then this can become a real issue. Add to this that the metal frame will be expanding and contracting as well....as will we humans! Pryor and Bright (2011) provide a succinct summary when they state that - ‘To live is to change’.
My own career has been a bizarre sequence of events. From the disappointment of having not achieved the lofty sporting goals that I had set for myself (which led to a fear of failure for many years), to a creative industry that I loved, but unethical management practices that I could no longer stand, to a decade as a newcomer in the incestuous world of aviation (where people are born and bred with fond family affiliations), to a brand new job again in a different creative industry here in New York. If my short career to date had been a carefully planned storyline then it would surely have been a fanciful work of psycho fiction, written by a deluded mind. However, if you believe in happenstance then you will always fall on your feet; as you will read below - "luck is no accident".
Early career development theorists like Parsons and Holland proposed the notion of 'true reasoning' and 'matching', where an individual's skills, aptitudes, abilities, and interests were paired with those required for a specific occupation. This rigid 'trait and factor' analysis has obvious limits, particularly when a role includes more than mandraulic tasking i.e. where duties require creative thought to deal with changing conditions - where any human interaction is involved!
Patton and McMahon (2006) reinforce the 'controlling your own destiny' paradigm when they comment that 'the individual has now become an active agent in their own career development; the employee definition of loyalty and expected reward has undergone significant transition'. A shift that coincides with a renewed acknowledgement of the importance of social interaction, and an appreciation of the fact that life is a social construct - 'a series of success and satisfaction cycles' that are built on interaction and personal interpretation.
The working world has changed, as have our views on career development.
Change naturally leads us to chance. Most recently, career development theorists like John Krumboltz (with books titled 'Fail Fast, Fail Often: How Losing Can Help You Win' and 'Luck is No Accident: Making the Most of Happenstance in Your Life and Career') have emphasized and embraced chance. Capitalising on chance occurrences is based on readiness, understanding context, and conscious decision making. Krumboltz (1999) preaches that career development is an open system, and that in order to take full advantage we should remain:
- Curious - explore;
- Persistent - never give up;
- Flexible - be open to change;
- Optimistic - see potential; and
- Open to Risk - be brave, not uncertain.
Pryor and Bright's (2011) Chaos Theory of Careers model is founded on appreciating uncertainty, interconnectedness, and wisdom - focusing on patterns, not predictability. These sentiments mirror the views of career development guru Mark Savickas, who brought us Career Construction Theory, in which he promotes the ever-increasing importance of 'adaptability' within the field of career development, particularly with the unfathomable rate of technological change in today's world (I grew up in a house with one home phone, located in the lounge room, with a six foot 'no privacy' cord, and a rotary dial - try explaining that to someone under the age of 35!).
Savickas professes that 'individuals have one or more life themes that guide career choices - individuals impose meaning on the work they do, and that meaning helps them live out their lives to that theme'. So......what's your theme, and does your current situation align with your theme, your heart?
Read more about life as a social construct, happenstance, as well as other organizational development topics, and connect with me on LinkedIn - https://linkedin.com/in/tom-mclaren-0a299812a
From a Year 4 school report that included the statement - "Thomas doesn't see the need to spell", to winning a national writing award in Scotland, and an invitation into an international honor society for scholastic excellence at university, my journey from rugby player and sometimes reader, to avid reader and writer has been a meandering and interesting path. Further colorful feedback from a Year 8 school report - "Tom has verbal diarrhea", led to putting pen to paper and has provided a creative release. With a career ranging from sportsperson, to designer, to manager, matched with a keen interest in cognitive psychology, social psychology, and behavioral economics, my non-standard and sometimes anti 'management rhetoric' posts may provide interest to some.