Work is central to people’s lives. Consider when we meet someone for the first time. Invariably, one of the first questions asked is “what do you do?” meaning, what job do you do to earn a living?
Career and identity
Peoples working lives and social identity have been shaped by the notion of career (Watts, 2000) and career has been described as a means to self-actualisation (Adamson, 1997). A career identity is an individual narrative or story that explains “how the self of yesterday became the self of today and will become the self of tomorrow” (Savickas, 2005, p. 58). As with a literary story, the plots of a personal narrative bring coherence, structure, and a heuristic through which to understand a person’s story (McIlveen & Patton, 2007, p. 228). Careers engender group formation that unite individuals, provide a sense of identity, offer a means for fulfilment, and “provide our daily bread” (Inkson, 2007, p. xviii).
Significantly, the concept of career is evolving in today’s society to encompass an underlying agenda of employability. In doing so, it moves career away from the role of the employer or organisation and instead career becomes more person-centred. In other words, employability makes the individual the focus and a person-centred approach is pursued in the field of vocational psychology today. Sufficiency is measured in terms of high or low employability.
Despite the potentially negative overtones of quantification, employability is now recognised as a work specific active adaptability and this means that characteristic adaptations of employability can be learned and applied. Does this mean that employability can be used to re-frame career to service the needs of the individual worker rather than the interests of the organisation? Blustein and McWhirter (2002) go further and argue for a more holistic focus starting with the individual but extending to a more socially contextualised context of understanding.
ACCELL: Current research
The research team at the Australian Collaboratory for Career, Employability, and Learning for Living (ACCELL) is focused on describing, explaining, and enhancing employability through educational strategies. Most recently, ACCELL found that some, but not all, metaphors of employability used by students and graduates actually predict their confidence for searching for work. This research finding can be used by educators and employers to better engage students in employment programs. The research report is in preparation for publication. Standby by for updates.