Transformative Career Development Learning

Profound change in personal perspective, inclusive of the cognitive (thinking), affective (feeling) and behavioural (doing) dimensions of experience, are central to the adult learning theory of transformative learning (Mezirow, 2000). Transformative learning may occur in response to a disorienting dilemma, a crisis, or a series of critical moments that press an individual to change and adapt.  Studying for a degree, for example, quite frequently visits dilemmas, crises, and critical moments on students.  Such challenges are addressed by career development practitioners who are working in educational contexts.  Career Development Learning (CDL), whether it occurs within career counselling or career education, can be a vehicle for reflective learning that is transformative: that is, transformative career development learning (TCDL) (McIlveen, 2012).

CDL Answers Questions

CDL aims to facilitate students answering ostensibly straight-forward questions, such as:

“Why am I studying? Why am I studying for this major and degree? How can I make the most of my studies for personal achievement and work? What do I have to learn in order to achieve my goals? How can I determine the best study pathway for my career goals? How can I use what I have learned for success in the workforce?”

These questions are routine for career development practitioners who support students in universities and colleges. Academic practitioners, however, may not necessarily find the questions routine or even relevant to the day-to-day teaching of their specialist disciplines. An academic may well ask: “Don’t these students know why they are here?” Unfortunately, students’ decisions about their careers and choice of qualifications are not always perfectly resolved.  Thus, these questions  posed by students go to the heart of the matter when it comes to being a student: Authentic engagement in learning. And, this when CDL is really valuable.

CDL as a Reflexive Mirror

CDL may be metaphorically conceived of as a two-way mirror (McIlveen et al., 2011), as shown in the figure below. On the left-hand side of the figure is the student who is embedded in layers of career influences that range from the intrapersonal to the broader social and economic. On the right-hand side is the world-of-work, which is equivalently layered and complex. In the middle, is a two-way mirror that represents CDL.

 

CDL enables the student to reflect on his/her self with respect to career competencies and learning objectives. From another perspective, the student may look through the looking-glass—a lens of career competencies and learning objectives—to see the world-of-work. Both perspectives create meaning oriented toward self and the world-of-work, and it is through this meaning making process that disciplinary studies are made meaningful to the student, perhaps by answering the questions given above (e.g., “Why am I studying?”). Continue reading “Transformative Career Development Learning”

“Big 5” Profiles of Career Adaptivity

In this era of economic uncertainty, employers are increasingly shifting their need for market flexibility onto individuals, resulting in greater job insecurity and fragmented and unpredictable educational and vocational pathways. This economic dynamic has given rise to an increased interest in the psychological characteristics, behaviors, and interventions that enhance individuals’ adaptation in a rapidly evolving environment.

Career Adaptation

Career construction theory (CCT; Savickas, 2013) conceptualizes four aspects in the process of adaptation needed in the world of work and career:

Adaptivity → Adaptability → Adapting Adaptation

According to CCT, individuals who are willing or ready to change (i.e., Adaptivity) and possess the psychosocial resources to do so (i.e., Adaptability) are better able to respond to changing conditions (i.e., Adapting) and thereby secure positive outcomes (i.e., Adaptation).

Career Adaptivity → Career Adaptability

The “Big 5”, the Five Factor Model (FFM; McCrae & Costa, 2003), is sufficiently encompassing to capture all aspects of personality. However, the CCT offers no specific combinations of personality traits to reflect career Adaptivity, which is the first factor in the chain of the process of adaptation. We hypothesize that is possible to identify some combination of the FFM traits reflecting Adaptivity.

Our research is the first to examine profiles of career Adaptivity based on the FFM dimensions using latent profile analysis (or mixture analyses). This research reveals three Adaptivity profiles shown in the figure below. Each profile has a distinct pattern.

FFM profile

We found individuals with the “Adaptive Ready” profile reported significantly higher levels of career Adaptability, measured using the Career Adapt-Abilities Scale (Savickas & Porfeli, 2012).  They had more career Adaptability than individuals with the “Ordinary” profile, who, in turn, reported significantly higher levels of career Adaptability than those with the “Rigid” profile. Continue reading ““Big 5” Profiles of Career Adaptivity”

Career Adaptability in Retirees

Retirees returning to the workplace is not so unusual and there doing so is not always about meeting financial needs. Our research using in-depth interviews with 22 retirees of different working backgrounds, ranging from corporate professionals through to semi-skilled labourers, revealed consistent patterns and themes in the results. We found the qualities of “career adaptability” in these retirees who had returned to work. What is interesting about this finding is that career adaptability is not often thought of as a psychological strength within older folk; more often, it is associated with younger people entering into the world of work and adults surviving or, hopefully, thriving in their daily grind.

Dimensions of Career Adaptability

Measures of career adaptability tap four psychological dimensions: a future orientation to working (concern), a sense of feeling autonomy over work tasks (control), interest in learning and developing new skills and knowledge (curiosity), and feeling positive about one’s ability to contribute to a workplace (confidence).

The figure below depicts the links among the themes revealed in the interviews and it shows that career adaptability is connected up to all major themes.

Consider the example of two retired sheep shearers who returned to work as roustabouts in shearing sheds. Fit as fiddles, these two decided to job-share, splitting the tasks of this demanding labouring job between themselves, depending on their physical capacities (e.g., one’s arthritic knee and the other’s arthritic back). Why? Because working hard gives them a sense of satisfaction and meaning more than any other activity.

Implications for Workplaces and Policy

Policy makers and employers should note that older workers’ interests, needs, and reasons for working may be very different to those of younger workers. Indeed, a proven approach to attracting and retaining younger employees may not be as effective for older workers. Instead, harnessing older workers’ career adaptability and how they wish to express it may be just the thing to refresh motivation and restore dignity in the workplace.


This blog article is an extract from:

Luke, J., McIlveen, P., & Perera, H. N. (2016). A thematic analysis of career adaptability in retirees who return to work. Frontiers in Psychology. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00193

Unemployment and Underemployment are Scourges

Public Health Problem

Unemployment and underemployment are scourges—nothing short of a problem of public health of pandemic proportions. Unemployed people are at greater risk of poorer physical health (Griep et al., 2015) and mental health (Wanberg, 2012), including suicidal behavior (Breuer, 2014; Drydakis, 2014; Madianos, Alexiou, Patelakis, & Economou, 2014; Milner, Morrell, & LaMontagne, 2014; Milner, Page, & LaMontagne, 2013, 2014), and change in personality, such as agreeableness, conscientiousness, and openness (Boyce, Wood, Daly, & Sedikides, 2015).  It is alarming that poverty is associated with diminished cognitive development in children (Dickerson & Popli, 2016; Heberle & Carter, 2015; Kalil, Duncan, & Ziol-Guest, 2016).

Unemployment not only diminishes mental health but also, in turn, poorer mental health is a risk factor for unemployment (Butterworth, Leach, Pirkis, & Kelaher, 2012; Olesen, Butterworth, Leach, Kelaher, & Pirkis, 2013), which sets up a vicious cycle that entraps those with mental health issues in poverty. Furthermore, poor quality employment confers similar negative effects on mental health. Tragically, suicide is concomitant to unemployment (Milner, Morrell, et al., 2014; Milner, Page, et al., 2014; Norstrom & Gronqvist, 2015; Reeves, McKee, & Stuckler, 2014) and evident higher rates of suicide within the first five years of unemployment (Milner et al., 2013).  With the provision of interventions for unemployment and re-employment within their professional domain, career practitioners must be alert to mental health concerns and suicidality for their clients (Popadiuk, 2013). Continue reading “Unemployment and Underemployment are Scourges”