Voices in transition: lessons on career adaptability

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From: Career Development Quarterly(Vol. 52, Issue 4)
Publisher: National Career Development Association
Document Type: Article
Length: 7,163 words

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Occupational problems have negative consequences across life domains, yet relatively little research addresses the psychological resources necessary for the adult career transition. Considering Super's concept of career adaptability (D. E. Super & E. G. Knasel, 1981), the authors outline what they believe adults need to successfully manage the transition. Individuals in transition were interviewed and their responses were analyzed using qualitative methods. Participants who anticipated career change planfully and realistically, even when their jobs appeared to be secure, cited better experiences of the transition and perceived themselves to be coping better than did participants who ignored signs of change or reacted unrealistically soon after the job loss.

Frances was 51 when she lost her job after 13 years. Divorced, and with her sons on their own, she had no one dependent on her, but also no one to assist her. She explained, "It hit so suddenly--I just feel very scared." Joe was also 51 at the time of the termination of his job. Although his wife had a job, they both acknowledged that her hourly salary would not provide enough income for long--not with one daughter months away from college and a second daughter 2 years behind her. Joe described his reaction this way:

I've been--not depressed--but down. It's hard to get motivated. I spent nearly 20 years of my life with this company, and this is what I end up with. I started with them right after it got going. I still feel angry at the company for the way they allowed it to deteriorate.

Frances and Joe both felt betrayed after putting in years of loyal service to a local company. Neither of them had looked for a job in many years. Both felt shocked.

Since the 1970s, career change has become increasingly common in the lives of adults. Whether because of personal choice or because of organizational change in the world of work, the need to change jobs or occupations multiple times must be considered the rule and not the exception (Cairo, Kritis, & Myers, 1996). Furthermore, for a significant number of adults changing careers, the transition results in a position that is less desirable than their previous one (Wanberg, 1995). Occupational problems have been shown to have a negative effect on physical and emotional health, life satisfaction, family life (Menaghan, & Merves, 1984; Williams & Johansen, 1985), and financial resources (Sales, 1995). The uncertainty that results from this trend toward more frequent change has prompted a need for an increased understanding within the counseling profession of adult career development; however, relatively little research addresses the psychological resources necessary for adult career transitions (Heppner, 1998).

Super's life-span, life-space theory (Super, Savickas, & Super, 1996) provides important insights for furthering career counselors' understanding of the adult career transition. Prior to the sharp increase in adult career change, the core concept of Super's theory was career maturity. This concept emphasized the following developmental markers for decision making and coping with career tasks: Growth (4 to 13 years), Exploration (14...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A120354603