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Trends and Innovations in Career Development

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By Lotte Struwing.

CPC Mastermind, Lotte Struwing shares her research and ideas about Career Development. Read about our past, present, and future. In this article, Lotte provides a synopsis of Innovation in Career Counseling, a benchmark article published in the Journal of Career Development. She draws from the recent CERIC publication, Career Development Practice in Canada – Perspectives, Principles and Professionalism. The piece closes with some contemporary ideas garnered from an interview with industry leader, Norman Amundson Ph. D. Professor, University of British Columbia.

Our world is changing at an incredible pace and will continue to do so. We are moving from an industrial economy to a knowledge economy — and knowledge, as such, is an ongoing evolution. There are many intertwining factors that contribute to this change including globalization, demographics, social and lifestyle trends, and technology. Each factor impacts our careers and our personal lives in different ways and will continue to impact us at different times in our lives.

In the past we had the luxury of working for only a few companies in our lifetime, with a steady upward climb in one or two areas of expertise. These companies provided support and gave us the stability we needed in our lives by helping us with mortgages, families, education, health, personal trials, and retirement planning. Our reliance on career development was mainly within these organizations, and the personal accountability we had was only to follow the path available to us. That trusted path, as we know, has vanished for a significant portion of the workforce and left many people without the resources and insights they need for fulfilling their lifetime career path.

In order to succeed during the 40+ years we have for our career, we must shift our thinking to successfully navigate not only multiple jobs, but multiple careers, and we must take personal accountability for them. This requires a very different set of skills than what we are accustomed to.

For career practitioners, the support given to clients, in the past, was very tactical and linear. It was about getting clients into the next job without much thought or energy expended on other personal factors that were going on in their lives. There was job stability, there was balance, and there was predictability. The changes we are experiencing now have dramatically shifted the kind of support clients need, and for career practitioners, adapting to this new world of work is complex, but much needed, in order to support clients effectively.

Career development must look toward innovation to adapt to the multitude of changes occurring in the workforce. We normally think of innovation as technology, with Apple™ leading the way. However, in career development, innovation is more subtle, as I will review in more depth below.

Innovation in Career Counseling – Journal of Career Development, Vol. 27, No. 3, 2001

This article, already fourteen years old is interesting and its ideas are still relevant — there are concepts we use today as career practitioners, possibly without consciously understanding they are innovative.

The article underscores the importance of the following four areas:

  1. Taking a holistic approach,
  2. Understanding the client’s career framework,
  3. Capitalizing on chance, and
  4. Consciously enhancing interpersonal skills.

Taking a Holistic Approach

In the past career practitioners followed a linear approach to career strategy as the external environment was aligned with this approach. We went from one job to another with the anticipation of job security, education, health benefits, and predictable retirement. With the complexities of today’s working world, this, as we know, has all but vanished. Work and personal-emotional issues cannot be separated, and the integration of the two is a requirement when thinking about career development. This is considered a holistic approach and is necessary because the uncertainty we face translates into increased personal discord in our lives. When personal aspects of our lives are out of sync, it becomes more difficult to focus on our career in a productive manner.

This change produces a necessary, dramatic shift in thinking, and one critical change is helping people adapt to the idea of a ‘self-managed’ career. This shift involves much more than the occupational knowledge that was needed in the past. It also includes dealing with ambiguity, establishing strong resilience and adaptability skills, and being proactive — all characteristics we as individuals may not be comfortable in dealing with or even fully aware that we need.

Understanding the Client’s Career Framework

Career counselling should be approached in the same manner as personal counselling, meaning the counsellor should consider the client’s ‘life-career development’ in terms of their ‘human career,’ which takes all aspects of who they are into consideration.

In the past, a single approach was common because the paths available to most people were quite similar. Today, with our career cycles being different, people have varying self-conceptions that can be non-traditional and include ideas about their abilities, interests, and goals that align with their personality.

In today’s workforce, people are striving to achieve their life goals by finding a balance between satisfying work and activities outside of work. Each client will have individual insights into what their career looks like, and career practitioners must broaden their scope of understanding to be able to respond successfully.

As part of their adjustment, career practitioners must be able to address the development of their clients’ capacities and strengths. By not only addressing current situations, they will be able to ensure their clients’ sustainability. This thought process fits well in an environment that demands more openness, adaptability, and resilience.

Capitalizing On Chance

One key aspect of the holistic approach involves career practitioners assisting clients in preparing for, recognizing, and taking advantage of ‘chance events,’ which can turn into opportunities. Career practitioners can do this in two ways. First, they must promote ‘open-mindedness’ and reframe a client’s mindset of ‘undecided-ness’ into one of valuable exploration. This, in turn, will enable clients to seize the opportunities when they appear. Second, to lead clients down the path of exploration, career practitioners must help clients learn and develop the skills of curiosity, persistence, flexibility, optimism, and risk taking.

This approach works well with clients who have functional abilities with a sense that they can pursue their career in an effective manner. Clients who do not have the same functional abilities may need more assistance in developing their perspectives on the changing world of work before they are comfortable with the process.

Consciously Enhancing Interpersonal Skills

As a result of the changing landscape, career practitioners will also have to assist clients with relationship skills, which are a full requirement, not only for their careers but also for transition and shifting periods in their lives. These include the following:

 Emotional intelligence skills, including interpersonal and self-management skills, which allow peopleto function productively in a work environment and are transferable to any career.  Relationship skills, used for exploration and camaraderie, which are important for building networks and act as support mechanisms that offset barriers to progress.

Career Development Practice in Canada – Perspectives, Principles and Professionalism

The chapter on ‘Emerging Trends’ was used for this aspect of the research. The following paragraph mirrors the previous section.

Savickas and colleagues (2009)

The core concepts of the 20th century career theories and vocational guidance techniques must be reformulated to fit the postmodern economy. Current approaches are insufficient. First they are rooted in assumptions of stability of personal characteristics and secure jobs in bounded organizations. Second, they conceptualize careers as a fixed sequence of stages. Concepts such as vocational identify, career planning, career development and career stages each are used to predict people’s adjustment to work environments assuming a relatively high stability of the environments and people’s behaviour (p. 240).

Similar to the previous article, this chapter goes on to identify that accountability for career development has divested from organizations to individuals and that it is becoming a new life skill to navigate the world of work. Career practitioners need to understand this and work collaboratively with clients within this new framework. They need to need to have different tools for the variety of needs, rather than using a single program or theory, and be able to rejuvenate individuals at different points in their career cycles.

Understanding this complexity will enable career practitioners to remain productive and robust while assisting clients to learn and understand the new life skills. The chapter also mentions:

“Career development is the art (not science) of constructing a fulfilling and prosperous life. And subscribing to the notion that it is ‘business as usual’ in the area of career development is not an option. With the race for talent in an expanding knowledge economy, a harmonized, whole-community approach to career and workforce development is needed to help youth and adults: (a) develop informed career dreams for the future; (b) meet individuals who can help them achieve their career dreams; and (c) obtain the necessary resources and supports to fulfill those dreams.”

Emerging trends for career practitioners include the following:

  • Supporting retirees to continue to build their personal assets and develop resiliency skills. With an uncertain future, it is critical that aging workers increase their employability by fully considering the volatile market and possibly updating their skills or changing career paths entirely.
  • Career search strategies, interview skills, and resume writing continue to be important career development skills for the future, with virtual resumes and ‘interview rooms’ being on the rise.
  • Helping people understand social media etiquette and privacy issues so that what they post online will not hinder their career success.
  • Incorporating social justice and fostering diversity within their context.

The landscape of employment services is shifting in different provinces. Where once programs were paid to agencies upfront for delivering services, now those same agencies are being reimbursed for delivered services and achieved benchmarks. This shift is pushing clients through in a more tactical manner and they are not receiving the broader range of services needed to deal with the complexities they are facing in their careers. As a result, there is a greater need for extensive support from career practitioners.

Personal Interview with Norman Amundson Ph. D. Professor, University of British Columbia

Dr. Norman Amundson is a professor in the Department of Education and Counselling Psychology, and Special Education, at the University of British Columbia. He has dedicated his 35-year career to career development in Canada and is considered an expert in his field.

Dr. Amundson further confirmed the emerging trends in career development. What he sees as a ‘game changer’ in career development in recent years is the change from a linear approach to a more holistic approach, taking into account the whole person. He spoke specifically about the concept of ‘positive uncertainty’ and helping clients embrace the new world we live in.

Positive uncertainty is a philosophy for making decisions when you don’t know what the future will be. Being uncertain and positive is what we are saying is what you need to be a successful decision maker.

Positive uncertainty starts with two attitudes. First, you need to accept the uncertainty of the future because the future is real and inevitable. Second, you need to be positive about this uncertainty because it is better than certainty. If the future were certain or even predictable, the only choice is to prepare for it. By being uncertain you allow yourself to be a proactive instead of reactive decision maker. These two attitudes are the cornerstones of positive uncertainty.

In conjunction with positive uncertainty, Dr. Amundson also mentioned ‘planned happenstance,’ which enables clients to recognize opportunities where they may not have been noticed in the past. He noted the changing landscape and acknowledged the need for different skills and tools, but he is concerned that people are still not embracing this change or being supported properly in their education. He believes that this is contributing to the challenges people are running into with career direction and development.

I asked Dr. Amundson what innovation in career development was to him, and his immediate response was: “working more dynamically with people and supporting them with experiential learning.” We discussed the changing model in the employment services industry to ‘outcome’ vs. ‘service,’ and he felt they were not supporting individuals with their varying needs as robustly as what clients needed. He commented that people think it takes more time for experiential learning but, in fact, it doesn’t. Helping people with new concepts through experiential learning helps them to understand the concepts and embrace them much more quickly, which also assists them in moving forward in a positive manner. Dr. Amundson believes that allowing for ‘qualitative storytelling’ helps clients to embrace the experiential learning technique.

What he sees as innovation in career development is the acceptance of the adaptable approach. Even with the changing economy, schools, governments, and employment service agencies have not adapted to support individuals in the manner they need. Career practitioners who use the adaptable approach to work with clients are considered innovative. Dr. Amundson believes that a ‘hope-centered’ career development model is very innovative.

Dr. Amundson  has developed the Hope Centered Career Inventory (HCCI), along with Spencer G. Niles and Hyung Joon Yoon, which embraces the experiential learning techniques. With this approach, HOPE is at the centre – that means that everything we do in career development is influenced by the attitude of hopefulness. The model contains the following five elements:

  •  Self-Reflection – self and circumstances
  •  Self-Clarity – objective, subjective, and life clarity
  •  Visioning – brainstorming future possibilities, identifying desired future
  •  Goal Setting & Planning – long-term and short-term planning
  •  Implementing & Adapting – monitoring and evaluating, using personal flexibility

While this is his model, he admitted that this is only one example of the adaptable approach. Dr. Amundson believes the biggest challenge in career development is that, for the most part, career practitioners are trained to respond with a tactical approach and not trained, or given the opportunity, to promote creativity and risk taking (exploration), which is the adaptation required for career success.

In conclusion, based on the research I have conducted, innovation for career practitioners can be expressed as:

  • Gaining the education and learning experiences required to assist clients effectively.
  • Taking a holistic approach with clients and obtaining a full understanding of their career framework in order to assist them most effectively.
  • Helping clients understand the importance of being open and aware to their surroundings and providing them with the necessary skills to take advantage of ‘chance events.’
  •  Assisting clients to understand that career development is a new life skill and helping them shift their thinking in order to understand and develop the competencies required to be successful.
  •  Incorporating social justice in our career practice whenever possible.

CPC Mastermind, Lotte Struwing is president of Lasting Solutions HR Consulting & Coaching.

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Dennis Kioko

A good article to hr professionals.

A good paper for post graduate study reference in career development