Psychologist Donald Super (1953) created a model to represent the stages in career development. He associated them with life-stages, emphasizing the social roles and estimate age range that most people go through.
These stages are:
- Growth: Ages 4-13. The child is learning personal control, acquiring skills and thinking about the future.
- Exploration: Ages 14-24. The young adult both manifests and implements an occupational choice.
- Establishment: Ages 25-45. This stage is about stabilizing and progressing in one’s position in the workplace.
- Maintenance: Ages 45-65. The mature individual continues developing in the chosen field, keeping up with changes in technology.
- Disengagement or Decline: Around age 65. This is when the individual is planning on retirement, reducing the work effort and refocusing in non-work related dimensions.
Super recognized that not everybody followed the stages the same way at the suggested life cycles. He knew that some people cycle through each stage more than once, particularly if they change careers several times.
For many, career development is not a linear and predictable process. The modern workplace is one filled with change. The demands of work and life had created many different career paths outside of the traditional linear models. For example, for women, the demands of family are stronger and they go through more entries and departures from careers and jobs than men do.
There are many internal and external factors impacting someone’s career. Some of them are voluntary (such as changes in interests, desire to start a family, relocation, re-education) and involuntary (reduction in force, changes in technology, immigration legislation, limited access to education, etc.).
Even when there are limitations to Super’s or other career development models, they offer the understanding that we all go through cycles. Additionally, they offer a pathway to guide career coaches and their clients in managing change and transitions effectively.
In conclusion, Career Development is a dynamic process encompassing many dimensions related to the individual and the environment. It is important that you become aware in which stage you are at the moment. Decide if it is important for you to create a structure of support. A good career coach will help you in navigating your career changes. Work with one qualified in at least one model of personal and career change.