What is a Career Anyway

A career is the sum total of all of your work-related
contributions to society in a lifetime. This includes time and effort
spent to provide goods, services, or benefit to others. A career
includes paid, un-paid, volunteer, part-time, and full-time positions.
Your career includes many life roles you may not think of: student,
homemaker, babysitter, office worker, doctor, lawyer, etc. A career
encompasses all the roles you play and duties you perform. You may have
many jobs or positions that make up your career, but you only have one
overall career. There are various career options in the modern world of
work: Self-Employed, Organization Employed, or Project-Employed.

By
definition, career development is the interaction of psychological,
sociological, economic, physical and chance factors that shape the
sequence of jobs, occupations, or positions a person may engage in
throughout his or her lifetime. Career development is an ongoing
process that includes the aspects of planning and strategizing your
career based on information about your self, the world of work, the
match between them, and the action you will take to create your life’s
work. Formal career development occurs in high schools, colleges and
universities, adult education programs, business and industry, military,
community and government agencies, trade and technical schools.
Consider all the places you have developed your career with either
academic or work experience. Where can you go next and what can you do
to further develop your career?

You have the power to create what
you want, whether you wish to be self-employed, change career fields
entirely, hold a certain kind of position, or volunteer your time.
Smart career development requires you to be self-reflective,
resourceful, motivated, flexible, and able to keep your skills and
competencies up-to-date.

Contemporary Career Concepts

Statistics
say that we will experience many job transitions throughout our life.
For example: the U.S. Department of Labor says that the average person
will have 3.5 different careers in his lifetime and work for ten
employers, keeping each job for 3.5 years.

From the 1995 National
Association of Colleges and Employers Journal of Career Planning, “The
average American beginning his or her career in the 1990s will probably
work in ten or more jobs for five or more employers before retiring.”

In
the mid 1990s, Richard Knowdell said, “Career planning in the 1950s and
1960s was like riding on a train. The train remained on the track and
one could quite possibly stay on that track until retirement day. In
the 1970s and 1980s career planning was like getting on a bus. One
could change buses and it was a little closer to driving than on a
train. For the 1990s and beyond, career planning is more like an
all-terrain vehicle. The worker gets to drive, has to read the map, and
has to be attuned to the terrain, which could change from moment to
moment.”

When I attended a recent California Career Development
Conference, I heard several other metaphors to describe the career
development process. One person said, “The old career was a marriage.
The new career is a date.” And someone else mentioned, “A career is
like going to an amusement park, where you go from one ride to the
next.”

Obviously, the concept of climbing the career ladder is
antiquated. Rather than “moving up” in one organization, you will find
yourself moving up, down, and even off the ladder. It could, in fact,
seem more like a maze, with many twists and turns, stops and starts.

My
own concept of career is like a wardrobe, where you “try on” different
outfits throughout your lifetime, and continue to check the mirror to
see if it still fits and matches your current style and taste. In the
modern world of work, you will need to find work that is “suited” to
you. Think of your life’s work as your wardrobe. It is ever-changing
as you move through life, changing as your styles and interests change.
Throughout the process, you will be tailoring yourself to fit different
roles, and to meet changing work styles and expectations.

Thus,
today, the way in which we go about planning and strategizing our work
life is constantly changing. We are taking a more proactive—therefore
more exciting and challenging approach— to managing which way our
career takes us. People are daring to walk their unique paths, and
ignoring traditional routes. In fact, tomorrow’s jobs are relatively
unknown to us at this time, as there will be new titles and new career
fields that will develop. If a modern career is like a wardrobe, you
will wear many kinds of outfits throughout a lifetime, sometimes mixing
and matching ensembles, but always checking to see that it still
reflects your current style and remains a good fit. It has been said
that clothes make the man–what you are displaying to the world through
your choice of clothing is how you express yourself. Similarly, how you
express yourself and what you value is reflected in the work you choose
to perform.

As Mark Twain said, “There is no security in life,
only opportunity.” Given today’s changing times, we cannot hold onto
one idea for very long—there is so much good work that must be done to
help us evolve to our fullest potential. We are multi-talented,
multi-faceted beings with many gifts to share. We cannot lock ourselves
into any one job or job path. We must walk our path, but remain
flexible and open to new experiences. We also need to learn our lessons
along the way. Each job, no matter how small, is meaningful and is
part of our career plan in that we are always building onto our careers.
Today’s work will prepare us for tomorrow’s opportunities.

**Excerpt from the book, Get Smart! About Modern Career Development (2001). all rights reserved—Michelle Casto.