Source: E-mail dt. 2 September 2011


Career Management


Prof. Sharon Pande

School of Business Management , NMIMS University, India


Baruch (1996) pointed out career development systems should fit the needs of the individuals within the organization. Since people vary a lot in their needs, stage of career, level of hierarchy and many other characteristics, the career planning and management must be widespread and diverse, so that, it will fit the variety of individual needs (Baruch, 1996). Career needs are defined ‘as the personal needs of goals, tasks and challenges in a person's career and it is recognized that career needs change with the various career stages ’. A ‘career goal’ may be a particular landmark to be achieved during a career, which provides a person with the necessary direction and motivation. ‘Career goals’ enable an individual to structure and motivate their work behavior by setting goals and by practicing new and desired work behavior; thus these goals focus on current efforts. Conversely, ‘career tasks’ will begin to be defined as individuals begin to identify the opportunities available to them and then take action based upon them, demonstrating initiative and spending time and energy developing skills and competencies to achieve them.


The ‘career’, as Hall (1976) defines it, “is the individually perceived sequence of attitudes and behaviors associated with work-related experiences and activities over the span of the person's life”. Career counselors have defined career development as "the total constellation of psychological, sociological, educational, physical, economic, and chance factors that combine to shape the career of any given individual over the life span" (McDaniels and Gysbers, 1992).

The internal career involves a subjective sense of where one is going in one's working life while the external career includes the formal stages and roles defined by organizational policies and societal concepts of what an individual can expect in an occupational structure (Schein, 1996). The idea behind introducing the internal perspective recognises that beliefs and values, expectations and aspirations, are just as important as sequence of positions held (Woodd, 1999). The career is not defined by a series of occupational classifications or company-based systems of human resource development - equally important is the individual's own exertion of will in choice and activity (Arthur et al, 1999). It is important to understand what kind of expectations workers have and how organizations respond to these expectations (Järlström, 2000). External career opportunities refer to the extent to which an organization provides support to the internal career anchors (Jiang and Klein, 1999/2000). If the fit between the anchors and job environment does not exit anxiety, strain, job dissatisfaction and turnover may result. (Feldman and Bolino, 1996; Jiang and Klein, 1999/2000).


Three main traits characterize the current concept of career development interventions in the postmodern era. First, career interventions are conceived as being applied over the life span (Super, 1980). Second, the career development process is viewed as including all the transitions that an individual experiences: school, job, and personal (Schlossberg, 1984). Third, clients are considered to be ‘actors’ in their own career development. The goal is to help them to be the subject of their own existence. Such concepts are a major change from earlier career guidance practices that were created almost a century ago in industrialized countries. At that time, career guidance took the form of relatively directive advice given by an expert to adolescents who were leaving school and beginning a job apprenticeship (Huteau, 2002; Parsons, 1909).


Career Development Theories


Career development theories try to explain why individuals choose careers.  They also deal with the career adjustments people make over time.  Modern theories, which are broad and comprehensive in regard to individual and occupational development, began appearing in the literature in the 1950’s (Gysbers, Heppner & Johnstone, 2003). The two theories explained here are the RAISEC Model of Holland and Supers’ Developmental Theory.


Holland’s  Theory of Career Choice: RIASEC Model


Holland (1970) identifies six categories in which personality types and occupational   environments can be classified:  realistic, investigative, artistic, social, enterprising, and conventional (RIASEC).  According to prestige levels, investigative (I) occupations rank highest, followed by enterprising (E), artistic (A), and social (S) occupations, which have roughly the same level of prestige.  The lowest levels of prestige are realistic (R) and conventional (C) occupations (Gottfredson, 1981).The theory of career choice propounded by John Holland (1959) more than 40 years ago is perhaps the most well known and widely studied career theory in the history of Career Psychology.  This is probably because the theory has yielded objective methods for the practice of career counseling.


At the heart of Holland’s theory are three propositions:


Firstly, it is possible, according to Holland, to classify people and environments into types.  Type by definition, is a conglomeration of traits which can serve as a measure for categorizing people into groups.  In Holland’s formulation, there are six types of people and work environment.  These are the realistic, investigative, artistic, social enterprising and conventional (RIASEC).


The realistic type is the person who is most comfortable being involved in activities that are concrete and based on clearly defined systems and norms.  Conversely, the realistic type of person is not comfortable in social contexts that require interpersonal skills, expressive ability and situations that require the expression of emotional sensitivity.  Engineers, machine operators and mechanics are examples of professionals who would fit into Holland’s realistic type.


The investigative type is analytical in orientation and enjoys drawing conclusions from systematic and objective observations.  Repetitive and routine activities are likely to be avoided by this group of people.  Researchers, doctors, detectives are examples of the investigative type.


The artistic type thrives on being expressive and original.  This type tends to be unconventional and deeply sensitive to personal feelings, thoughts and ideas.  Activities that are orderly and mechanical are likely to be unattractive to this group.  Actors, designers, musicians, authors would demonstrate the characteristics of the artistic type.


The social type is strongly oriented to human interactions.  These people are sensitive to human needs, nuances of emotions, thinking patterns and other aspects of human behavior.  Activities that occur in non-human situations are likely to be avoided.  Counselors, nurses, teachers, social workers would fit into the social type.


The enterprising type is typically self-driven.  An individual from this group would enjoy organizing people, objects and resources to create systems and structures for the attainment of goals and targets.  The enterprising type is likely to be uncomfortable in work situations that are repetitive and do not allow for leadership or the expression and implementation of personal ideas.  Sales people, managers, politicians are said to possess the characteristics of the enterprising type.


The conventional type tends to find the highest level of comfort in situations that are organized and predictable.  They are likely to enjoy activities that require routine and repetition.  Unpredictable, disordered situations and activities that require innovation are likely to be avoided.  Accountants, bankers, receptionists would fall into the category of the conventional type.


In an analysis of census data using the Holland codes, Reardon, Bullock and Meyer (2007) confirmed that the distribution across Holland’s types is asymmetrical.  They found that from 1960 to 2000 “the Realistic area had the largest number of individuals employed and that the Artistic area had the fewest number employed”. The gap between the number of people employed in the Realistic and Enterprising areas shrunk during the five decades to where in 2000 there were approximately equal numbers of people employed in both areas.  Interestingly, the Investigative area more than doubled during this time whereas the other four areas remained relatively stable.  Regardless of age, between 75% and 85% of male workers were employed in the Realistic and Enterprising areas; women were more varied and concentrated in Conventional, Realistic, Social and more recently Enterprising areas. Personal satisfaction in a work setting depends on a number of factors, but among the most important is the degree of congruence between personality types.


Developmental Theories


One of the most widely known career theories are those associated with Donald Super (1957) and Eli Ginzberg (1951).  It is based on personal development. The original developmental theory proposed by Ginzberg and associates (Ginzberg, Ginsburg, Axelard & Herma, 1951) has had considerable influence and has been revised (Ginzberg, 1972).  However, Super’s theory is examined in detail here because more extensive work has been done with it and it has overshadowed other developmental approaches to career counseling.



Theory of Career Development


Super's (1957) theory of career development has long been of interest to careers researchers (Fouad & Arhona, 1994; Savickas, 1994; Whiston & Brecheisen, 2002). Its insightful illustration of the stages individuals pass through in their careers has made it widely applicable by careers practitioners and has profoundly affected numerous clients.


 Developmental and Lifespan Oriented Approaches: The principles that govern human development have been central to theory development and practice in Career Psychology.  Career Developmental Theorists such as Eli Ginzberg (1951), Donald Super (1957) and Linda Gottfredson (1997) put forth the idea that occupational development keeps pace with the individual’s maturation.  As with other aspects of human development, career development is also described as occurring in stages. Each of these presents career developmental tasks, the successful resolution of which is critical to the passage into and comfort in the next stage of career development. (Super, 1957). Career developmental tasks are expectations of what is thought to be typical to a person at a given stage of development. For example, the typical career development task before the high school student in India is to choose between science, commerce, humanities and vocational streams for further education. Furthermore, career developmental tasks are what society would like to see happen at a particular stage of career development.


Stages in Career Development: Eli Ginzberg (1951) and Donald Super (1957) describe career development as occurring in stages that stretch across the individual’s lifespan.  According to this school of thought career development is closely interlinked with the individual’s physical, cognitive, emotional and social maturation.


The initial stage in career development occurring during childhood has been called the period of Growth.  In the beginning, the child’s cognitive maturation is at a level where fantasy rules one’s perceptions and interactions with the world. Time perspectives have not yet become tangible and the child’s expressions are often not rooted in reality. As development continues, reality orientations become stronger.  That is a ‘future’ and that there are different kinds of jobs in which one could specialize, become more real to the child as he or she grows up.  It is perhaps during these years that the rudimentary foundations of the individual’s vocational self-concept are laid.  According to Super (1957), the rest of career development reflects the individual’s attempt to implement this vocational self-concept.


The individual then moves into the period of Exploration – a crucial period in the career development sequence.  Crucial because this period also coincides with the developmental stage of adolescence.  Resolving the identity crisis is perhaps the most important task faced by the individual at this stage of development.  Finding the answer to the question - Who am I? Lies at the heart of the identity crisis.  Career choice is an essential aspect of discovering one’s personal identity. From the point of view of career development, this is the time when the individual has the opportunity to informally ‘try out’ and explore various career possibilities.  These opportunities could emerge spontaneously in school, through interactions with friends, information from the media and so on.  A vital point to be noted is that while exploration will present the individual with information, the validity of this information is not known. Facilitating interactions with career counselors, promoting self-discovery, organizing work experience programmes, are examples of career development activities that make significant contributions to helping the individual deal successfully with the career developmental task of exploration.


The next stage in career development has been called the period of Establishment.  Occurring during early adulthood, this is a time when the individual actually makes a career choice and establishes himself or herself as a worker.  The career direction that is chosen could be strongly influenced by the nature of the individual’s experiences during the preceding periods of Growth and Exploration.


Maintenance is described as the next stage in career development and is a time mainly of building one’s life as a professional in the chosen area through continuous adjustments and efforts to improve one’s position.


The final stage is the period of Decline when one’s output as a worker are said to decrease and perceptions for retirement begin.


Lifespan and Life space: This brings us to the important concept of career maturity.  The developing person faces career development tasks at each stage in his or her development.  Exploiting the opportunities offered by these tasks and acquiring the ability to meet the demands of these tasks contributes to career maturity. The absence of opportunities to meet a career developmental task inhibits the maturational process and causes a career maturation lag.


                            The Life-Span, Life-Space approach to Careers.

Career  Development


Age range

Orientations and career developmental tasks






Not oriented to work career or vocation



Thoughts about career are fantasy – based



Likes and dislikes begin to colour thoughts about work.



Career thoughts are influenced by ideas of personal ability.






Able to express career choices tentatively



Choices are increasingly oriented to realities and facts.



Initial career commitment and first job.






Job changes could continue as experiences accrue.



Settles into a job and finds stability



Growth and development within the chosen career  area


65 plus

Preparation to leave the work force



Work activity decreases and slows down


71 plus

Leaves the world of work.

Source: Super, D. E., Savickas, M. L., & Super, C. M. (1996).


Career Counseling with Adults


Career interest patterns tend to be more stable after college than during college. Nevertheless, many adults continue to need career counseling (Swanson & Hansen, 1988). Indeed, adults experience cyclical periods of stability and transition throughout their lives, and career change is a developmental as well as situational expectation at this stage of life (Borgen, 1997; Kerka, 1991). Developmentally, some adults have a midlife career change that occurs as they enter their 40’s and what Erik Erikson (1950) described as a stage of generativity versus stagnation. At this time, adults may change as they become more introspective and seek to put more meaning in their lives. Situationally, adults may seek career changes after a trauma such as a death, layoff, or divorce (Marino, 1996).


Adults may have particularly difficult times with their careers and career decisions when they find “themselves unhappy in their work yet feel appropriately ambivalent about switching directions” (Lowman, 1993). In such situations they may create illogical or troublesome career benefits that become self - fulfilling and self – defeating (Krumboltz, 1992). There are two dominant ways of working with adults in career counseling: the differential approach and the developmental approach. The differential approach stresses that “the typology of persons and environments is more useful than any life stage strategies for coping with career problems” (Holland & Gottfredson, 1976). It avoids age – related stereotypes, gender and minority group issues, and the scientific and practical difficulties of dealing with life – span problems. “At any age, the level and quality of a person’s vocational coping is a function of the interaction of personality type and type of environment plus the consistency and differentiation of each” (Holland & Gottfredson, 1976).


According to this view, a career counselor who is aware of typological formulations such as Holland’s (1997) can predict the characteristic ways a given person may cope with career problems. For example, a person with a well – defined social/artistic personality (typical of many individuals employed as counselors) would be expected to have high educational and vocational aspirations, to have good decision – making ability, to have a strong and lifelong interest in learning, to have moderate personal competency and to have a marked interest in creative and high – level performance rather than in leadership (Holland, 1997). A person with such a profile would also have a tendency to remold or leave an environment in the face of adversity. A major advantage of working from this approach is the ease with which it explains career shifts at any age. People who shift careers, at any point of in life, seek to find more consistency between personality and environment.


The developmental approach examines a greater number of individual and environmental variables. “The experiences people have with events, situations and other people play a large part in determining their identities (i.e. what they believe and value, how they respond to others and what their own self images are)” (Gladstein & Apfel, 1987) . Developmental life – span career theory proposes that adults are always in the process of evaluating themselves in regard to how they impact these variables. Okun (1984) and Gladstein and Apfel (1987) believe the interplay of other people and events strongly influences career decisions in adulthood.




1.      Super, D.E. (1953), A theory of Vocational Development, American Psychologist, 8, pp185-90.

2.      Super, D. E. (1957), The Psychology of Careers. New York: Harper & Row.

3.      Holland, J. L (1997). Making Vocational Choices. Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources.

4.      Baruch, Y. and Peiperl, M.A. (2000), Career Management Practices: an Empirical Survey and Theoretical Implications, Human Resource Management, 39 (4), 347-66.

5.      Hall, D.T. (1996), The Career is Dead - Long Live the Career: A Relational Approach to Careers, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, CA.

6.      Feldman, D.C. and Bolino, M.C. (2000), Career Patterns of the Self-Employed: Career Motivations and Career Outcomes, Journal of Small Business Management, 38 (3), pp53-68.