What is a career?
A career can be defined as the sequence and variety of occupations undertaken for a significant period of a person’s life and with opportunities for progress. More broadly, ‘career ‘ includes life roles, leisure activities, learning and work. It includes the sum total of paid and unpaid work, learning and life roles you undertake throughout your life.
The term ‘career’ was traditionally associated with paid employment and referred to a single occupation. In today’s world of work the term ‘career’ is seen as a continuous process of learning and development. As you gain more experience in the world of work and undertake a variety of life experiences, you are building your unique career path. All life experiences, including paid work, sporting interests and managing a household should be drawn upon as evidence to a potential employer that you are the person for the job.
Career development is a lifelong process that is unique for every individual. There are many influences that contribute to your career such as:
Who you are as an individual
This includes your self-concept, interests, skills, knowledge, personality, ethnicity, age, gender, ability, disability, health, beliefs and sexual orientation. For example, your choice of hobbies reflects your interests and abilities.
The community plays an important role in forming your identity, beliefs and attitudes. Members of your community can be your family, peers, friends or colleagues from your school or workplace, employers, the media, community groups and clubs. They can influence the lifestyle you want to aspire towards, the work you choose, the life roles you take on and what you value about yourself.
The environment and wider society
This refers to the opportunities or constraints caused by factors such as the region or location you live in (ie rural or metropolitan), what is happening in the employment market (eg are there job vacancies in your career field), your socioeconomic status (eg do you have to consider financial commitments or not), historical trends (eg changes in women’s participation in the workforce) and political decisions (eg government grants available for enterprise development).
Random and unpredictable events may also impact on your career. Different sets of influences will be dominant at different stages in your life as you grow and develop as a person.
For example, in childhood, ideas about life roles and work are expressed in play and are based on the adults with whom you identify strongly.
In adolescence, career exploration is based on identifying interests, abilities, capacities and values; learning about the world of work through observing adults at work; participating in the workforce; and accessing career resources and programs. As an adult, your career development becomes more intricate.
Constantly changing world of work
Rapid changes in information and communication technologies, increasing globalization, and greater competition, are all contributing to a dramatic change in working life, which will have an impact on your career. The concept of a job for life is no longer a reality. Young people now are likely to experience five to eight major career changes in their lives in a variety of industry sectors. They will also be experiencing more fluid forms of working with increasing casual, contract and part-time work options.
Many people are also increasingly looking for work/life balance in their lives. They want to maintain he best balance between the hours they spend in paid work and the time devoted to other roles in their lives such as leisure and home and family life.
In this new climate, individuals need to be adaptable, dynamic, innovative, flexible, resilient, self- initiating and collaborative to accommodate and thrive in workplaces, or to create work for themselves. People need to be proactive life/career managers actively engaged in learning throughout life. Lifelong learning is now the norm and will be an integral part of workplaces of the future. It is critical for people to manage their life, learning, and work if they are to successfully navigate their way around a dynamic and complex economic landscape.
Making the best career choices involves:
- knowing yourself – what you like (your interests), what you are good at (your skills and abilities),
- what is important to you (values)
- getting to understand the world of work – what’s out there
- learning how to make informed decisions
- finding out how to achieve objectives.