What is a Career?
For much of the 20thCentury, the term ‘career’ referred to a single job or a series of jobs in established professions or technical and labour fields. The person planning his or her career hoped to be upwardly mobile in these successive jobs so that s/he could earn more money, have better benefits and have more prestige. There were some training programs in some professions, but in most instances, upward mobility was simply the result of staying with the company for 10-20-30 years. Wanna be a partner? Pay your dues! Seniority and Loyalty might get you an office, or a bigger office, but it also might not do that. Employees were at the mercy of the corporate business plan and that most often did not include a lot of succession planning or the sincere objective of raising people up, discovering the depth of their talent, and helping them to work in challenging and rewarding surroundings.
It is worth noting that few women saw themselves as career professionals in the early 20thCentury. The glass ceiling was meters thick until the late part of the century but even now, a fifth of the way through the 21stCentury, that glass ceiling is still a major obstacle for many women. The world is slow to awaken to the incredible potential that girls and women have in every field of human endeavor.
The term ‘career’ means something different for today’s high school students, Millennials, and even for some people in the Generation X group. Over the past few decades, it has become the habit of career educators to proclaim that the employees of the future will have manyor multiplecareersover their working lives. Some career counsellors would have young people plan to work in several relatively distinct ‘careers’ over a 40-year working life. This whole idea is simply confusing to young people and Millennials alike. I have listened to high school students as they ask with furrowed brow: “How can I really start as an engineer and then become a doctor, then an architect, a teacher, and finally an environmental scientist? I’m interested in all of this, but I don’t see how I can do it.”
There might be a few high school students who will be able to function in several distinct professions over their work life, but very few. Most will be able to do several different jobs in one professional area and perhaps move into a second or a third related profession in a decade or two, but few will be able to undertake this “multiple career”model as it has been conceived in the past.
A far more meaningful, less stressful, and more possible model for understanding what a career is has been proposed by the British Columbia Ministry of Education. In their desire to bring students to a more expansive view of their education and their lives, the BC MOE is now using a wide-ranging and expansive career education curriculum which can be found here.
The following definition of “career” can be paraphrased from the BC MOE web site:
A person’s career is considered his or her “journey” through life, pursued in personally meaningful and goal-oriented ways. Career development with intent is the ongoing process of self-discovery, growth in competence, and learning from experiences in educational, work-related, and personal life contexts.
The above definition gives each career builder encouragement to meld educational, work, and personal experiences together into a strong and varietal fabric of experience, inspired and encouraged by growing self-confidence. When this basic approach is followed, the concept of ‘career’ opens up to endless possibilities and allows each person to create her/his own path.
In this section of our web site you will find a series of articles, lists, and ideas relating to career education and career building. Many of these ideas are based on the work of educators and career professionals who are credited in the articles.
YourBestUniversity.comoffers Career Planning Seminars for high school students and young adults. Please let us know what would help you using the “Contact Us” link on our home page.
It is important to note that every career path should include some form of volunteer work. YourBestUnivesity.comincludes a module on volunteering in its Career Planning Seminar.