Mid-Career Progression and Development: The Role for Career Guidance and Counseling
Many individuals experience a number of career transitions. This is a result of the interplay of labor market structure and individual choice such that many individuals are increasingly changing jobs more often during their working lives. Knowledge and understanding of these transitions provide powerful insights into the ways in which learning and guidance can be used to support individual progression and development across the life-course. Key findings are presented from a 2-year research study into forms of individual career progression, which focused on the work-related learning and career development of mid-career, mainly skilled workers in 10 European countries. With emphasis on how careers are changing, this research explored the different paths taken to develop the knowledge and skills used in employment, how and why participants gained qualifications, why they changed jobs, and why they stayed in the same career. The study involved a comprehensive literature review coupled with an online survey of 1,157 participants in the 10 countries, and some follow-up interviews.
The findings indicate that many individuals had continued to develop their skills in the workplace without engaging in formal education or training and were confident that they possessed a set of skills that had a continuing value in the labor market. For others, acquiring mid-career qualifications was important for career development. For individuals with few qualifications and/or undertaking less demanding work, changing jobs was a strategy that often helped them develop their skills. However, the whole relationship between learning, qualifications, employment, and career development was nuanced whereby the patterns of skill development that emerged across the life-course show how much learning and development are episodic, interspersed with ostensibly quieter periods.
The findings also provide a strong endorsement for the complementarity of learning through engaging with challenging work and institutionalized learning which is able to help individuals look beyond their immediate context: for many, learning was predominantly work-based along with periods of institutionalized learning. Learning through challenging work alone may be insufficient and other forms of learning may be necessary to help the employee make a quantum leap in their broader understanding of a particular field. Career guidance practitioners need to recognize the complementarity of different forms of learning in support of career development.
There are clear implications for career guidance from this research. There may be positive value in encouraging mid-career change especially where labor markets need increasing numbers of older workers to remain engaged in the labor market. Individuals also need support in developing narratives of their career development, as this can transform how they view their learning, careers, and identities. Promoting continuing vocational education and training and access to career guidance can be linked to the idea of developing individual capabilities in a broader sense. In applying this idea to career development, the ultimate goal is to increase the freedom for individuals to exercise greater control over their own lives in relation to what they value being or doing.
KeywordsLabor Market Personal Agency Career Development Career Guidance Career Progression
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