Craig has completed his year 12 and selected his university course preferences. This was a challenging process. He has a clear aptitude for maths, however, the family has a well-established accounting practice. There is pressure for Craig to enter the family business upon completion of his studies.
Craig is also interested in drama, and his dream job is to work as an actor. His parents influence and investment in his private education make this choice highly unlikely for his initial career choice.
As individuals, we are a sponge to the factors that influence the career paths that we take. It starts as a young child by our observations of family members who go to work, or stay home through family responsibilities, unemployment or retirement. Their behaviour models to children their attitude to work. Parents influence their child’s decision though choice of school, subject choices, post-school preferences and attitudes.
Our personality and attitude will also impact how we handle job challenges. Some people focus on problems and issues, others on solutions.
Other factors that influence your career direction include:
Life stage – We each play multiple roles in our lives which change over our lifetime. Our attitude to careers is influenced by our life stage.
Donald Super argued that people pass through five career stages during their life span, and their self-concept changes and develops over time through experience.
- Children to adolescents, develop their self-concept, attitudes, needs and general ideas about the world of work through the influences discussed
- Children and young adults to the age of twenty-four, ‘try out’ various occupations though school, leisure, part-time work, volunteering and hobbies before finding a stable and appropriate fit
- Adults from their mid-twenties to mid-forties aim to consolidate their chosen career through education, by obtaining qualifications through certifications and advanced degrees
- Middle adulthood from age forty-five to sixty-five is characterised by either ‘Holding on’ or ‘Keeping up’ by updating and enriching one’s career. Sometimes people feel risk adverse where they feel ‘stuck’ in their career, and reflect on what they have done with their life, or, what they truly want
- In the last stage from sixty-five plus, individuals review their career with the view of disengaging from the workforce. There is a decline from formal employment to finding new roles with a view to retirement
At this stage, older workers seek some form of work as they pursue new or renewed outside interests. They may assist or mentor younger members of the industry or organisation, undertake consultancy roles that provides flexibility, seek self-employment or a new work role.
Each life stage expresses one’s attitudes, interests, and needs
Previous experience – our experiences in life and with others impact on our choice of careers. We are likely to consider continuing a task if we have a positive experience doing it. We focus on areas where we have success and achieved positive self-esteem.
Interests, skills and abilities – it is well known that our interests, skills and abilities are connected to the occupational roles that we select. When working with our interests and skills, our motivation and work performance remains high.
Social and economic conditions – we are all born within a social and economic personal context. This may explain why some early school leavers often work in blue collar jobs, whilst some have the financial opportunity and commitment to study at university. Of course, there are early school leavers who in time choose to return to formal education with the view to advance their careers.
Culture – our racial background, as well as the culture of an individual’s regional area, and local community shape values and expectations. Compare the culture of rural and metropolitan workplaces, or Australian and Asian cultures.
Modern workplaces have a commitment to a diverse workforce to reflect our multicultural society with the talent and benefits that it offers. When choosing a job, organisational cultures vary.
Company culture is the personality of the company. It defines the environment in which employees work. Some organisations will be positive and exciting, others can be stressful. An organisation can have an employee focus, whilst other organisations have a bottom-line results culture.
Changes in the economy and job market – our career choices are made within the context of society and the economy. Events in our lives affect the choices that we make and how our careers develop. During a downturn with fewer jobs, individuals may choose to study. It was common during the global financial crisis when many people were laid off work, return to study either to retrain or study for higher qualifications in their field.
Media – our careers can be influenced by media through television shows, movies, and books. Actors or characters bring occupations to life and become role models, often with a distorted view of the profession. For example: in Sex And The City we see Carrie Bradshaw working as a Sex Columnist for a newspaper, in CSI we see forensic investigators solving crimes, in Dead Poet’s Society we see a dedicated teacher, in ER we are exposed to doctors in the emergency room saving lives, and in Mad Men we see the glamour of the advertising industry in the early 1960’s.
There are many influences on our career. What is true, is that careers do not just happen. The old three‐stage pattern of preparing for work; working; and then retiring is fast disappearing. Rather, we make ongoing decisions that over time, determine our career journey.
If you were Craig, what career choice would you make? Would you work in a ‘safe’ career to earn a living, or follow your passion? Share your ideas below in ‘Comments.’
You may also be interested in the blog Your Life Path and Career Direction Part One
Leah Shmerling is the Director and Principal Consultant of Crown Coaching and Training, and has extensive experience in career development, life coaching, education and training.
Leah is the author of two books in careers and business communication, a former freelance writer for The Age and Herald Sun, and publisher of two accredited online short courses, Mentoring and Development and Foundations in Career Development Practice.
Leah is a professional member of the Career Development Association Australia (CDAA), a Certified Retirement Coach and is Board Certified as a Career Management Fellow with the Institute of Career Certification.