Making career choices

Identify your career stage: Each person’s career goes through stages, and the stage you are in will influence your knowledge of and preference for various occupations. The main stages of this career cycle follows:

Growth stage: The growth stage lasts roughly from birth to age 14 and is a period during which the person develops a self concept by identifying with and interacting with other people such as family, friends, and teachers. Toward the beginning of this period, role playing is important, and children experiment with different ways of acting; this helps them to form impression to how other people react to different behaviors and contributes to their developing a unique self concept or identity. Towards the end of this stage, the adolescent (who by this time has developed preliminary ideas about what is or her interests and abilities are) begins to think realistically about alternative occupations.

Exploration Stage: The exploration stage is the period (roughly from ages 15 to 24) during which a person explores various occupational alternatives. The person attempts to match these alternatives with what he or she has learned about them and about his or her own interests and abilities from school, leisure activities, and work. Tentative broad occupational choices are usually made during the beginning of this period, a seemingly appropriate choice is made and the person tries out for a beginning jobs.

Probably the most important task the person has in this and the preceding stage is that of developing a realistic understanding of his or her abilities and talents. Similarly, the person must take sound educational decisions based on reliable sources of information about occupational alternatives.

Establishment Stage: The establishment stage spans roughly ages 24 to 44 and is the heart of most people’s work lives. During this period, it is hoped a suitable occupation is found and the person engages in those activities that help him or her earn a permanent place in it. Often, and particularly in the professions, the person locks onto a chosen occupation early. But in most cases, this is a period during which the person is continually testing his or her capabilities and ambitious against those of the initial occupational choice.

The establishment stage is itself comprised of three sub-stages. The trial sub-stage lasts from about ages 25 to 30. During this period, the person determines whether or not the chosen field is suitable; if it is not, several changes might be attempted. JS might have her heart set on a career in retailing, for example, but after several months of constant travel as a newly hired assistant buyer for a department store, she might decide that a less travel oriented career such as one in market research is more in tune with her needs. Roughly between the ages of 30 and 40 the person goes through a stabilization sub stage. Here firm occupational goals are set and the person does more explicit career planning to determine the sequence of promotions, job changes, and/or any educational activities that seem necessary from accomplishing these goals.

Finally, somewhere between the mid thirties and mid-forties, the person may enter the mid career crisis sub stage. During this period, people often make a major reassessment of their progress relative to original ambitious and goals. They may find that they are not going to realize their dreams such as being company president or that having been accomplished, their dreams are not all the were purported to be. Also during this period, people have to decide how important work and career are to be in the lives. It is often during this mid career sub stage that some people face, for the first time, the difficult choices between what they really want, what really can be accomplished and how much must be sacrificed to achieve it.

Maintenance Stage: Between the ages of 45 and 65 many people simply slide from the stabilization sub stage into the maintenance stage. During this latter period the person has typically created a place in the world of work and most efforts are now directed at maintaining that place.

Decline stage:
As retirement age approaches there is often a declaration period in the decline stage. Here many people face the prospect of having to accept reduced levels of power and responsibility and learn to accept and develop new roles as mentor and confidante for those who are younger. There is then the more or less inevitable retirement, after which the person hopefully finds alternative uses for the time and effort formerly expended on his or her occupation.

  • Wonderful article. One appreciates such articles more when one realizes the implications of being in the wrong career-

    That apart, all I can say is that only by attempting various jobs, one can say for certain whether or not one is suited for that just the way one feels comfortable or otherwise at a sport only by trying it.

    If one has made a wrong choice, HR companies should help at career transition which rarely happens in India.

    The United states has some of the worst sufferers despite excellent HR practices. Rest of the world cannot afford to be complacent.

  • Excellent article for candidates, but also useful for HR if they keep the stages in mind as they manage hiring and retention. Thanks.

  • Poojajain


  • subhathammana

    you know this is similar to a product life cycle. wonderful.i really liked the article.thanks alot for the useful information which adds to our learning,thank you