Monday, June 20, 2011

Integrative Life Planning – The need for new thinking in changing times and contexts

Previously, some introductory thoughts on Integrative Life Planning (ILP) were presented in this forum; this contribution contains some pointers regarding the main reasons why new thinking on career and organisational development is needed.

In the context of career management and vocational counselling, so-called modernist models have been the flavour of the day for a long time. These models, including the well-known and widely-used matching models, were essentially saying that the choice of a suitable career needed to be based on the matching of an individual’s likes and dislikes, skills and attitudes, preferences, and the like, to career settings where agreeable skills and interests would be valued and required. This notion was based on the work of Frank Parsons, who is widely recognised as the father of Vocational Guidance. According to Parsons, there were three main principles to be taken into due consideration when a career choice was to be made:

· A clear understanding of yourself

· A knowledge of different lines of work, and

· True reasoning on the relation of these facts”.

Although the above basic framework offers a very broad overview of (some of) the elements to be considered when a career decision is to be made, it has been found wanting in the world we currently live in. People and contexts have changed and these linear models have been shown to no longer offer appropriate insight into career choice and planning scenarios faced by individuals in our day. As we progress with the blog and future contributions are made, this topic will be further unpacked in some detail.

Discussing the concept of career in the context of counselling, the need for a broader approach becomes evident. Building on the original work of Parsons, but taking cognisance of the changing concept of career, Donald Super (1980) started offering further explicated notions of career. In this regard, Super (1980) stated that career should be viewed as a sequence of positions one may hold during your lifetime; in contrast to this, an occupation was merely referring to a single position someone may hold in their life. In building on the concept of career, Super identified what he referred to as life roles and life theatres. His well-known Life Career Rainbow included reference to nine life roles: child, student, worker, leisurite, spouse, parent, citizen, homemaker and pensioner. The theatres where these roles are given life were identified as work, home, family, leisure, and community.

Turning our attention to the context of business, the need for broader definitions of career has also become evident. According to the concept of Integrative Life Planning (Hansen, 1997), we need to consider the fact that the business world is also experiencing career development and advancement differently. This shift in experience may be better described by what has been termed the protean career.

According to The Sloan Work and Family Research Network, reference to the protean career was first made by DT Hall (1976). This term refers to an interesting shift in the locus of control regarding success – previously, career development was driven by the core value of organisational advancement, which implied a lower degree of mobility, and where success was measured in terms of position and salary. In addition, people were also seen to show (higher) levels of commitment to the organisation they were working for. In terms of the meaning attached to the protean career, individuals are now more in control of their own success, which is now measured by concepts such as professional commitment, as well as work or job satisfaction. The protean career is also associated with higher degrees of personal mobility than before, since the individual and not the organisation is now managing the person’s career planning and advancement. As can be expected, the measurement of success has also changed to being subjective, i.e. on a psychological as opposed to organisational level. (The above shifts are also evident in the changing nature of the psychological contract – the nature of the relationship between the organisation and the individual employee is also changing rapidly; this is an interesting discussion for a different time!)

In the new world of work, career development and advancement is no longer dictated by the organisation; a shift towards individuals becoming more pro-active and certainly more self-directed is seen in various organisational contexts.

What are the IMPLICATIONS of the above for organisational and individual career development? Two main sets of implications can be distinguished: for the organisation / management; and for the individual employee.

Considering that there may be various scenarios and unique sets of conditions, management is required to realise that in terms of future career development and advancement, individuals are bound to take more direct control of their professional and career development. The nature of the relationship between line managers and staff reporting to them will consequently also change. Managers need to be aware of the existence of the protean worker, as failure to do so will inevitably lead to dissatisfaction and discontent.

On the other hand, individual employees are also urged to become ready for changes in the way organisations will be managing their employees’ career development and advancement. If it has not happened yet, a shift towards individuals taking personal responsibility for their careers, will impact on workers in the near future.

The concept of ILP, which is described as a new paradigm in the context of Career Development and Changing Life Patterns, can be used to prepare both organisation and individual for the requirements of the changed / changing contexts outlined above.

In my next posting, I will consider the main reasons cited by the ILP model for the introduction of new approaches to career planning and guidance.

(Based on the work of Sunny Hansen: Integrative Life Planning: Critical Tasks for Career Development and Changing Life Patterns).

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