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What Makes a Successful Career: Maximizing Personal and Vocational Growth

By Michael Kiener PhD, CRC Director of Rehabilitation Counseling Maryville University, Missouri Rehabilitation Association Eastern Chapter, Co-host of the Mentor Moments podcast.


Laura Weeks Graduate of Rehabilitation Counseling Maryville University


The following multi-part blog will examine career developmental stages, various life roles individuals fulfill, and how self-concept changes as individuals proceed throughout their working lives. The information provided is based on the work of Donald Super and his life-span, life-space approach (1990).

No matter where you may be in your life journey, chances are you have at some point thought about how you will make a living. Whether you are exploring career options, comfortably performing in your current position, reentering the workforce after an absence, or transitioning from an experienced professional into retirement, work adds to your definition of who you are. It is also important to note, this definition of work includes unpaid experiences like raising children, volunteering, and or taking care of other family members. When considering work choices, you most likely thought about what makes you happy and what opportunities might match well with your personality. In fact, many career theories use a similar approach. Successful career counselors can help individuals first identify their personality traits and second, hone in on careers that that utilize those same characteristics. Although this approach is tremendously popular and has been well supported by research, it loses validity when career counseling is restricted to a single point in time, as that does not account for the changing workforce and individual growth.

According to Zippia, the average person will have 12 jobs, working an average of 4.1 years at each job and 58% of people state they would take a pay cut in order to make a career change. While reasons are no doubt varied, it is reasonable to believe that as people grow and develop, their work values and personal ideals also change. Different employment opportunities are therefore necessary in order for an individual to remain engaged and fulfilled at work throughout a lifetime. To increase your likelihood of having a successful long-term career and of maximizing personal and vocational growth, it is essential to continually monitor your development.

To start your journey towards increased personal and vocational insight, try reflecting on the following questions:

1. Describe what an ideal day looks like. When you are getting ready to go to sleep, how do you know you had a great day? What makes you fulfilled?

2. What does work mean to you? How did you learn about work? How was work discussed in your childhood and adolescence?

3. Describe what you love about your current profession or anticipated profession.

4. Think about how you have developed as a professional. What new skills have you learned that have benefited your career aspirations?

5. When you have had a fulfilling day and or have mastered new skills or competencies, how does that make you feel personally?

Super, D. E. (1990). A life-span, life-space approach to career development. In D. Brown

& L. Brooks (Eds.), Career choice and development: Applying contemporary theories to

practice {2nd ed., pp. 197—269). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

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