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What Makes a Successful Career: Maximizing Personal and Vocational Growth Life Roles

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


In the second installment of this series, readers were asked to reflect on their career from a developmental stage perspective. Career progression, in most cases, follows a predictable path and being aware of the different stages allows individuals to better adapt to their changing career and work life. Readers were also provided a set of questions to answer that allowed them to understand their career stage, reflect on their progress, identify future stages, and be prepared for unforeseen events.

Click here to read the first blog in the series.

Click here to read the second blog in the series.

While it is important to identify a meaningful career and the successful progression through career stages, it is also important to understand the various life roles one can inhabit throughout their lifetime. For example, individuals can, at any one time, be a student, worker, spouse, parent, sibling, community member, and or volunteer. Moreover, depending on the life stage, some roles may significantly influence one’s sense of self or even change the career options available at a particular point in time. One of the keys to having work life balance is effectively addressing life roles as your career develops and knowing when potential adjustments in work tasks, jobs, and/or careers need to be made. Although the American culture values work as a major self-identifier, individuals are more than their occupation and these roles may even be more important than career at different stages.

Perhaps using the analogy of transportation will better illustrate this point of how to accommodate changing roles. In general, people need transportation, and as they move from childhood to adulthood, having appropriate transportation increases in importance. Similar to life roles, there are different types of transportation. When you are younger and have fewer life roles most transportation will be suitable. Public transportation or a small car will serve the purpose of getting you from point A to point B. However, as you advance in your life and career, the demands of your various roles may increase. In these stages, you may be a spouse, parent, or community member, needing space for children, extended family, or folding chairs for the church picnic. Thus, your transportation needs may be more specific or require more flexible planning; perhaps you will need to borrow a friend’s truck or purchase a minivan. Similarly, depending upon life roles, your career may change, you may decide to take time away, or perhaps you may negotiate other accommodations to fit your current needs. (wonder about using car exclusively as analogy in terms of transportation and multicultural sensitivity - didn’t think of it until read it through a couple of times but maybe making an assumption that all readers would have a car, buy a car, be able to even change cars as life roles change?)

To extend your journey of increased personal and vocational growth reflect on the following questions focused on life roles and career stages.

  1. Think of important people in your life and try to identify the different roles they have. Did any of those people change jobs because of their differing life roles?

  2. Think back to when you were 16, 21, 28, 35, 41, 50 etc. At each age identify the different roles you had and circle the one or two that were most dominant. Noticed how as you aged, you had different priorities and needs.

  3. If you changed employers and or jobs, think back and try to identify how the change benefited or made your life roles more complicated.

  4. Think into the future and try and to predict your life roles over the next 5 or 10 years. Then, try and think how you envision your career progression and how those life roles will benefit your career.

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