Adult Career Counseling in a New Age
The changing workplace - a by-now familiar litany of economic, demographic, organizational, and social changes - has made ambiguity the only certainty in work life. Many adults had little or no career education, guidance, or counseling when they were "in school " and often seek such help now, making job or career changes spurred by their personal stage of development or by the "postmodern" workplace. Although career development is a continuous lifelong process, "media and some scholars continue to dramatize crisis in midlife" (Lea and Leibowitz 1992, p. 8). Crises and transitions can occur at any period, however. Hoyt and Lester (1995) found that the career needs of adults aged 18-25 are particularly not being met. The issues and implications of career counseling for adults in the kaleidoscopic context of today's workplace are the focus of this Digest.
An Adult Perspective on Career Counseling
In this era of organizational restructuring and technological change, individuals can no longer plan on spending their entire working lives with one organization. Life no longer follows a linear path: schooling, work, retirement. Career paths, too, are no longer a linear rise up the ladder to the top. Some analysts proclaim the "new rules of work" : everyone is self-employed and the concept of "job " is disappearing (Hall and Mirvis 1995). Such fundamental changes mean that people need more help than ever with career issues. However, a recent survey of 1,046 adults (Hoyt and Lester 1995) showed that 40% would turn to family or friends first; 37% to counselors. Only 30% had discussed career choices with school or college counselors; only 36% had made a conscious career choice or plan; and, for 47%, the primary sources of career information were television, magazines, and newspapers.
Unlike counselors of high school or traditional-age college students, adult career counselors deal with an extremely heterogeneous population who are at vastly different stages of life (Lea and Leibowitz 1992). Their clients' career issues are complicated by family responsibilities and work and life experiences that color their attitudes, values, and decisions. Some may already have made the decision to change, have a great deal of self-knowledge, and need information or assistance in coping with the new context of job search. Others may have drifted into their jobs with little planning or guidance, have difficulty making decisions, and lack awareness of their skills, abilities, and interests. Some may be self-directed learners who just need to be pointed in the right direction; others may want to be given the answer to their career conundrum in a structured way.
Clearly, counselors must be familiar with adult development and adult learning theories and need varied approaches for these different types of clients. They can guide adult clients in mining their life experiences as a source of career information. For experienced...