Preparing for Multiple Careers
Futurists have been predicting that individuals will have many careers as well as jobs across the lifespan. These predictions have acquired the aura of truth as they are repeated in the literature of career development, training, and human resource development. Evidence for the existence of multiple careers is limited (Mallon 1999), but small-scale studies of the phenomenon and trend analysis suggest that individuals may need to plan and prepare for different work roles, responsibilities, and opportunities throughout life. This Brief looks at some of the evidence and new models and theories of careers. It identifies the career management skills needed to make transitions across career fields.
Who Has Multiple Careers?
The impetus to move to a related or radically different career field may be voluntary or involuntary; factors include difficulty finding relevant work, dissatisfaction with the initial career choice, job loss, or the desire to use other skills or interests, to express emerging or submerged identities, or to change one's lifestyle (Nicholson 2000). Evidence of the extent of multiple career changes is difficult to find. The Bureau of Labor Statistics provides data on median number of years with an employer but not on changes of career fields. Teixeira and Gomes (2000) state that "studies in the United States at the end of the seventies already showed that between 10 and 30 percent of the economically active population had experienced at least one career change in a 5-year period" (p. 78). Of 91 skilled young adults in Germany, only one-third had continuous careers in the first 8 years after graduation and over half were employed in other occupations at least once (Heinz 2002). The phenomenon of reverse transfer provides an indirect clue: Townsend (2003) found that 62% of bachelor's-degree holders who enroll in community colleges were seeking an associate degree or certificate in order to make a career change.
Although the predictions imply that everyone will have them, the freedom to make multiple career choices and changes is subject to constraints such as socioeconomic background, gender, age, and the nature of the opportunity structure (Heinz 2002; Mallon 1999; Miller 1999). Some argue that the concept of "career" is relevant only for the privileged or professional classes (Mallon 1999; Miller 1999). For example, Duffield and Franks' (2002) study of nurses who changed careers concluded that "moving to another career or position is a natural behavior of highly skilled and educationally motivated professionals who require ongoing stimulation and diversity in their professional lives" (p. 606). In contrast, Arthur and Rousseau (1996) advocate new, more encompassing definitions of "career" and "transition":
- Career. Old meaning: a course of professional advancement; usage restricted to
occupations with formal hierarchical progression, such as managers and