Change in the workplace continues at a rapid pace, affecting careers and career development. Mergers, acquisitions, reengineering, and downsizing are influencing employment patterns and altering the career directions of many. No longer are individuals advised to think in terms of spending their entire careers in one organization. Rather, they are being led to recognize the temporary nature of all jobs and the need to prepare themselves for redefined career paths that require resilience and an ability to be self-reliant. This Digest defines the concept of career resilience, including the characteristics of individuals who are career resilient and the characteristics of organizations that support career resilience.
Definition of Career Resilience
Collard et al. (1996) present several definitions of career resilience. One of these is "the ability to adapt to changing circumstances, even when the circumstances are discouraging or disruptive" (p. 33). Another definition of career resilience is "the result or outcome of being career self-reliant" (p. 34). Although career self-reliance and career resilience have been used interchangeably, there is a slight difference in the focus of each term. Career self-reliance refers to individual career self-management taking responsibility for one's own career and growth while maintaining commitment to the organization's success; career resilience refers to individual career development developing the knowledge and skills required to make a visible and personally motivated contribution to the organization and its customers.
The Need for Career Resilience
The emphasis on the self-management and self-development of one's career is a reflection of the shift in the unspoken employment agreement between employers and employees over the last 3 decades. In the 1960s, the employer-employee relationship was characterized as a parent-child relationship: The organization provided employment in jobs that were narrowly defined, status in the community, and job security in exchange for employee hard work, loyalty, and good performance. Thirty years later, the contract between employer and employee is a partnership. The emphasis in this new contract is on worker employability rather than job security. In this contract, employers provide the opportunities, tools, and support to help employees develop their skills and maintain their employability; the employees have the responsibility of managing their careers, taking advantage of the opportunities they are given. Thus, the employees must be career self-reliant. They must continually update their skills, looking ahead to the future and to market trends as well as to the current demands of the workplace (Collard et al. 1996). They must have a plan for "enhancing their performance and long-term employability" (Waterman, Waterman, and Collard 1994, p. 88). The new relationship between employee and employer is described as a contract through which...