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How To Find Career Clarity Using Three Top Career Theories

Feeling like you need to make a career pivot because your job isn’t a good fit can be draining and stressful. Stress impacts how we make decisions and weigh risk and reward. That’s why I like to start with addressing mindset and confidence, and if you’re experiencing career burnout, then you’ll want to take proactive measures to improve your burnout or stress alongside figuring out your next career move.

Career change is about finding fulfillment for you. Don’t hide behind someone else’s dreams. Trust me, I’ve done that, and it leads to feelings of emptiness. If you take a comprehensive, forward-thinking approach coupled with a sound plan, you’ll find that you will be in a new job role or industry sooner than you thought. Making a career shift doesn’t necessarily mean you have wasted time, education or experiences. In The Career Manifesto: Discover Your Calling and Create an Extraordinary Life, by Mike Steib, job roles are interestingly divided into people who make things, people who sell and people who support the people who make or sell. In The New Rules of Work: The Modern Playbook for Navigating Your Career, authors Alexandra Cavoulacos and Kathryn Minshew talk about careers in the form of job functions. Examples of job functions include business and strategy, consulting, coaching, data analytics and data science, and then, there are industries such as consulting, finance, law, pharmaceuticals and biotech. Nowadays, you can pretty much take any job function and put it in most industries. There’s room for creativity! Understanding what you value, how you see the world and how you see yourself in the world are vital steps to gaining clarity with your next career move. These are three common career theories that can also help you achieve career clarity.

Super’s Career Theory

This theory discusses life stages. According to Super, career exploration typically occurs in the exploration (14-24 years) and establishment stages (25-44 years). Super then went on to adopt his theory later believing in an age-independent, task-centered view of stages.

Exploratory tasks include: trying things out through classes, employment experiences, volunteering, hobbies and skill development. When you are in the establishment stage, you may go through various tasks such as adapting to the company culture and performing job duties to your best ability, forming good work attitudes and habits and building positive co-worker relationships.

The exploration and establishment stages help us get clear on professional strengths and work preferences. Work preferences include things like your communication style, preferred leadership style, learning preferences, productivity style and work-life harmony preferences. The more you understand yourself the easier it is to find career clarity and share your value with employers.

Activities for you based on this theory:

• Write down three personal work attitudes or habits that are important to you?

• Write down two tasks you’ve done that aren’t related to what you do in your career. What makes these tasks fulfilling?

• Think about up to three life experiences that were particularly enjoyable for you. A few themes will likely emerge.

John Holland’s Theory

There’s a lot of talk around personality. I’ve taken many personality tests for personal and professional use. I’m not a fan of personality tests as the sole foundation for one’s career choice. Often, our self-concepts need to be challenged or explored through coaching, and a personality assessment doesn’t always allow room for this. In John Holland’s theory, careers are determined a good fit if there’s an overlap between the six personality types and an environment that will let us express our attitudes and values while doing meaningful work.

The six personality types and some of their respective jobs:

Realistic – engineer, computer technologist
Investigative – science, research, medical and health occupations, dentist, doctor
Artistic – writer, advertiser, fashion designer
Social – teacher, social worker
Enterprising – lawyer, executive or manager
Conventional – secretary, bank clerk, accountant
Activities for you based on this theory:

You are unique and your personality is too. Your personality type may not ‘fit into’ one of the most used personality tests. Write down five words that describe your personality. Sometimes our personalities are different at work compared to familiar social settings. Do the exercise for both? It would be interesting to hear how closely your words match.

The Krumboltz Theory

Genetics and stereotypes can limit you from chasing some careers and make you more prone to pursue others. This theory also suggests that environmental conditions, events and learning experiences have an extremely significant influence on career choice. “Planned happenstance” is also a part of the Krumboltz theory. The term means that one can gain experiences by reacting to actions or consequences, observing others as they do so or by associative experiences. When you associate positive or negative feelings with people or events, you create associative experiences. Sometimes we avoid making a certain career move because of the people around us that may judge or belittle us.

Think about the following:

Do you need to modify your environment by surrounding yourself with people that accept you for who you are and what you want to do in life?

Have you created any associative experiences that may be getting in the way of your career clarity?

We’ve talked about a lot, and I hope you’ve been able to understand your career journey a little deeper. Digging deep is fun, isn’t it? Trust your gut though along with reason and get help if you want a unique, proven method that combines the best ways to find career clarity.