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I always ask my clients their age.  I don't mean to make them feel bad about how old they are.  But someone that's 55 is at a different stage in their career and life than someone that's 25 or 45.  As a career counselor, I know that a 25 year old client presents dissimilar issues than someone who may be close to retiring and asking themselves the question, "What's next?"  One of the pioneers in the field of career development, Dr. Donald Super argued that people pass through five career stages during their life span.  I write about this because these sequential generalizations often provide a useful timeframe to understand the career transitions you'll face in adulthood.

Within each stage mastery of certain tasks allows people to function successfully within that stage while preparing them to move on to the next task.  Each stage is loosely affiliated with a chronological period and is characterized by work attitudes, behaviors, types of relationships, and the aspects of work that are valued. 

1. Growth - The early years (4 to 13 years old) is a time when the individual first becomes aware of the future.  People start to find ways to develop competencies and to achieve in order to increase control over their life. 

2. Exploration - From the early teens to mid-twenties, people begin to crystallize, specify and implement an occupational choice.  Different roles are tried and various occupational options are explored though school, leisure, part-time work and volunteering.  "Trial jobs" may be tested before more firmly finding a more stable and appropriate fit.

3. Establishment - In the mid-twenties through mid-forties, typically a suitable field is selected and efforts are made to secure a long-term place in the chosen career.  Young adulthood tends to be a time for stabilizing, consolidating, building momentum and moving up.  Obtaining certifications, credentials, and advanced degrees may be the norm.

4. Maintenance - This stage usually happens in the mid-forties to mid-sixties and is characterized by constancy: 1) Holding on (stagnating or plateauing), or 2) Keeping up (updating or enriching).  Continuity, stress, safety and stability tend to be the standard.  Sometimes people feel risk adverse with various career options which may lead to frustration or even  depression.  In middle adulthood we may ask ourselves, "What have I done with my life? or Is this all there is? or even What do I truly want?"  For men, state of health or career accomplishment may predominate.  Women sometimes perceive this period as an opportunity to pursue new personal or professional goals now that their nurturing role has peaked.

5. Disengagement - The mid-sixties is typically marked by decelerating from formal employment to finding new roles with a view to retirement.  Baby Boomers are teaching us that this stage should be more appropriately named "Re-inventment."  They are completely redesigning the notion of "retirement" preferring to work in some form while pursuing new or renewed outside interests.  In later adulthood, there may be a need to assist or mentor younger members of society or seek self-employment.

However, it has limitation due to the rapidly changing nature of work and each person's own circumstances.  Not everyone transitions through these five stages at fixed ages or in the same manner.  I have learned in my private practice it is more common nowadays to move back and forth more frequently from the Exploration to Re-inventment stages. 

For example, before entering the Maintenance stage, many people are asking the mid-life question, "Do I want to do this job for the next twenty years?"  Eventually, they decide to either: 1) Hang on and enter the Maintenance stage, or 2) Let go and change their job, company, or career and then recycle back to an earlier stage in order to move in a new direction.  For others, their career is without boundaries based on skills and abilities that function independent of a set timeline.

Your self-image evolves throughout your life as a result of experience.  You successively refine your uniqueness over time and make adaptation in your career choices.  As we go through life stages our priorities change.  Career ideas that you had at 25 might not be relevant when you are 45 or 55.

So, what career stage do you actually find yourself in chronological terms?  What specific stage do you think you need to be in?  Perhaps this is the time to step back and reflect on where you are.  Maybe you need to return to the Exploration stage and re-evaluate your skills, values, interests, personality traits and core priorities.  At your stage, perhaps you what to find out what else is out there and you want to begin a process of career discovery.  What are the financial and time considerations of the choices you are making at your stage?  What types of planning and preparation needs to be done at each stage both personally and professionally?  Can you list three to five specific issues that you need to address right now?  What are some issues you'll face as you pass through future stages?

These are all important questions that you will need to get clarity on in order to have successful and satisfying career development.  Just knowing that as we age, we will be progressing through career stages, can be insightful, freeing and can have a profound effect on our professional development.  Remember: It's never too late to reinvent yourself!


Copyright 2012, Dr. Thomas J. Denham, Careers In Transition LLC - Published Friday, February 17, 2012


So much of the job search is out of your control. The interview is one of the few aspects of the job search you can control. The interview is a selection process for which you can practice and prepare. There are plenty of unusual horror stories committed by job hunters. The following is a laundry list of the most common things that are deal breakers:

1. Arriving late to the interview or arriving too early
2. Showing up with your own beverages
3. Lack of showering, shaving, washing hair, washing face, brushing teeth, cleaning nails, etc.
4. Wearing too much perfume or aftershave; body odor
5. Dressing inappropriately
6. Giving a limp or a bone crushing handshake
7. Slouching or poor posture
8. Nervous mannerisms
9. Taking too many notes
10. Yawning or having inadequate sleep
11. Lacking goals or a career plan
12. Failing to articulate clearly and concisely
13. Speaking too generally without using concrete examples
14. Demonstrating low self-confidence
15. Mediocre educational preparation or accomplishment
16. Being negative, pessimistic or making excuses
17. Unwilling to start at the bottom
18. Lighting up or smelling like you just had a smoke
19. Lying or bragging
20. Forgetting the name of the interviewer
21. Wearing a Bluetooth or using a cell phone
22. Asking no questions, too many questions or unintelligent questions; not answering the question
23. Interrupting the interviewer or failing to listen
24. Missing energy and enthusiasm
25. Focusing too much on salary and benefits
26. Lacking maturity, tact or polish
27. Inability to relate education/education/skills to the job
28. Bad-mouthing former employers
29. Weak eye contact with the interviewer
30. Failing to demonstrate a sincere interest in the job
31. Being indecisive
32. Talking too much or talking too little
33. Over-sharing personal problems or health issues
34. Lacking knowledge about the job, employer or field
35. Announcing radical ideas
36. Failing to sell yourself and impress the interviewer
37. Forgetting to bring extra copies of your resume, references, writing sample and/or portfolio, etc.
38. Forgetting what you wrote on the resume
39. Bringing someone with you to the interview
40. Chewing gum, tobacco, your nails, hair or a pen
41. Taking a seat before the interviewer does
42. Getting defensive, emotional or crying
43. Being rude to the receptionist or anyone else
44. Coming across as too rehearsed or insincere
45. Sounding desperate
46. Watching the clock
47. Taking over the interview
48. Being overly serious or not serious enough
49. Failing to ask for the job
50. Lacking expression of appreciation or gratitude

Copyright, 2012
Dr. Thomas J. Denham
Careers In Transition LLC
Published on Friday, February 3, 2012

Dr. Thomas J. Denham

Dr. Tom Denham is the founder of Careers In Transition LLC, a private practice which focuses on career counseling for individuals and consulting services for institutional clients. Dr. Tom has over twenty years of career services experience at Siena and Union Colleges as well as Harvard, St. Lawrence and Boston Universities.

Dr. Tom founded Northeast Public Radio's award winning talk show, The Career Forum and speaks extensively on career management issues. He earned his bachelors from St. Lawrence University, his masters from Boston University and his doctorate from Nova Southeastern University.

He has climbed over 180 mountains including the Adirondack 46, Oregon's Mt. Hood and The Grand Teton. In 2009, he survived a huge crevasse fall on Mt. Rainier by ice climbing his way out. Tom lives where he grew up in Albany where he would rather be ice and rock climbing and raising his 11 year old daughter, Rachel.

Dr. Tom Denham has been a professional career counselor for over 20 years. He helps people explore their options with career testing, make job changes and write resumes and prepare for interviews.

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