Donald Super was a professor, author and vocational psychologist who supported developmental theory over structural theory in relation to workplace careers. In a nutshell, structural theory would destine an extrovert to sales and an introvert to research. A developmental theory recognizes that people change over time and as they change, so do their career goals.
Super’s theory states that there are five life stages, growth, exploration, establishment, maintenance and decline, and a person's career mirrors these stages. He strongly believed that career development was influenced by maturation and adaptability, as well as life and work experiences and workplace trends. For example, e-commerce has changed many traditional business roles and adapting to this trend is part of the career cycle.
So how does your career parallel your life? Growing up, you develop an interest in some profession. Later, you explore it through classes or discussions with family and friends.Then you enter the workforce and gather more info from peers and co-workers. You progress up the corporate ladder (hopefully!) and eventually you plan for a well-earned retirement. Your career can make many twists and turns and the end stage is much different from the beginning. Imagine starting as an administrative assistant and retiring as CEO!
Outside Influences on Career Development
Super's studies recognized people do not live in a vacuum but continually change as they are exposed to outside forces -- both work-related and societal. Six of these influences are awareness of the need to plan ahead, decision-making skills, knowledge of information resources, general career information, general world of work information and information about preferred occupations. So pursing an advanced degree to ensure career advancement covers all of these conditions.
As time passes, your career can be impacted by the economy, health-related issues, education, personal relationships and general life experiences. Structural career theory ignores these life events. However, Super’s developmental theory recognizes it is only natural that your career reflects these changes. His hope was that career counselors value adaptability and development when offering vocational guidance and not pigeonhole people based on personality alone.
Anita Flynn resides in Philadelphia and has worked for more than 36 years for a global chemical manufacturer. She has an extensive background in the SAP Order-to-Cash environment. Flynn holds a BS in marketing and an MS in information systems management. She has been published in "Supervision" magazine and was a contributing author to Philadelphia's local CBS website.