The Career Cycle Meets the Life Cycle

Adults continue to grow and develop throughout life—mentally, psychologically, interpersonally, and spiritually. Recent studies describe adult growth and development as a cycle that follows an underlying, universal path. Many influences along the way shape this course. They may produce alternate routes or detours, they may speed up or slow down the timetable, or they may stop the developmental journey altogether. This journey continues as long as you live, following a basic sequence of stages and issues..

Life Cycle Basics

Your personality or identity is formed by many external and internal influences. Your culture, occupation, social class, family, interpersonal relationships, leisure activities, social roles, image, and participation in world events constitute the external forces. Your internal realm includes your body build, brain, genetic makeup, temperaments, eyes, hands, feet, and internal organs. Throughout life, these two systems interact to influence your identity. As events in the external system are interpreted by the internal system, crucial shifts in needs and values can throw you off balance. These are signals telling you to change and move on to the next stage. These shifts occur throughout life. Sadly, however, many people don’t recognize them.

Career and Life Cycles

We continue to grow throughout life — psychologically, intellectually, and spiritually. Although we all have our own rhythms of change, we generally proceed through alternating developmental and transition periods.

Transitions are times for questioning who we are and where we want to go. During developmental periods we make commitments to and work toward desired goals.

At the same time, we also experience the career cycle of entry, mastery and disengagement. During entry, we enthusiastically learn new tasks. In mastery, we’re competent, confident, and productive. If our work no longer challenges us, we become bored and lose enthusiasm, productivity and confidence. This disengagement stage of the career cycle tends to parallel the transition stage of the life cycle.

Growing individuals, who feel they’re no longer deriving desired work rewards, generally change jobs after progressing through a career cycle. Al, 40, was bored with his systems analyst job. Loss of desired job perks, parenthood and the death of his mother precipitated evaluation of goals. He decided to pursue his passion — farming.

Some adults stay with the same job, but create new challenges. Eva, a manager, always found new ways of improving productivity,

Our career development is intricately interrelated with our personality development and changes in other life components. Traumatic experiences such as job loss, illness or death of a loved, one often act as maturing experiences and precipitate reevaluation. If we come to terms with transition issues, we will emerge stronger, wiser!

When Mark, a fast track executive, was 30, a series of jolts including political hassles and serious illness forced him to reassess his career and life goals. This resulted in the decision to establish his business. Recently widowed, Ethel started her first full-time journalist position, a long-time dream, at 60. Death of her husband and a mortgage forced her to come to terms with who she was and what she wanted to do.

We continue to grow and change, and so does the world around us. So why should our work lives remain static? With an average life expectancy of 82 years in developed countries, it’s possible to change positions at 40, 60, or older and still have years of happiness doing something we enjoy.

Take advantage of the growth opportunities your transition provides. Take stock, make necessary modifications, and emerge a more mature adult! Use life crises like illnesses or job dissatisfaction as opportunities to reassess personal and career goals.

Contemporary career development is a continuing quest to improve the fit between your developing career and evolving identity. Establish your own rhythm of change. It’s never too late! Learn how Questers take charge in Questers Dare to Change Your Job and Life.