Normalizing and exploring career uncertainty through long-form interviews
By Trevor Lehmann
A criticism of career theories that conceptualize individuals as developing through social and biological developmental stages with defined personal values fixed across the lifespan is that they do not account for the uncertainty of an individual’s future due to the myriad of factors influencing career choices. The Chaos Theory of Careers (CTC) notes that decisions are influenced by the interplay of family, labour markets, friends, media, culture, education, gender, sexual orientation, politics, climate, health (Bright & Pryor, 2011). Adding to CTC, Planned Happenstance theory (PHT) acknowledges the important role chance plays in our career paths and suggests that clients be empowered to act in ways that generate higher frequencies of beneficial chance events as well as identify and capitalize on chance events (Mitchell, Levin, & Krumboltz,1999).
To promote understanding of CTC and PTH principles, I have developed the podcast Convergent Careers to deliver long-form interviews with individuals that experienced career changes. The stories align and promote PTH and CTC through a focus on the uncertainty of future events and the rehabilitative experiences that follow unpredictable change. Stories promote the career development principles of CTC and PTH through emphasizing how guests take advantage of chance opportunities and respond towards uncertain events with acceptance and flexibility.
Beyond listening to the stories, I encourage listeners to reflect on the interviews with questions aligned with those suggested by Mitchell et al. (1999) to develop the skills and perspectives promoted by PTH as well as on how the stories may change their perspectives on future goals. In addition to developing PTH skills, research suggests that writing about self-regulatory behaviours, perspectives and future goals leads to improved mental and physical health (King, 2001) and integration of emotions and thoughts created from past experiences (Pennebaker & Seagal, 1999). Taken together, the use of podcast episodes combined with prompts to complete written reflections provides an opportunity for career development to extend beyond the walls of the career centre and the counsellor’s office and engage an online generation.
Trevor Lehmann holds a B.A and B.Ed from the University of Manitoba and is currently pursuing an M.Ed in Counselling Psychology after 5 years of advising young adults in academic and career development at the post-secondary level. His fascination with career development extends beyond counselling to experimenting with creative ways to engage the public in career development via games, podcasts, and more.
Bright, J. E. H. & Pryor, R. G. L. (2011), The chaos theory of careers. Journal of employment counselling, 48, 163-166.
King, L. A. (2001), The health benefits of writing about life goals. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 27 (7), 798-807
Mitchell, K. E., Levin, A. S., Krumboltz, J. D. (1999), Planned Happenstance: Constructing unexpected career opportunities. Journal of Counseling and Development, 77, 115-124.
Pennebaker, J. W. & Seagal, J. D. (1999), Forming a story: The health benefits of narrative. Journal of clinical psychology, 55 (10), 1243-1254.