The Effect of Career Choice Guidance on Identity Development

By Asoke K. Laha, President & CEO of Interra Information Technologies Inc.


Choosing a career path is a monumental decision for any individual and it contributes to their identity development. Years ago, many people did not require previous experience or a post-secondary education to get a job because anything they were supposed to know was taught on the job. The labor force predominantly consisted of men and switching careers was uncommon because most people would spend their lifetime working in one job or a single industry.


This scenario, however, is significantly different today. Nowadays, most jobs have higher qualifications and increased competition. This not only places greater emphasis on making your resume standout,but keyword searches also help speed up the application process. Moreover, employers tend to be seeking candidates with more experience obtained through paid, summer or internships as well as volunteering. Technological advancements have made career options limitless. With regards to higher qualifications, people are constantly required to expand their skill set, especially their knowledge and abilities given the technological disruptions & further changing dynamics.


The key attributes, which employers are looking for  are – communication skills,  positive attitude and initiative.  Technical skills are must, but they are not sufficient enough.  Employers often hire people who will grow as future leaders. Employers will ignore those people, who have negative body language,  portray as order-takers and cannot articulate in clear and precise short sentences.


Two crucial dimensions in identity development that must be focused upon include exploration and commitment formation.


Individuals should seriously consider varied, distinguished possibilities before they form commitments. This would enable them to make better choices. Whereas, on the other hand, they would be able to assess, analyse themselves and understand what really matters to them, and in which they are personally involved. School and career are the most important domains in which commitments have to be chosen and in order to study career choice as part of identity development, knowledge is needed about the developmental pathway of commitment formation.


Career commitments are intertwined and interlinked between the study and the career that is chosen along with the personal values, skills possessed and preferences. For instance, a vocational commitment in its optimal form is not just a choice that is felt as attractive at the moment, but it includes knowledge about who one is and desires to be, therefore it requires the development of personal commitments.


Talking about which, career choice guidance should not just address the professional realm but also the personal and global identity.


I believe that personal development aspects of a career development plan can be successful only if you are committed to the plan. Priority for career versus family identity commitment, parental support and family functioning – these all are the key factors that influence career Identity.You should be prepared to commit a portion of your own time and effort to accomplish this plan; completing your planned work experience and/or training activities should be your responsibility.


Work, for most of us, is the defining aspect of life and our identity.But how exactly does work affect identity and vice-versa? What happens to an individual’s identity when work changes? What are the potential consequences on the individual?


Since career choice directly concerns commitment development, its focus on identity is still more self-evident in intervention concerning career choice problems. Such guidance should aim to stimulate identity development and not just aim to help the participant to make a choice for a study.


We would expect that identity plays an important part in any work related changes – Who we are and what we are, are very important questions for all of us – with social, psychological and ethical dimensions.


The perception of ‘who one is’ has been related to well-being outcomes, attitudes and behavior in a multitude of studies. Without a clear sense of personal identity, it is difficult to have the self-esteem we need to function well as independent people in an interdependent society.


For many people, their profession provide an important source of personal identity; for some it may be the only significant source. For those with specialist skills and experience, is there not also a moral duty to continue to make a contribution for as long as it is needed, whether financially rewarded or not?


Though, sickness, disability, retirement, age; all threaten an identity built upon work. However,our identities are multiple, multifaceted and dynamic. We don’t have just one identity, we have several.Our working identities may change over time, but at the same time it also drives our behavior.


Personalities, values and underlying beliefs stay constant and influence what career people choose.Career progression may lead us into new environments, but what more important is to challenge our sense of self and create a better you.


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