Career decisions over the increasing lifespan

This project aims to explore the circumstances and evolving preferences and perspectives which influence career decision-making processes over the growing lifespan.

For more than a century career guidance has aimed to match people normatively to jobs early in their careers. Career development patterns were depicted as largely pre-determined, mirroring an individual’s social background and psychological development stages (Super, 1980; Levinson, 1978) and fitting a prescribed path for organisational advancement following a timetable or script. In response to this deterministic view of careers, ‘new careers’ were proposed in the 1990s in which individuals managed their own career development (Hall, 1996; Arthur, 1994).

Issues and Impact:

In the 21st century the socio-economic environment is changing rapidly making career patterns less predictable, whilst increasing longevity and declining pension provision are combining to put pressure on anticipated career trajectories and retirement financing across the developed economies. Early career decisions need to be revisited at a later stage when individual criteria may be very different according to research suggesting that career and personal preferences and influences change over time (Erikson, 1959; Kooij et al., 2011).

An alternative perspective is therefore to explore career decision-making processes at different career stages in the light of theories about decision-making processes from the disciplines of Marketing and Psychology and calls have already been made for the decision-making perspective to be taken into account in studying aspects of career development over time (Demerouti, Peeters and van der Heijden, 2012).


Career decision-making processes at two different career stages will be explored through cognitive interviews and thematic analysis of the interview transcripts supported by documentary evidence from resumes and other sources.


Arthur, M. (1994). The Boundaryless Career: A New Perspective for Organisational Inquiry. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 15(4,) pp. 295-306.

Demerouti, E., Peeters, M.C.W., van der Heijden, B.I.J.M. (2012). Work–family interface from a life and career stage perspective: The role of demands and resources. International Journal of Psychology 47, pp. 241–258.

Erikson, E.H., (1959). Identity and the life cycle: Selected papers. Psychological Issues 1, pp. 1–171.

Hall, D. 1996. Protean Careers of the 21st Century. The Academy of Management Executive, 10(4), pp.  8-16.

Kooij, D. (2011). Age and work-related motives: Results of a meta-analysis. Journal of Organizational  Behavior 32(2),  pp. 197-225

Levinson, D. 1986. A Conception of Adult Development. American Psychologist, 41(1), pp. 3-13.

Super, D.E., 1980. A life-span, life-space approach to career development. Journal of Vocational Behavior 16, pp. 282–298.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s