Individuals do not, however, undertake their careers in a vacuum, as decisions about future trajectories need to be considered within the context of the broader world. Facilitating this decision-making is the process of career management that has been defined as an ‘ongoing problem-solving process in which information is gathered, awareness of oneself and the environment is increased, career goals are set, strategies are developed to attain those goals, and feedback is obtained. Career management, therefore, involves the analysis, planning and action that can be taken by an individual at any stage of their career – and ideally throughout it – to actively increase the chance of doing well. In essence, success has to be proactively sought and job seekers need to have a clear idea of what they mean by success and how to achieve it.

Whilst striving for this career success people face a number of developmental tasks and challenges. If individuals understand these activities, they can formulate strategies that are most appropriate to a particular period in their careers. To support this, organizations attuned to the unfolding pattern of a career over an employee’s employment lifespan can design developmental programmes suitable for the different stages of an individual’s career. This emphasizes the interplay between career management and career development. It also highlights that understanding and conceptualizing careers is a critical task bridging the levels of national policy, organization practice and individual expectations. Preparation for and engagement in career management and the career development process necessitates an understanding of the contemporary career and its diverse depictions over time.

Sue Mulhall

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