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Career Transition

In: Philosophy and Psychology

Submitted By nenatahil
Words 1800
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In early August 2015, I relocated to Jacksonville to embark on my Masters in Clinical Mental Health Counseling (CMHC) at the University of North Florida (UNF). This marked a definitive step in my career transition process.
Approximately three years ago, several life and work related events converged which caused me to re-evaluate my life. Personal triggers included - turning 50, my husband’s health issues and his post-retirement life-style change and my mother’s retirement and her subsequent move to Jacksonville. At work, I was charged with the assessment of Obamacare and the implementation of the Health Exchange for Medicaid products; areas which I oversaw. I was also selected by senior executives at the corporation where I was employed to participate in the Executive Leadership Program for America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP).
Despite having been certified from the prestigious program and recognized by internal and external entities as a leader and subject matter expert in my field, I was becoming increasing disenchanted at work. I was not able to break the “glass ceiling”. Those at the executive levels were (and are) mostly white males. Minorities (non-whites, non-hetero males and females) were already in place. There appeared to be no need to admit additional “tokens” to fulfill an appearance of diversity at the upper echelons. When I evaluated the impact of Obamacare, I predicted the need for substantial downsizing due to automation and projected revenue loss. It was at this point that I felt it was necessary to start to plan for my “pro-tirement”. To this end, I began to shape my transition, utilizing project management skills to exit from the organization that I had worked in for over 20 years.
When I left the corporation, I was provided with an executive career coach. Although I was fully committed to completing the CMHC program, we worked on several iterations of my resume as we explored current and future employment opportunities. This took approximately five months. Upon reflection of classroom discussions and readings for the coursework, it recently occurred to me that the prolonged time to re-work my resume was due to my reluctance to let go of my past professional identity. Despite all the planning to ensure my financial sustainability in the short and long term, I neglected to take into consideration how I might be affected psycho-socially and emotionally by this transition.

Elaine Wethington (2000) describes several hypotheses on midlife crisis. The one which resonates with me most states, “events symbolic of middle age in the United States today, such as career dissatisfaction….” , can trigger a need for change. Other than ageism, gender and race discrimination and job insecurity based on the changing landscape of the health insurance industry, I felt a growing conflict between obligations to my work and life roles (ie. to husband and mother). Kerka (1991) listed several “reasons that people seek change are that their initial career was not their own choice, their original aspirations were not met, there is insufficient time for other life roles, or the present career is incongruent with changed values or interests. Longer life expectancy, changing views of retirement, and economic necessity are other factors.” Other researchers echoed similar factors for voluntary midlife career change: “time during which middle-age individuals take stock of themselves and reevaluate where they are going and what they are doing with their lives (Barclay, Stoltz, & Chung, 2011) and “occupational dissatisfaction, a lack of challenge, lack of career-related identity, stress and anxiety related to job insecurity, workplace bullying, conflicts between work and other life roles” (Hardie, 2014). Many of these reasons coincide with mine.
Bejian and Salomone (1995) describe the similarities and differences in how men and women experience midlife re-evaluation and career change. Challenged by maintaining dual career and marriage roles, career-oriented women experience a higher level of mental distress due to unrealized career and family goals as compared to men. Unique to women are issues related to the glass ceiling phenomenon and the “sticky floor” phenomenon “which prevents women from loosening the emotional ties that bind them to the rest of the members of the family unit” (Campos-Serna, et al., 2013). Successful women mid-career changers were those who defocused on progressively challenging career goals and refocused on interpersonal relationship development, self-exploration and intellectual stimulation. The importance of a transition plan that includes re-evaluation of life goals and a balance of psycho-social and monetary needs was cited in much of my research (Cronan, 2009; Messersmith & Schulenberg, 2010; Freter, Kohli & Wolf, 1988)
When counseling individuals faced with career transformation situations (voluntary or otherwise), counselors should strive to incorporate both career counseling and mental health counseling interventions. Counselors need to take on the role of therapist, coach and or mentor; depending on the issues presented. A holistic approach is needed; one that includes introspection and possible re-structuring of values, change\adaptation interventions to deal with interpersonal and environmental dilemmas and grief and family counseling. Some models that address career and cognitive and behavioral issues include Salomone’s Renewal Counseling approach (Bejian and Salomone, 1995); Schlossberg’s ( 1972) 4S approach (situation, support, self and strategies), Super’s life-span, life-space approach (LSLS) to career development (Perosa, & Perosa, 1984) and the transtheoretical model of change (TTM) approach which deals with “stages of pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance, and termination augmented by the processes of change, levels of change, and the decisional balance” (Barclay, et al., 2011). Regardless of method or approach or combination thereof, individual specific perspectives and attitudes related to the perception of choice (self-initiating vs. involuntary career change), timing of career change, resiliency and adaptability, economic security, emotional supports and physical health need to be explored (Ekerdt, 2010 and Robertson, 2010 & McAuliffe, 1993).
My review of current literature and research on mid-life career change validates my motivations to re-author my life and to seek a solution that would better balance my career and personal lives. It has also given me more understanding of the emotional fluctuations I have been and am experiencing. These feelings range from self-doubt about my decision to excitement and hope for new possibilities.
I was\am fortunate to have attained most of “Maslow needs” and am in the process of self-actualization. Elements in my personal development embody the qualities of Gilligan’s post-conventional stage (acceptance of self and others). In the TTM’s integrative approach to career counseling, I am at the action/establishment phase, described as, “Thoroughly understanding reasons for career change, knowing environmental preferences and values, and exploring the pragmatics of career change …” (Barclay, et al, 2011). I am taking action to realize the goal of my transition plan - to place more value in connecting with people and enhancing relationships (ie. with family and “giving back” to society) and my desire to integrate my passion for painting into my next career. From the stand point of Khubler-Ross, I am at the acceptance stage where I am embracing the steps leading to the evolution of my next identity. Transformation is multi-leveled, dynamic and fluid. Periodically, I need to re-evaluate my transition plan and accept that there are inter-dynamic factors (Dai, 1999; Robertsen, 2010 and Shallcross, 2012) that are part of the change process that will impact the way I feel and think. I have concluded that I need to re-conceptualize the loss of my past professional identity. I need to view it not as identity death but as a phase in the continuum of my present and future identities.
Given uncertainties in employment, the larger number of women in the workforce and the need for continued income generating activities due to the longer human lifespan and higher cost of living, additional research is needed to understand career transformation from a woman’s perspective. Current research on career transition predominantly provides insight to the white male perspective. Further exploration into the idea of a career woman’s being “married to the job”, the significance she places on independence and or financial stability, her view on aging and retirement, her perception of goal attainment, her socio-economic status and the impact of familial , especially spousal, attitude and supports is necessary. For both men and women, research studies need to make the distinction between retirement scenarios - full retirement, without employment vs. quasi-retirement or pre-retirement (with some income). More research is needed to examine the multi-cultural diversity of our cultures, the changing family support systems (i.e. expanded family systems) and how these aspects affect the individual’s perception of the career transition experience. REFERENCES
Wethington, E. (2000). Expecting Stress: Americans and the “Midlife Crisis”. Journal of Motivation and Emotion, 24, 2, 99.
Kerka, S. (1991). Adults in Career Transition. ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult Career and Vocational Education, 115, 2.
Barclay, S. R., Stoltz, B. K., & Chung, Y. B. (2011). Voluntary Midlife Career Change: Integrating the Transtheoretical Model and the Life-Span, Life-Space Approach. The Career Development Quarterly, 59, 386–399.
Hardie, J. H. (2014). The consequences of unrealized occupational goals in the transition to adulthood. Social Science Research, 48, 196-211.
Bejian, D. V. & Salomone, P. R. (1995). Understanding Midlife Career Renewal: Implications for Counseling. The Career Development Quarterly, 95, 44, 63.
Campos – Serna, J., Ronda-Peres, E., Artazcoz, L., Moen, B. E. & Benavides, F. G. (2013). Gender inequalities in occupational health related to the unequal distribution of working and employment conditions: a systematic review. International Journal of Equity Health, 12: 57.
Cronan, J. J. (2009). Retirement: it's not about the finances! Journal of the American College of Radiology, 6(4), 242-5.
Messersmith, E. E. and Schulenberg, J. E. (2010). Goal attainment, goal striving, and well-being during the transition to adulthood: A ten-year U.S. national longitudinal study. New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development, 2010: 27–40.
Freter, H. J., Kohli, M. & Wolf, J. (1988). Early retirement and work after retirement: Implications for the structure of the work society. Comprehensive Gerentology, 2(1):44-52.
Schlossbert, N. K. (1972). A framework for counseling women. The Personnel and Guidance Journal, 51: 137–146.
Perosa, S. L., & Perosa, L. M. (1984). The mid-career crisis in relation to Super's career and Erikson's adult development theory. International Journal of Aging and Human Development, 20(1), 53-68.
Ekerdt, D. J. (2009). Frontiers of research on work and retirement. Journal of Gerontology, 65B(1):69-80.
Robertson, H. C. (2010). Life Satisfaction among Midlife Career Changers: A Study of Military Members Transitioning to Teaching. 1-116.
McAuliffe, G. J. (1993). Constructive Development and Career Transition: Implications for Counseling. Journal of Counseling & Development, 72, 23-28.
Williams, D. (1999). Life events and career change: transition psychology in practice.
Shallcross, L. (2012). Professional Issues Women at midlife and beyond. Counseling Today, 08, 8.

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