Rudolph – a case study

Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer

Rudolph careering through the snow

In his book, Understanding Careers: The metaphors of working lives, Kerr Inkson uses the stories of a number of celebrities to illustrate particular career theories. I thought I would follow suit.

The career of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer provides a clear illustration of many of the theory ideas we have talked about in this blog. The vocational choices available to a reindeer in Lapland provide a very limited opportunity structure. You very rarely hear of reindeer becoming accountants, doctors or weather presenters. In fact, aside from sleigh pulling, the only other accessible destinations would appear to be venison burgers and fur coats. It is easy to imagine Rudolph circumscribing these options fairly quickly.

Other evidence of Rudolph’s ‘career as an inheritance‘ comes from the fact that his father was either Donner or Blitzen (depending on which version you believe), both well-known sleigh pullers in their own right.

So, with such strong role models in the family, there may well have been a certain amount of influence on Rudolph to follow that particular path. But it seems that there were negative as well as positive ‘community interactions‘ in Rudolph’s formative years. He seems to have received a certain amount of negative ‘feedback’ from all of the other reindeer.

At this point in Rudolph’s story, happenstance appears to have played a crucial part. Many careers are strongly influenced by changes in the economic climate, but it was changes in the actual climate that gave Rudolph his opportunity to shine.

  • What theoretical influences can you spot in the careers of Frosty the Snowman and Good King Wenceslas?

Have a Merry Christmas!


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  1. #1 by Vinny on 4 January 2010 - 11:18

    Frosty the Snowman’s career didn’t last very long. His dancing career went into meltdown very quickly.

    Looking at this from the point of view of Super’s Life span, life space theory of career development, I’d say that Frosty was in the exploration stage, but moved too quickly to the implementation tasks.

    As we all know, an individual who moves too quickly through the explaration stage may subsequently experience dissatisfaction in their career. In this case it was by not spending enough time on the crystallisation stage!

    Happy New Year!

    • #2 by David Winter on 8 January 2010 - 17:13

      Thanks for that fantastic example.

      Look out for future posts on career theory applied to superheroes, Disney characters…

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