Archive for March, 2011
Do we need more sophisticated definitions of career success?
Although I have got a lot of mileage out of the journal article I wrote about in my last post — I’ve dropped snippets from it into a few talks and workshops lately — there is something very limiting about the ideas of career success used within it.
Meta-analyses are good for getting a broad overview of a subject but they tend to erode the subtle distinctions that are present in an issue as complex as career success.
Are pay, promotion and job satisfaction the only ways of measuring career success?
Lorna Dargan’s comment highlighted another aspect of success and this led me to hunt out other definitions and conceptualisations.
So, let us attempt to restore some granularity to our understanding of this topic. Our first stop is an article published in the same year as Ng et al.
It is generally accepted that there is no ‘one’ right theory that suits every client, so how can a practitioner make some sort of sense out of the multitude of approaches that exist within the modern academic careers world (apart from following our blog of course)? Enter Patton and McMahon (1999) Systems Theory Framework of Career Development (STF).
Are you successful in your career?
How do you know?
Traditionally, there are two ways of measuring career success:
- objective success — externally measurable things such as salary level, number of promotions, etc.
- subjective success — internal, psychological factors, such as level of career satisfaction, happiness, etc.
These two types of success can sometimes be related, i.e. the more objective success you achieve, the more subjective success you experience. However, they can also be unrelated. So, other people might perceive you as being successful, but you don’t feel it, or you might be really happy in your work even though other people might think you haven’t had much of a career.
Is there a way of predicting what factors lead to objective or subjective career success? Well, lots of researchers have tried to answer that question. Vast numbers of researchers have tried to examine the link between a range of attributes and the likelihood of a good career outcome. That’s far too much reading for me! I’d like someone else to do it for me…
Last week Lord Davis launched Women on Boards, which examines the gender imbalance at the top level in UK businesses. In 2010, women made up only 12.5% of the boards of FTSE 100 companies. The Equality and Human Rights Commission estimate that, at the current rate of change, it will take 70 years to achieve gender equality in the boardroom.
One half of the problem is to do with the ‘supply side’. Greater proportions of women with the potential to reach the boardroom step off the career ladder lower down to concentrate of family commitments. In addition, women seem to suffer more than men from lack of confidence in their own abilities and sense of worth. For example, they are less likely to initiate salary negotiations — and when they do, they may get penalised more than men for doing so.
That last point indicates the other half of the problem. Why are the capable women who are still in the game not getting access to a proportionate number of powerful jobs?
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Careers - in Theory is a blog from The Careers Group, University of London.
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