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Career adaptability is mediated by personality factors and socio-psychological processes, with learning playing an important role. Using a five-fold career adapt-abilities competency framework (defined here as control, curiosity, commitment, confidence and concern), which was developed from the international quantitative study that is the focus of this special edition, an explicitly qualitative study of the career biographies of mid-career changers from two European countries was undertaken. Data from 64 in-depth interviews with adults in contrasting labor markets from Norway and the UK were analysed deductively, using a career adapt-abilities framework. Results demonstrate the utility of the framework, as well as how adaptive adults used both formal and informal learning to develop career adapt-ability competencies, over time, across occupations and occupational sectors. A key conclusion relates to how this career adapt-abilities competency framework could be used to motivate adults in mid-career to a
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4
Highlights
5
Journal of Vocational Behavior xxx (2012) xxx xxx
7
8
The role of career adaptabilities for mid-career changers
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10Alan Brown , Jenny Bimrose, Sally-Anne Barnes, Deirdre Hughes
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12
Institute for Employment Research, University of Warwick, Coventry, CV4 7AL, UK
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14Learning from challenging work and interactions is key to developing adaptability.Engaging with a substantive knowledge and being
15self-reexive are also important.Career adaptability can facilitate successful transitions for mid-career adults.Competency framework
16useful to support skill development over time.Career adaptability can be developed through work, learning and development.
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Journal of Vocational Behavior xxx (2012) xxx
YJVBE-02610; No. of pages: 1; 4C:
0001-8791/$ see front matter © 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/j.jvb.2012.01.003
Contents lists available at SciVerse ScienceDirect
Journal of Vocational Behavior
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/jvb
Please cite this article as: Brown, A., et al., The role of career adaptabilities for mid-career changers, Journal of Vocational
Behavior (2012), doi:10.1016/j.jvb.2012.01.003
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1The role of career adaptabilities for mid-career changers
2Alan Q1Brown ,Jenny Bimrose,Sally-Anne Barnes,Deirdre Hughes
3Institute for Employment Research, University of Warwick, Coventry, CV4 7AL, UK
4
6
article info 7abstract
8Article history:
9Received 3 January 2012
10Career adaptability is mediated by personality factors and socio-psychological processes, with
11learningplaying an important role.Using a five-fold careeradapt-abilities competency framework
12(defined here as control, curiosity, commitment, confidence and concern), which was developed
13from the international quantitative study that is the focus of this special edition, an explicitly
14qualitative study of the career biographies of mid-career changers from two European countries
15was undertaken. Data from 64 in-depth interviews with adults in contrasting labor markets
16from Norway and the UK were analysed deductively, using a career adapt-abilities framework.
17Results demonstrate the utility of the framework,as well as how adaptive adults usedboth formal
18and informallearning to develop careeradapt-ability competencies, over time,across occupations
19and occupational sectors. A key conclusion relates to how this career adapt-abilities competency
20framework could be used to motivate adults in mid-career to adopt behaviors that help them
21effect positive career change.
22© 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
23Keywords:
24Adaptability
25Career
26Employability
27Learning
28Skills
29Social mobility
3031
32
33
1. Introduction Q2
34Individuals have a wide range of goals, aspirations, achievements and identities that develop in a variety of contexts, institutions,
35qualification structures and labor markets. Adults in employment who do not engage in substantive up-skilling or re-skilling for
36periods of five to ten years, through either formal learning or learning at work, increasingly run the risk of being locked into particular
37ways of working. They become vulnerable in the labor market, especially if their jobor circumstances change, because their abilityto
38be adaptable with regard to their career progression can decay (Anonymised et al., 2010). This article is based on a larger study
39(Anonymised et al., 2011) that explored a five-fold competency approach to career adapt-abilities (Savickas et al., 2009), comple-
40menting and extending an ongoing study into a quantitative measurement of this concept (Savickas, 2008; Savickas and Porfeli,
412010, 2011). The aim was to investigate how adaptive mid-career changers had navigated their career pathways over time, across
42occupations and occupational sectors. The objectives for the research were to examine how career adapt-abilities could be used to:
43raise the aspirations of mid-career changers at higher and lower levels of skills; empower mid-career changers to develop their skills;
44make access to training and learning more equitable; facilitate participation in skill development in a range of employment, educa-
45tion, training and other contexts; and support mid-career changers in two contrasting labor markets, through an Anglo-Norwegian
46comparison.
47The research sought to represent the wide range of goals, aspirations, achievements and identities that shape theway that adults
48interact with, and move through, labor markets. It also highlighted the dynamic ways in which adults engage with learning and
49development pathways, sometimes with transformational shifts in perspective as their careers unfold, often involving periods of
50up-skilling and/or re-skilling. The particular advantages of a career adapt-abilities competencies framework were also explored for
51the UK context (Anonymised et al., 2011). Findings highlighted the need for a stronger policy framework that helps motivate and
Journal of Vocational Behavior xxx (2012) xxxxxx
Corresponding author. Fax: +44 2476 524241.
E-mail addresses: alan.brown@warwick.ac.uk (A. Brown), jenny.bimrose@warwick.ac.uk (J. Bimrose), sally-anne.barnes@warwick.ac.uk (S.-A. Barnes),
deirdre.hughes3@btinternet.com (D. Hughes).
YJVBE-02610; No. of pages: 8; 4C:
0001-8791/$ see front matter © 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/j.jvb.2012.01.003
Contents lists available at SciVerse ScienceDirect
Journal of Vocational Behavior
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/jvb
Please cite this article as: Brown, A., et al., The role of career adaptabilities for mid-career changers, Journal of Vocational
Behavior (2012), doi:10.1016/j.jvb.2012.01.003
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52inspire all individuals to take action at different ages and stages in the life course (that is, new ways of combining learning, earning
53and active citizenship).
541.1. Career adaptability
55The operational definition of career adaptability used in thisstudy extended the oneproposed by Savickas (2008): the capability of
56an individual to make a series of successful transitions where the labor market, organisation of work and underlying occupational and
57organisational knowledge bases may all be subject to considerable change. Using this definition, it was possible to focus on the
58practical implications of career adapt-abilities competencies, alongside the drivers for their development at the individual level.
59In line with Savickas (2008), a psycho-social perspective was adopted for the study, exploring the psychological development of
60individuals within a social environment. This approach distinguishes between personality characteristics related to adaptability
61(like being proactive or flexible) that can be regarded as pre-requisites of adaptive behavior, alongside the psycho-social
62self-regulatory competencies that shape career adaptive strategies and behaviors within work. It highlights the need for individuals
63to self-regulate to accommodate employment-related change, yet acknowledges change can also be driven either by an individual
64seeking new challenges or wishing to adopt new perspectives associated with engagement in substantive personal development.
65Because adaptability is closely linked to identity development, the willingness to engage with a complex career trajectory, rather
66than seeking stability, is likely to vary amongst individuals.
672. Methodology
68An explicitly qualitative evaluation of the career biographies of 64 adults across two contrasting country contexts, the UK and
69Norway (32 in each) was undertaken.
702.1. Data collection
71Semi-structured interviews were conducted by telephone, which enabled the collection of rich data on individualscareer
72pathways and transitions. The semi-structured interview protocol was derived from the international study of career adapt-
73abilities (see Savickas et al., 2009) and findings from a survey undertaken for the European Commission (see Anonymised et al.,
742010). To develop the interview guide, items from the Career Adapt-abilities Inventory and core international items were identified
75and mapped against qualitative descriptors. These open-ended descriptors were: career development orientation, with different pos-
76sible ways of categorising lifestyle orientations, career decision-making styles, etc.; tensions evident between an individual prefer-
77ence for control and contextual constraints out of an individual's control (e.g. partner's relocation, illness, redundancy, etc.);
78self-reflexivity, with a high value on learning formally and informally; relational, collaborative, cooperative ways of being and
79doing; and tensions evident between past experiences and present circumstances. From these descriptors semi-structured questions
80were developed that weredesigned to take account of individualslived experiences and drawout how these experiences may have
81shaped and changed the way individuals think about and approach their career. The purpose was not only to capture actual behaviors
82that had emerged from lived experiences, but reflections on what had been learnt and how a transition may be managed differently in
83the future.
84Interview themes were: (a) learning, challenges, patterns of interaction at work(current andlinked to careerhistory); (b) evolv-
85ing attitudes, values and behaviors towards learning, work and careers, as well as learning and career trajectories; (c) processes of
86change, significant episodes of substantive learning (whether in work, education or training) across the life course, applying skills
87and knowledge, understanding and experience across employment, education and training contexts; (d) future strategies for learn-
88ing, working and career development; (e) different forms and modes of learning and skills and knowledge development in different
89domains (psycho-motor skills, cognitive skills and the affective domain) and whether learning was linked to up-skilling, re-skilling or
90perspective transformation; (f) proactivity in learning and development, such as the extent of self-directed learning, control,
91curiosity, cooperation, confidence, concernand willingness to seek new challenges; (g) perceived influences on, and barriers to, inter-
92generational engagement with learning and development; (h) and different patterns of support for learning and development of
93career adaptability.
94The interview protocol was piloted with two interviewees, each taking over an hour to complete. Subsequently, the protocol was
95revised. As an additional check on reliability, a joint review was conductedafter each interviewer had completed three interviews to
96ensure the quality of the data being generated for each theme. No further amendments in the approach were required.
972.2. Participants
982.2.1. UK participants
99For the UK sample, data were collected (20102011) from 32 mid-career adults. To ensure a varied and interesting sample,
100participants were primarily drawn from people currently in occupations requiring a high level of skill, with preference given to
101those who had changed career and/or who had at some stage worked in low skilled employment. Only a few participants were work-
102ing in relatively low skilled occupations at the time of their interview. Purposive sampling was used to recruit malesand females
103across the age range employed in a variety of sectors. Women (n= 20)outnumbered men (n= 12), which is typical of research popu-
104lations generally, where volunteers are sought. Three interviewees were aged 1929 years, nine 3039, nine 4049, nine 5059 and
2A. Brown et al. / Journal of Vocational Behavior xxx (2012) xxxxxx
Please cite this article as: Brown, A., et al., The role of career adaptabilities for mid-career changers, Journal of Vocational
Behavior (2012), doi:10.1016/j.jvb.2012.01.003
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105one was over 60. Fifteen interviewees were in full-time employment, six were in part-time work, seven were self-employed, three
106were unemployed and one was in full-time education).
1072.2.2. Norwegian participants
108Norway represented an interesting comparator because it had a more buoyant labor market and lower unemployment than the
109UK, therebyaddressing the question of the extent to which career adapt-abilities take different forms in different structural contexts.
110Contact details for Norwegians whowere willing to be interviewed came from a ten country online survey of the career development
111of mid-career adults (Anonymised et al., 2010). The respondents were mainly working in health, engineering or information technol-
112ogy (IT). Most were highly skilled, although smaller groups of career changers and low skilled workers were also targeted. The 32
113participants were interviewed in 2010 as part of an investigation of individual responses and strategies for coping with increasingly
114flexible work and employment, changing skills requirements and instabilities at work. Sampling was purposive resulting in a mix of
115male and female participants acrossthe age range mainly in the afore-mentioned three sectors. Of the 32 Norwegian interviewees 19
116were female and 13 were male, twenty five were aged 4049 years, four 3039, and three 5059. Twenty eight interviewees were in
117full-time employment with four engaged in part-time work.
1182.3. Data analysis
119The qualitative methodology adopted resulted in detailed accounts of participantscareer pathways and experiences. To ensure
120confidentiality, pseudonyms were used for all participants and institutional and organisational names removed. Deductive content
121analysis was used with the structure of analysis operationalized on the basisof the five-fold career adapt-abilities competency frame-
122work (Savickas et al., 2009). Extended profiles of the learning and career biographies of all participants were produced from the
123interview recordings. This meant that any subsequent analytical claims could be independently verified against the sample as a
124whole. Case study summaries were then constructed to provide a brief biography of an individual's career and learning pathway
125and to enable key information and evidence to be extracted for analysis. A thematic analysis wasconducted. Throughout the process,
126results were reviewed and discussed amongst the research team. Background information on each participant was also analysed to
127provide an overview of both samples and facilitate a qualitative comparison of successful transitions in the UK and Norway.
1283. Results
129Data analysis increased understanding of career adapt-abilities, how it is mediated and how it can be fostered. Four key dimen-
130sions emerged relating to the role of learning in developing career adapt-abilities at work:learning through challenging work(includ-
131ing mastering the practical, cognitiveand communicative demands linked with particularwork roles and work processes); updating a
132substantive knowledge base (or mastering a new additional substantive knowledge base); learning through (and beyond) interac-
133tions at work; and being self-directed and self-reflexive. Each will be discussed below.
1343.1. Learning to adapt through challenging work
135A predictor of career adaptability is the propensity of the individual to learn and develop their competences (Creed, Fallon, and
136Hood, 2009; Cronshaw and Jethmalani, 2005; Fugate, Kinicki, and Ashforth, 2004; O'Connell, McNeely, and Hall, 2008). One of the
137most powerful ways individuals become engaged with learning and development pathways, which can involve up-skilling,
138re-skilling or perspective transformation, is through engagement with challenging work (Anonymised, 2009). Challenging work
139can lead to career adapt-ability in a number of ways, but the iterative interaction between work and personal development through
140a sense of engagement with challenging work was a clear theme as the following Norwegian examples illustrate: My new job
141involved mein a steep learning curve, but when I master the jobit gives me confidence;My new job was technologically challeng-
142ing, there were exciting products to work with and I am very good at adapting to what is required. It is important to be open and flex-
143ible,and My learning while working has been enriched withhaving changed industries. It is healthy to switch jobs. I'm not afraid of
144changes and I look forward to changes.
145These positive attitudes towards learning through challenging work were mirrored by UK participants, for example: I gained all
146my skills in the film industry on-the-job and through work experience, [from being] willing to ask how to do things when I do not
147know how. Another UK participant exemplified how mastering challenging work in one field helped her build a platform from
148which to adapt to work in other fields. Her ten years working in safety critical environments (in defence and engineering) produced
149a commitment to rigour and precision, which had clear benefits in how she approached her own future work, she had to adapt to
150differentattitudes and cultures in other environments, for example, when working in the policy arena: I needed to negotiate the ter-
151ritory.Additionally, learning from challenging work could take unexpected turns. On several occasions, she was brought in to clear
152up a messcaused byfailure of colleagues to complete a project. On one occasion, the job involved considerable conflict resolution: I
153received no credit, but it was good experience.
154Learning through challenging work could be seen through the lensof control where individuals adaptedin order to exert a degree
155of influence on their changingsituation. Other career adapt-abilities were stimulated through engagement with progressively more
156challenging work as self-belief (confidence) and a positive and optimistic attitude to the future (concern) grew alongside an evolving
157sense of career development.
3A. Brown et al. / Journal of Vocational Behavior xxx (2012) xxxxxx
Please cite this article as: Brown, A., et al., The role of career adaptabilities for mid-career changers, Journal of Vocational
Behavior (2012), doi:10.1016/j.jvb.2012.01.003
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1583.2. Learning to adapt through updating a substantive knowledge base
159Being able to engage with challenging work often depends upon having already mastered a substantive knowledge base. Many
160research participants had obtained specialist professional or vocational qualifications at the start of their careers, through a combina-
161tion of one or more of the following: an apprenticeship, vocational training, graduate or postgraduate training. Nearly all participants
162regarded their initial studies as relevant in some way to their current jobs, even when they were working in a different occupational
163area from that for which they had originally studied or trained. Several participants pointed out that this was because they had
164learned particular ways of thinking and practising that stood them in good stead for the rest of their career. The actual knowledge
165base itself, however, often required considerable updating and many of our participants did this partly through work activities and
166partly through career development activities away from work.
167Many participants undertook a wide range of courses in order to update their skills and knowledge, some led to formal postgrad-
168uate qualifications,such as Master's degrees, while others were part of continuous professional development processes. Some partic-
169ipants highlighted the way such provision enhanced their adaptability through extending their skill set, as in the case where
170completion of an MSc Learning and Development provided practical help to strategy development.For other participants it was
171the process of learning itself that developed their curiosity and broadened their horizons through opening up new career possibilities,
172as typified by one participant with four degrees, including three at Masters level, who stressed how she never stops learning!
173However, mastery of a substantive knowledge base has an apparently paradoxical relationship with adaptability. It is necessary to
174develop a particular way of thinking and practising associated with a discipline, occupation or knowledge base, but then the individ-
175ual also has to learn in what circumstances not to apply that particular approach when operating outside that area of expertise. The
176paradox is resolved, however, because adaptable individuals have learned that mastery of a knowledge base (including appropriate
177ways of thinking and practising), which is itself a skill (or art), can be transferred.
178Without the initial development of a rigorous base of particular ways of knowing, thinking and practising, individuals struggle to be
179effective when faced with complex problems at work. On the other hand, the career adaptable individual knows that there are other
180situations at work, particularly when working in teams, where individuals have a wide mix of backgrounds or when dealing with clients,
181customers or patients and when it is inappropriate to approach an issue solely from a particular perspective learned in the past.
182Mastery of a substantive knowledge base helps anindividual develop influence and control over key aspects of their career devel-
183opment, with linked development of their confidence and concern or positive future orientation. However, in order to broaden their
184commitment and focus beyond a particular job, individuals also need opportunities which have a broad scope, as inthe case of those
185participants who had completed integrated training, which comprised formal learning, learning on-the-job and self-directed learning.
186For example, one respondent had left school at 16 and started as a craft engineering apprentice: formal teaching on technician courses
187was complemented by training in the workplace which was very, very good. He spent six months in every department in the
188companyfrom technical drawing to pattern making up to management. A very thorough apprenticeshipsets you up!
189Participants in different occupational areas, such as health, IT andengineering, drew attention to the need to keepup-to-date with
190their field's developing knowledge base, whether through a range of informal methods (e.g. online courses) or more substantive
191programmes of learningand development. The latter includedMasters degrees in computer generated imagery;control of infectious
192diseases; health care leadership and management; finance; occupational psychology; medical imaging science (ultrasound); and
193metallurgy. Such substantive provision was regularly viewed by participants as taking their learning and development to a new
194level and creating a platform for future career development. For example, one participant explained how a course had: enabled
195me to draw together learning, experiences and other qualifications. I'm really excited about this opportunity and what it could
196lead to.The rationale for technological updating was clear amongst participants. For example: the industry is changing, so it is
197important to have a common conceptual framework;andit helps me master the job and it gives me confidence. Individuals
198were combining processes of sense-making, with re-contextualisation of the development of knowledge and understanding, after
199intensive periods of knowledge development and application.
200Updating formal knowledge was always linked to a range of more informal ways of knowledge development and utilisation. The
201search for knowledge by individualsworking in technical areas in ICT, health and engineering was often broad, going well beyond just
202the development of technical skills. The search could incorporate aspects of technical: know-how (how to apply technologies);
203know-what (where and when technologies and knowledge could be applied); know-who (including an active search for people
204who would be valuable as members of a personal network); and know-why (a fuller understanding of work processes including,
205in some cases in health, a deeper scientific understanding) (Lundvall, 2002).
206Individuals also often needed the ability to utilise different types of distributed knowledge available in texts, technologies, arte-
207facts or organisational routines (Dosi and Grazzi, 2010). Some engagement with higher levels of knowledge and understanding
208relevant to work is clearly required to keep up-to-date with current ways of thinking and practising, but the level of engagement
209exhibited by many of the participants in both countries went beyond simple updating. Rather, it was driven by a desire for sense-
210making and developing their own identity at work. That is, these participants were seeing their professional identities and personal
211identities as being complementary and took care to emphasise, for example, that although taking a Master's degree had value for their
212work, the primary driver was a personal onelinked to their belief in the value of their own personal learning and development.
213Updating a knowledge base through engagement with formal provision also needs to be complemented with other forms oflearn-
214ing and development. The transfer of appropriate knowledge between contexts (from learning to work) is not a straight forward
215process as it depends upon: understanding the new situation, a process that often depends on informal social learning; recognising
216which areas of knowledge are relevant to the new situation; focusing more precisely on what knowledge is needed for a particular
217decision or action; interpreting and/or transforming that knowledge to suit the new situation and context; and integrating the
4A. Brown et al. / Journal of Vocational Behavior xxx (2012) xxxxxx
Please cite this article as: Brown, A., et al., The role of career adaptabilities for mid-career changers, Journal of Vocational
Behavior (2012), doi:10.1016/j.jvb.2012.01.003
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218relevant aspects of knowledge prior to or during performance (Eraut, 2009). However, once that knowledge updating and
219re-contextualisation is complete, individuals seem equipped to perform their existing role more effectively. It also seems to give
220them a platform to undertake further transitions. Thus, many participants who had achieved further technical qualifications went
221on to work in other areas: for example, management, teaching, consultancy or even more radical career changes.
222The mechanism here may, therefore, be that the knowledge updating process (whether up-skilling or re-skilling) gets learners
223thinking both explicitly and implicitly about what constitutes effective performance in a changing context. The participants in the
224updating process seem to have learned, or had reinforced ,how to apply their skills, knowledge and understanding in a range of
225contexts, which provides a foundation for or reinforcement to their ability to make successful transitions: they had become more
226adaptable. This process may also facilitate self-reflexiveness.
2273.3. Learning to adapt through interactions at work
228Working and learning are social activities, with work relationships, interactions and learning influencing current and future
229opportunities for the development of work-relevant skills, knowledge and understanding (Anonymised, 2009). It is an open question
230whether interactions at work do lead to substantive learning and development, but what is not in question is that rich interactions do
231provide opportunities for substantive development. Manyparticipants in both countries seemed well aware of the value of opportu-
232nities for learning by interactingthey were seenas a key componentof what they saw as learning-rich jobs, where you can learn
233from interacting with patients, colleagues, customers, clients etc.. For example, one participant explained how in: the job at the
234cancer centreyou have to deal with many situations spontaneously and with the patientsemotions [so you] need a good working
235environment and support of colleagues. There are a lot of opportunities to learn [including through interdisciplinary learning. This
236illustrates rich learning by interacting, which arises from work activities that are challengingin the demands they place upon individ-
237uals. Indeed, participation in and learning through interacting within communities and networks is a fundamental way for (re-)
238constructing a sense of the whole work process as well as a vehicle to develop expertise, including how to communicate effectively
239in different contexts. The interactions may be formalised, but they may also make use of more informal personal networks and
240relationships: I have always had people around me who have given me support and I have always had good role models around
241me and never felt that I didn't get supportand I keep asking questions to get information and I have found a network for
242women, which is most helpful.
243For workers engaged in a range of networks, learning by interacting often helped with different aspects of their work-related
244learning and development, only some of which were explicitly linked to the organisation for which they worked. In contrast,
245where access to a broad set of interactionswas restricted, opportunities for learning as part of their everyday work wereconsequently
246limited. It may be that it is social capital, developed through participation in work-related networks, which plays a role in helping
247individuals sustain their adaptability (Anonymised, 2005). In terms of career adapt-ability, opportunities for commitment are
248constrained where individuals have few opportunities to experiment with new and different activities and projects. Some individuals
249were engaged in work thatgave them opportunities for rich interactions across a range of contexts.This occurred because their work
250regularly took them to other workplaces, or they changed jobs or changed roles within an organisation, or they worked in a field with
251strong occupational networks. Personal networks were also utilised, drawing on support of people with whom they shared an
252educational background, or were former colleagues. These processes of learning through interaction and engagement with other
253people honed their skills in a number of respects, including the development of tacit skills associated with effective communication
254which could be applied in a range of contexts.
255In such circumstances, there could be complementarity in the informal learning of technical, socialand networking skills that were
256recognised as valuable for an individual's skill development at work. The informal learning associated with personal networks was
257often important in many contexts over a careerfrom hearing about job opportunities and gaining initial entry to work through to
258many aspects of continuing c areer development, including c hoices about different ways of updating skills, knowledge a nd experience.
259The experiences of many of the participants seemed resonant with earlier research where progress in work was often supported by
260spontaneous forms of learning in which informal work-based learning and self-managed competence development converge and
261where both are often at least partly dependent upon the quality of support from personal networks (Anonymised, 2005).
262It was also noticeable that two participants who, early in their career were engaged in work that did not depend on well-
263developed communication skills, nevertheless found ways to engage in intensive interactions at work through trade union activity.
264A UK graduate, who because of a dearth of graduate opportunities became a hospital porter, also became a union representative
265and honed his communication skills, becoming a highly skilled negotiator. After a year of these duties he decided to seek work in
266the human resources (HR) field. He discussed this with the HR manager of the hospital, withwhom he had developed a strong work-
267ing relationship, who recommended that he apply for a job in a nearby hospital. Another example is a Norwegian aircraft mechanic
268who found his union roles much more demanding and rewarding than his work: My union leader role (including being on the Board
269for 9 years) meant I developed as a person and learned to cope with many different situations.
270Whilst interactions atwork can be a driver for learning, they can also lead to a rangeof other opportunities to perform in new and
271challenging contexts. It is interesting that one participant, who worked largely alone as a technical writer, saw herself as (willingly)
272locked into her own field of expertisethe work itself presented new challenges,but the lack of meaningful interaction with others
273meant that she was becoming less adaptable. So learning through meaningful interactions at work can be a powerful driver of
274adaptability, with the absence of such interactions becoming an inhibitor of adaptive competence.
275There appears to be one particular type of interaction at work which stands out as helping in the development of adaptability
276supporting the learning of others. Time and again, individuals identified certain individuals or groups as being particularly helpful
5A. Brown et al. / Journal of Vocational Behavior xxx (2012) xxxxxx
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Behavior (2012), doi:10.1016/j.jvb.2012.01.003
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277in their learning and development.By the same token, someparticipants highlighted how much they learned themselves, or gained in
278other respects, from supporting the learning of others. Some had responsibility for learning and development of others on a formal
279basis as coach, mentor, tutor or manager, whereas others performed this role as part of their duties within a team or project: In
280our project teams there are lots of interdisciplinary exchanges and there is a lot of learning going on. In knowledge-intensive
281work and settings involving complex teamwork, many organisations explicitly use a developmental view of expertise. These organi-
282sations pay particular attention to ensuring that their teams possess people able to support the learning of others (Anonymised,
2832009). One consequence of this seems to be that those with responsibility for supporting the learning and development of others
284become more reflexive of their own learning and development and this strengthens their capability to apply their own skills,
285knowledge and understanding in a range of contexts.
286Overall, interactions at work can act as drivers of the development of adaptability in four ways. First, there is developmentarising
287from work activities which are challenging in the demands they place upon individuals: for example, in activities in counselling,
288negotiation or complex project management settings, interactions can be particularly demanding and individuals learn to adapt
289through processes of experience, reflection and learning. Second, there are certain types of interactions based on activities such as
290weekly case reviews, mentoring and peer support which are expressly concerned with helpingpeople thinkabout learning, develop-
291ment and effective performance by reflecting upon their experience. Third, interactions associated with participation in broader
292communities and networkscan help individuals make sense of work processes in a wider context, thereby helping individuals under-
293stand where they are and where they might be within occupational, organisational and broader communitiesthis can then be a
294factor in facilitating successful career transitions. Fourth, interactions based around supporting the learning and development of
295others at work can help individuals to become more reflexive of their own learning and development and thereby strengthen their
296capability to apply their own skills, knowledge and understanding in a range of contexts as a basis of adaptability.
2973.4. Learning to adapt through self-directed learning and self-reexiveness
298As argued above, learning to adapt is a social process, facilitated by interaction, but it is also necessarily an individual process. Even
299engagement with challenging work and involvement in rich interactions does not necessarily lead to career adaptability. Some indi-
300viduals use a very limited repertoire of responses to such challenges, which mean they may actually become less, rather than more,
301adaptable. It has become clear from this study that the development of career adapt-abilities has to be self-directed. Learning and
302development at work depends partly on whether work offersan expansive learningenvironment (Fuller and Unwin, 2006). However,
303it is also dependent upon individual actions. People varyin their self-awareness about their goals, aspirations, motivation, personality,
304inter-personal skills and resilience.They also differ in their appreciation of learning opportunities, contextual understanding and their
305ability to develop relationships and networks to support their learning and development. Capabilities for critical analysis, critical
306reflection, visualisation and organisation and the ability to switch between context and generalisation, all help individuals to make
307the most of their learning opportunities (Anonymised, 2009). In this respect, career adapt-abilities can empower individuals to
308take positive decisions and actions regarding their skills development.
309At work, being self-directed in terms of taking advantage of learning opportunities is helpful for individual development ( Q3Bimrose
310&Brown,2010).Eraut (2009) argues it can involve willingness to engage in a wide range of activitiessuch as asking questions; getting
311information; finding key people to support you; listeningand observing; learning from mistakes; giving and receiving feedback; try-
312ing things out; independent study; and working for a qualification. There were many examples of all behaviors in the data from both
313countries and it is noteworthy that besides identifying themselves as self-directed, participants were also able to articulate just such
314generic strategies that helped them build theircareers and make successful transitions. For example, one participant explained: Iam
315very good in adapting to what is required! You need to be open and flexible. Try new things. Just do it!Another described how:
316There have been periods of a lot of learning, a lot of frustration and thinking of how to solve the tasks, but eventually, after solving
317them I have taken new steps to find new challenges and so on.
318One special aspect of being self-directed, illustrated by these quotes, relates to being self-reflexive, able to identify your current
319skill set and how this might be enhanced and extended. Those whomade successful transitions all seemed to be self-directed in either
320or both their learning and development and their career more generally. The link between being self-directed in your own learning
321and development and making successful transitions is transparent: if you can learn to adapt and continue to develop in your current
322job, even in less than ideal circumstances, then this provides a basis for making successful transitions in future. Several participants
323also pointed to the psychological dimension of how being self-directed and successful in making a major transition reinforced your
324confidence that you would be able to do this again in future, if required.
325Those individuals who see that their skills can be transferred to other contexts have significant advantages in changing career direc-
326tion over those who define themselves almost exclusively by their occupational and organisational attachments (Anonymised et al.,
3272008). This advantage stems from the former having a dynamic sense of themselves as being able to navigate their own route through
328the labor market, whereas the latter are dependent upon the pathways linked to a particular organisation or occupation.
329One final aspect of being self-directed surfaced in many of our participantsreplies -people can learn from their lives through the
330stories they tell about them. Many of our participants recounted powerful narratives of where they had been, where they were and
331where theymight be going. They were in chargeof their own stories and such a perspective itself is an important component of adapt-
332ability. Being self-reflexive andself-directed in relation to learning and development in generalis useful, but a particular focus upon
333career development is also important. In this regard, awareness of career orientation and transitioning styles are also important for
334understanding the ways in which individuals navigate change (Anonymised et al., 2008).
6A. Brown et al. / Journal of Vocational Behavior xxx (2012) xxxxxx
Please cite this article as: Brown, A., et al., The role of career adaptabilities for mid-career changers, Journal of Vocational
Behavior (2012), doi:10.1016/j.jvb.2012.01.003
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3354. Discussion
336Drawing upon the key findings of this research, it is argued that career adapt-ability competencies play a crucial role in under-
337standing skills development and successful labor market transitions of mid-career changers. They could also transform career
338counseling practice for this client group. However, this would require a shift away from traditional and static concepts of employabil-
339ity, to more of a focus on career adapt-ability, with the goal of supporting individuals to become more resilient and able to manage
340both risk and uncertainty in fast changing, unpredictable education, training and employment contexts.
341A critical issue is how mid-career changers can learn to develop, and then apply career adapt-ability competencies most effectively.
342The four key dimensions that emerged from this research on the role of learning in developing career adapt-abilities at, and beyond,
343work could be mapped against the five career adapt-able competencies. In particular, learning through challenging work can help
344individuals develop control (increasing influence on their career situations); commitment (as they experiment with a wider set of
345new and different activities and projects); confidence (in terms of self-belief) and concern (a positive and optimistic attitude to the
346future). Learning through updatinga substantive knowledge base, or mastering a new additional substantive knowledge base, including
347engaging with formal education and training provision, can help individuals develop control; curiosity (in broadening horizons by explor-
348ing a wider range of opportunities and possibilities); confidence and concern. Learning through (and beyond) interactions at work can
349facilitate the development of curiosity, commitment and concern. Learning to become more self-directed and self-reflexive can help
350individuals develop control, confidence and concern.
351Those involved in education, training and employment need tounderstand how crucialit is that people at all stagesof their career
352progression are ready to continue their development in increasingly demanding contexts. Career counselingservices, both within and
353outside theworkplace, must take full account of individualsstate of readinessto manage and implementeffective decision-making in
354relation to learning and work. This means finding new ways of personalising services for the individual and developing innovative
355strategies so that career professionals, teachers and employers can make more effective use of career stories and trajectories within
356education, training and employment settings.
357A focus on career adapt-ability competencies could be augmented by practitioners and clients paying greater attention to the
358opportunity structures operating in particular contexts and times. The use of the term opportunity structuresconveys the existing
359tension between the need for openness and flexibility on the onehand, and structured pathways on the other, in what society offers
360in the way of career development. Career adapt-ability and opportunity structures are in dynamic interaction as individual agency
361operates within, but also acts to change, certain structural constraints as individual careers develop.
362It is also apparent that in career practice a focus on formal qualifications as a proxy for learning and development does not do
363justice to the range, depth and variety of different forms of learning-while-working that contribute to the acquisition of career
364adapt-ability competencies, especially for mid-career changers. The latter should be promoted and the most appropriate timing for
365recognition of different forms of learning should be considered, with the achievement of qualifications as a secondary, rather than
366a primary, consideration in that process. Similarly, existing progression measures that capture individualslearning and work
367destinations should move beyond a one-off snapshot approach in order to build and extend the body of knowledge of individuals
368career trajectories and career adapt-ability competencies. By so doing, emphasis could be placed on the value of capturing and
369disseminating stories of career adapt-able competencies more effectively within and across professional networks, with greater
370use of ICT as a potentially low cost means of capturing data and tracking individualscareer trajectories over time. However, these
371approaches would have staff training and workforce development implications.
372There are clear limitations of this study, which was based on a relatively small sample. It was designed as a pilot evaluation of the
373value of the career adapt-abilities competency framework,but the methodology could be extended sothat additional populations are
374sampled, together with a survey of individual variation in orientation towards career adapt-ability. The process of interviewing could
375also be modified slightly, by requesting participantsprovide a copy of their Curriculum Vitae prior to the research interview, to enable
376more time to be spent investigating their career pathway and transitions.
3775. Conclusion
378From this research, it would appear that a five-fold career adapt-abilities competency framework (defined here as control, curios-
379ity, commitment, confidence and concern) could be used to motivate adults in mid-career to adopt behaviors that help them effect
380successful transitions and positive change. Using this framework, it has been possible to focus, retrospectively, on the drivers for
381development of career adapt-ability competencies at the individual levelwith a particular emphasis on what it means to be adapt-
382able, how to foster career adapt-abilities and what the mediating factors may be with reference to skills accumulation and develop-
383ment. Additionally, the competency framework has emerged as useful when considering how skills can be developed over time in
384different contexts, together with the influences and barriers to skill development. Overall, an understanding of career adapt-ability
385competencies and how they can be facilitated through a combination of work, learning and development can provide a platform
386for individuals to effect mid-career change.
3876. Q4Uncited reference
388Eraut et al., 2004
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Please cite this article as: Brown, A., et al., The role of career adaptabilities for mid-career changers, Journal of Vocational
Behavior (2012), doi:10.1016/j.jvb.2012.01.003
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Behavior (2012), doi:10.1016/j.jvb.2012.01.003
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At the beginning of the 21st century, a new social arrangement of work poses a series of questions and challenges to scholars who aim to help people develop their working lives. Given the globalization of career counseling, we decided to address these issues and then to formulate potentially innovative responses in an international forum. We used this approach to avoid the difficulties of creating models and methods in one country and then trying to export them to other countries where they would be adapted for use. This article presents the initial outcome of this collaboration, a counseling model and methods. The life-designing model for career intervention endorses five presuppositions about people and their work lives: contextual possibilities, dynamic processes, non-linear progression, multiple perspectives, and personal patterns. Thinking from these five presuppositions, we have crafted a contextualized model based on the epistemology of social constructionism, particularly recognizing that an individual’s knowledge and identity are the product of social interaction and that meaning is co-constructed through discourse. The life-design framework for counseling implements the theories of self-constructing [Guichard, J. (2005). Life-long self-construction. International Journal for Educational and Vocational Guidance, 5, 111–124] and career construction [Savickas, M. L. (2005). The theory and practice of career construction. In S. D. Brown & R. W. Lent (Eds.), Career development and counselling: putting theory and research to work (pp. 42–70). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley] that describe vocational behavior and its development. Thus, the framework is structured to be life-long, holistic, contextual, and preventive.
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Adaptive skill is a central concept to understanding vocational behavior. In this study, a theory of behavioral functionality is proposed that describes the underlying structure of workplace adaptive skill. The propositions of the theory are formalized in a facet theory mapping sentence, then 12 adaptive skills are assessed on a group of career inexperienced individuals using a structured interview methodology. Smallest space analysis applied to the interview ratings reveals a three-dimensional structure of behavioral functionality. After refinements are made to the theoretical framework, we explore the implications of our findings for understanding the development of adaptive skills in the workplace and for contributing knowledge to the field of vocational behavior.
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In the most general terms, a technology can be seen as a human-constructed means for achieving a particular end, such as the movement of goods and people, the transmission of information or the cure of a disease. These means most often entail procedures regarding how to achieve the ends concerned, particular bits of knowledge, artifacts and of course specific physical inputs necessary to yield the desired outcomes. In fact, the procedures and the underlying knowledge they draw upon, the physical and intangible inputs implicated, and the performance characteristics of outputs are different but complementary aspects of what technology is. These things are the object of this short essay. Copyright The Author 2009. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Cambridge Political Economy Society. All rights reserved., Oxford University Press.
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We surveyed 245 first-year university students using measures of career concerns, career adaptability (career planning, career exploration, self-exploration, decision-making, self-regulation), goal-orientation (learning, performance-prove, performance-avoid) and social support (family, friends, significant others), and tested: (a) whether the career adaptability variables could be represented by a second-order factor of career adaptability; (b) whether career adaptability, goal-orientation and social support were associated with fewer career concerns; and (c) whether career adaptability mediated the relationship between goal-orientation and social support and career concerns. The study demonstrated that the career adaptability variables were inter-related and could be represented by a higher-order factor. Decision-making and self-exploration were negatively associated with career concerns, and decision-making mediated the relationship between goal-orientation and career concerns. Having more of a learning orientation was associated with more decision-making and fewer career concerns, whereas holding a performance-prove orientation was associated with poorer decision-making and more career concerns.