A career is one of the most important aspects of every person’s life, being a key element of an individual’s personal development, social connections, and sense of identity. People build their careers throughout their whole life, starting at adolescence when occupational preferences are established. However, with age, the strive for occupational success becomes less important due to cognitive and personality changes and the shift in one’s life priorities.
Throughout adulthood, a person’s values and life goals tend to change from ambitious to practical and realistic. By the age of 35, most people have already made their occupational choice and found a stable job that satisfies them. For some people, it means working in the same organization for decades. For others, it means establishing their position in a particular job niche while not necessarily sticking to one employer. Having achieved a certain social status and a level of job satisfaction, people begin to give more attention to other aspects of life, such as starting a family and raising kids.
Young people generally tend to be more active and ambitious, with adolescence being the time to make plans and set goals for the future. When a realistic path of career development is established, the only thing a person needs to do is to follow it. The strive for career success that is characteristic for a person in their twenties gives way to consistent development and professional growth.
The theory of developmental occupation introduced by Donald Super proposes a progression through five career stages as a result of a person’s adaptation to the occupational role: implementation, establishment, maintenance, deceleration, and retirement. Throughout the working years, people move from one phase to another, starting with the phases of implementation and establishment in adolescence into the maintenance phase characteristic of middle age (Kail & Cavanaugh, 2018). During maintenance, a person confirms the occupational choice that was made and advances up the career ladder. A shift from rapid to consistent career development is characteristic for most middle-aged people.
Kail, R., & Cavanaugh, J. (2018). Human development: A life-span view (8th ed.). Cengage Learning.