Category Archives: Professional Perspective

Career adaptability: conceptual framework plus tool for effective practice

To survive and thrive in the current volatile labour markets across the world, individuals need to develop career adapt-ability competencies. Here, we examine what is meant by career adapt-ability and competencies and the individual characteristics that play a key role in their development. There’s also an online tool for you to use.

These individual characteristics include aspects of personality that influence how well individuals:

  • adjust to working in different work contexts
  • how flexible individuals are when faced with change
  • how proactive they are in looking for new challenges, and
  • how willing they are to make plans with implications for their future career.

Individuals also differ in their willingness and ability to:

  • explore possible future career roles, identities and work environments;
  • be resilient in the face of change; and how
  • be decisive around making career decisions in the light of changed circumstances.

Finally, we explore career adapt-ability competencies (control, curiosity,commitment, confidence and concern).

If you want to delve deeper, chapter 2 of the reference below expands the relevant theory. The whole of this report is worth reading because it includes engaging stories and powerful quotes about career adapt-ability from ordinary people in England and Norway.

Bimrose, J., Brown, A., Barnes, S-A. and Hughes, D. (2011) ‘The role of career adaptability in skills supply’, Wath-upon-Dearne, London: UK Commission for Employment and Skills, Evidence report 35. Main report.

1. What is career adapt-ability?

Career adapt-ability is ‘the capability of an individual to make a series of successful transitions where the labour market, organisation of work and underlying occupational and organisational knowledge bases may all be subject to considerable change.’ (Bimrose et al., 2011). Until the early 1980’s, the developmental concept of career maturation was used widely to denote an individual’s vocational progression. Once, however, it was accepted that becoming mature was not necessarily contingent on ageing, the uncritical application of the concept of career maturity to adults was challenged. Career adapt-ability came into use to define the ability to make career choices and adapt to vocational tasks. For adults, this term was regarded as particularly apposite since it focused on the relationship between the individual and the environment and accommodated the notion that adults engage in both career transitions and career change by developing coping responses and behaviours.

2. Career adapt-ability: associated individual characteristics & behaviours

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Self-regulation and control figure prominently in the literature and research into career adaptability. Self-regulation is regarded as part of control and in this particular context refers to the strategies that individuals employ to adjust to different occupational settings. Control refers to the strategies that individuals employ to influence different settings. Research indicates how individuals need to feel in control of their lives to adapt their careers and that individuals with a clear sense of control engage more in career exploration activities, take responsibility for their career development and are more decisive in terms of their career.

The concepts of flexibility and openness are also embedded in the literature on career adapt-ability. Flexibility relates to an individual’s willingness to transform and develop themselves, in response to demanding circumstances, with openness being part of flexibility, since it relates to receptiveness to change. More particularly, flexibility is defined as fluidity in a dynamic environment. For change to occur, an individual needs to be convinced that they can be flexible in learning new competencies, as well as the skills to develop and adapt, such as keeping abreast of technological developments and changing work processes. This is achieved through a process of reflection, during which ‘defensive reasoning’ should be reduced, so that individuals can learn from their experiences. Flexible and open behaviour then enables individuals to incorporate new roles and responsibilities into their personal identities as well as learning continuously throughout their career.

Individuals who are proactive anticipate change and react accordingly. Proactivity, that is, being investigative and looking for fresh challenges, is strongly associated with career adaptability. Its importance in career development has been emphasised since it can drive the willingness to seek out new contexts in which to work, together with the readiness to face change and engage in transitions.

The ability to plan for the future, or a planfulness aptitude, is also widely regarded as integral to career adaptability. This refers to being able to plan, map out the future direction and anticipate change. Integral to planfulness is goal setting. This is not limited to an individual’s ability to shape their own career goals, but also their ability to set and achieve realistic goals. Those facing job loss and involuntary career transitions need to be able to anticipate and react to changes, as well as understanding how to achieve realistic goals to navigate themselvesout of the situation in which they find themselves.

A major element of career adaptive behaviour is exploration, which is defined broadly interms of career exploration, self-exploration and environmental exploration.

Resilience refers to the capability and capacity to withstand change, implying the development of individual (and institutional) coping strategies. Career resilience refers to the capacity of an individual to respond to both positive and negative events and to moveforward. It is about being able to tolerate uncertainty and ambiguity, whilst at the same time being flexible and autonomous. Some have argued that career resilience is close to the definition of career adaptability. However, resilience seems to imply the ability to survive change once it happens, where as career adapt-ability has a stronger proactive dimension. So developing career adapt-ability is particularly useful where the future seems uncertain or unclear.

How do all of these fit together? In any individual, there will be a complex interaction, depending on the context in which the individual is operating. There are of course other influences to take into account. The diagram below tries to give a sense of dynamic inter-relatedness.

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3. Career adapt-ability in practice

More recent work on career adapt-ablity, comprising an ongoing international research investigation, firmly adopts a psycho-social perspective and has produced the most developed conceptualisation of career adapt-ability. It emphasises a contextual dimension by referring to the impact of various changes on the social integration of individuals. The four career adapt-abilities are: concern, control, curiosity and confidence.

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For a brief powerpoint explaining each career adapt-adapt-ability, click on study materials (4 C’s – emma mooc) below.

4. Tool for practical use

From this international research, an inventory has been developed that has cross-cultural validity, for use in practice. It can be used to help individuals identify the career adapt-abilities on which they are strong, and weak – and interventions are indicated for addressing any weaknesses.

 It is free and simple to take online – it really won’t take long and having your own scores to hand will help you see how the tool works in practice. 

Click here to access an online tool which has been developed in the UK (by CABA) to help individuals in a particular occupational group develop their career adapt-ability.

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Total the score for each section and attribute an overall score for the section of ‘low’ ‘medium’ and ‘high’ using the table below.

Category Low Medium High
Concern Below 15 24-15 Above 24
Control Below 18 26-18 Above 26
Curiosity Below 15 24-15 Above 24
Confidence Below 17 25-17 Above 25

Explanations of these broad scores for each of the 4 career adapt-abilities is given below.

Concern (High)

You are interested in your future; you may already have a Plan A for your future. It is always a good strategy to have a Plan B up your sleeve, as even if you know what you want to do next, things may change in the future. Develop an action plan for your future and keep checking it from time to time to make sure everything is in place.

Control (High)

You are likely to have a positive approach to your future and you may have given thought to what you want from your future working life. But have you talked it over with someone with relevant expertise who can support you, such as a career coach?

Harnessing the knowledge of others around you is also a positive step. For example asking others about the recruitment and selection processes that they experienced.

Curiosity (High)

You may have begun fact-finding about your future plans, now you need to focus on making sure you have covered it all. Dig deeply into information about your chosen occupation or sector of work – what are the upcoming challenges? What might change in the foreseeable future? Which employers offer the best training or pay? Where do the best long-term promotion prospects lie? Will there be opportunities to travel overseas? Important questions – know the answers.

Give yourself time to think about what you have found out. Mull things over before making your decisions.

Confidence (High)

You have a strong score on confidence which suggests you are good at getting things done. Now you should make sure you are doing the right things.

Resilience, tenacity and honesty with yourself are your best allies in making the transition into further training or employment and remember, it’s a strength to ask for help sometimes.

Concern (Medium)

You have a balanced approach to thinking about how your working life can develop- aware that it is something you need to focus on but it’s not something that worries you a great deal. A good thing to do now is to make sure you know about all the opportunities available to you.

Form a plan of what you want to do after you complete your studies, but try to make sure that you build in some flexibility because the plan may change or your ideas about what is important to you, may change.

Control (Medium)

You are positive about your future and know that responsibility for what happens next is down to you. Now it is important to give some time to thinking about what is really important to you and how you can balance aspects of your life.

Think about what you have learned about yourself so far. What are your strengths, interests and limitations – what kind of feedback have you had from others in your life – what do these difference perspectives suggest to you? It can take a while to work it all out.

Curiosity (Medium)

You have started to find out about options and you may have made some choices, so now is the time to refine your knowledge about what might be available. For example, find out where your dream job is available by using a trusted career information website.

Sometimes it’s obvious – to be a deep sea diver you need sea! but sometimes it is not so obvious – accountants work for accountancy companies and also charities, manufacturers, public bodies. So think about the job and its setting and you might be able to combine more than one aspiration together.

Confidence (Medium)

You are confident about the future, but not so certain that everything will work out right the first time; you’re wise to think this. Ask yourself, where does my confidence come from? Is it from success in previous experiences? Think about your strengths and whether you want a future that builds on your personal skills and abilities what is sometimes called ‘transferable or soft skills’.

Concern (Low)

Are you thinking about your future? Don’t be reluctant to talk about your future with those who might listen: friends, colleagues, family. Career coaches are used to talking to people who know what they would like their future to be as well as those of us who don’t! They can help you to start to plan for the future and look at how you can achieve your goals.

Control (Low)

What to do now? Decisions, decisions. It’s important to be positive and not be put-off by media scare stories about the job market – consider the other side of the story, which is that many employers report offering good jobs they cannot fill.

Take one step at a time; the first step is to find out what support there is available to you. Talk to friends and family about what motivates them at work and use this to think about whether you have similar or different motivations. Find ways to broaden your knowledge of what is ‘out there’ and what might fit with your ideas and values.

Generally, the more energy we put into things, the more we get out of them – so don’t wait for someone to suggest what your future will hold – take the initiative and make one important step each day – you’ll be pleased you did.

Curiosity (Low)

Few of us can know about all the potential job opportunities – there are so many, it’s almost too daunting to read about them all – so start with broad occupational sectors on a general career information website- from here you can see case studies of what others have done. Interesting, isn’t it?

Don’t just consider the first job/course that looks good – you have choices and this includes jobs that have not been created yet. For example, 10 years ago, no-one had heard of being a ‘web optimisation executive’, so keep an open mind, ask questions, and research all of the options available.

Take a risk. Yes, we are serious – do something you have not done before, such as volunteering in the community or climbing Mount Kilimanjaro for charity. Not only does it look good on your CV and give you plenty to talk about with prospective employers, it helps you to see your own strengths in a new light.

Confidence (Low)

You never know what you can do, ’till you try. Volunteering, taking a course or starting a new hobby are all things you can try without any previous experience – and you might surprise yourself about how much you have to offer.

You have skills and abilities already – You can probably think, count, analyse, write, paint (you get where this is going?) so give some thought to how you can hone and extend those abilities.

Focus on what you are good at and interested in – whether it’s designing rockets or icing cupcakes – follow your passion, and see where it leads you. 

The following two diagrams show how career adapt-abilities relate to attitudes and beliefs, competence, coping behaviour and career problems.

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Another way of looking at how careers develop over time is through the use of career stories or narratives. Savickas and Hartung have developed a workbook which is designed to enable a person to ‘tell, hear and author’ their life story. It can be used individually or in groups, it works through 3 phases, the final ‘enacting’ being a realistic plan for putting a story into action. It can be accessed here: Savickas, M. and Hartung, P. (2012) My Career Story: An Autobiographical Workbook for Life-Career Success.


Bimrose, J., Barnes, S-A., Brown, A. and Hughes, D. (2011). ‘The role of career adaptability in skills supply’, Wath-upon-Dearne: UK Commission for Employment & Skills.

Bimrose, J. and Hearne, L. (2012). ‘Resilience and Career Adaptability: Qualitative Studies of Adult Career counselling’ Journal Of Vocational Behavior 81, 338 – 344.

Brizzi, J. S. (1990). Career Adaptability in Adult Vocational Development. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Association for Counseling and Development, Cincinnati, OH.

Dix, J. E. and Savickas, M. L. (1995). ‘Establishing a Career: Developmental Tasks and Coping Responses’, Journal of Vocational Behavior, 47(1), 93-107.

McMahon, M., Watson, M. and Bimrose, J. (2012). ‘Career Adaptability: A Qualitative Understanding from the Stories of Older Women’, Journal of Vocational Behavior, 80, 762 – 768.

Savickas, M. (2008). Report of framework and follow-up studies (Meeting 19 July 2008). Berlin: Life-design International Research Group – Career Adaptability Project, Humboldt Universität.

Savickas, M. L. (1997). ‘Career adaptability: An integrative construct for life-span, life-space theory’, Career Development Quarterly, 45(3), 247-259.

Super, D. and Knasel, E. (1981). ‘Career development in adulthood: Some theoretical problems and a possible solution’, British Journal of Guidance and Counselling, 9(2), 194-201.

Savickas, M.L. (1997). Career Adaptability: An Integrative construct for Life-Span, Life-Space Theory, Career Development Quarterly, 45(3), 247-259.

Savickas, M.L., Nota, L., Rossier, J., Dauwalder, J.P., Duarte, M.E.,  Guichard, J., Soresi, S., Van Esbroeck R. & van Vianen, A.E.M., (2009). Life designing: A paradigm for career construction in the 21st Century. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 75(3), 239-250.

Savickas, M.L. & Porfeli, E.J. (2012) Career Adapt-Abilities Scale: Construction, reliability and measurement equivalence across 13 countries, Journal of Vocational Behaviour, 80, 661 -673

External film resources:  

Seven lessons about Career Change: Professor Herminia Ibarra explains all seven lessons in turn, each illustrated by someone talking about their own experience of change.

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Whilst acknowledging that things don’t always go to plan, that desired jobs sometimes just aren’t available, this film offers lot of constructive advice which comes out of direct experience of career change – and from Prof Ibarra’s analysis.

Life Design: Professor Mark Savickas’s keynote video from 2013 International conference (Larios) goes the distance (40 mins) in taking us through the theory of life design, tracing the development of his own thinking and that of other researchers across the globe.  He traces societal changes ‘from standardization to individualization’ (sic) and argues that Adaptability and Identity are the two meta competences which are needed in the current context.  From minute 24 he focuses on career counselling as a means of supporting clients in telling their story – even when one chapter ends – and explains why keeping the story going is essential.

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Mind: Personal Identity (The Narrative Self) Elisabeth Camp (Rutgers University)

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This complicated still (above) maps the entire talk, but it all makes sense as  Elisabeth Camp (Rutgers University) takes us through the narrative view of personal identity, step by step.  Starting from philosophical beginnings to how we live now as constructed selves, telling our stories as an ongoing process of development, she poses the key question: What makes me, me?

Professional Perspective

Working Well With Others

Supporting Your Learning and Development

Six Key Drivers of Change

How Work Identities Change

Career Adaptability

How work identities change and what that means for you

Here are some key ideas about how work identities are changing.  The external resources and study materials we’ve chosen here relate to the following ideas, suggesting practical steps for handling change. As you read these materials, think about these ideas in relation to your own experience of changing identities.

Remember you can share your thoughts via Twitter using #EmployIDMOOC

1.    Identities draw on the stories we tell, the meanings we make and the context of our work

Identities at work are the meanings attached to an individual by the self and others and are displayed in our attitudes, behaviour and the stories we tell about ourselves both to ourselves and others.

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Your work identity is unique to you as an individual.  At the same time, it exists as part of bigger patterns, typically within particular work organisations. Ideally, you’d want your personal and professional identities to line up, but that isn’t always the case. Has your work organisation changed the way it defines your role? Does this match up with how you see yourself?

For example, do you see yourself as a counsellor, coach or adviser?  How does your job title compare with other professionals contributing to this conversation?

Has a job ever given you a sense of career stability? A century ago John Dewey (1916) talked of occupation as giving direction to life’s activities, providing continuity and a sense of ‘home’ with clear psychological, social and ideological ‘anchors’ and benefits.

Do you have an occupation which gives you a sense of an ‘anchor’ or a sense of identity?

2.    Some broad factors leading to changes in work identities: shifts towards greater individuation, greater ‘other-directedness’ and extended transitions 

In the distant past societies largely determined the social status of individuals, and constrained choices so that an individual’s place, expectations, rights and responsibilities in relation to work were broadly known. Everyone knew what to expect if they followed particular paths, as they worked within a system that offered relative stability and security.  Even 70 years ago Erich Fromm (a German social psychologist, psychoanalyst and humanistic philosopher) was arguing that in the USA the processes of individuation meant ‘the individual was left alone; everything depended on his own effort; not on the security of his traditional status’ (Fromm 2001/1942, p. 51).  His thinking was developing just as occupational choice became more complex.

Do you feel that you must struggle alone to build your own career – or that you can simply follow a recognised pathway? 

Image titleRiesman and colleagues (1961/1950) believed that in modern societies  ‘other directed’ characters were becoming predominant over ‘inner directed’ characters. This occurred particularly in the American context.  The increasing ‘other directedness’ of many individuals served to highlight the need for recognition by others in identities at work. This can also play out for example in social media, where there can sometimes be a greater concern to be reassured that people like me than the concern to make my way in the world of work.

Do you think this trend applies in Europe as much as, for example, in the United States? Do you feel you need recognition from others that you are doing your job well?

As a result of adverse labour market conditions and structures, young people are having to take a longer time before meaningful occupational or work identities are established.  These extended transitions mean that young people may have an identity attached to their current work, but also an ‘identity in waiting’ related to the occupation or field for which they are trained. In Hollywood films, the classic example would be the trained actor waiting on tables until he or she gets the breakthrough audition. Labour market data show that the most common destination for trained dancers in Norway is working in retail! In many other settings, especially in Southern Europe, people may be working in temporary positions or working outside the sector in which they are trained for may years, but still identifying with the occupation for which they are trained and hoping that they may get an opportunity to translate their ‘occupation in waiting’ to the real thing.

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3.     Our work identities are strongly influenced by the degree of challenge in our work activities and through interactions with others   

Most people develop their expertise and identities through challenging work but if choice and access to challenging work are constrained then development of identities at work are constrained as well. For example, upon completion of training where engineers are not given challenging (project) work to do, their skills do not coalesce in such a way that they feel they are on their way to becoming ‘experienced professionals’.

Learning is generated through engagement with (changing) activities at work. Individuals’ occupational identities also start to change, partly in response to how the individual engages with both work activities and colleagues, but also in response to reactions of others, when they recognise an individual’s developing expertise.The recognition of significant others can come from colleagues in the immediate work group, institutionally from work and/or an educational institution or from a broader (occupational) community of practice.

Is your view of your own expertise dependent upon the reactions of others?

The diagram below maps out how individuals interact with their others and their work activities in order to develop their work-related identities (Brown, 1997).

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4. How well do identities at work fit with your other identities or personal characteristics?

Identities at work also may or may not mesh well with other aspects of your identity related to, for example, gender, ethnicity, politics, religion or socio-cultural issues.

Personality too plays a fundamental role in identity development. Personality traits such as openness to experience (how curious or cautious an individual typically is) and conscientiousness (how well-organised or easy-going an individual typically is) are likely to inform at some level how people approach their work, learning for their work, and their willingness to change career direction (Furnham, 2008). Other traits such as extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism could also be included, but their very generality means they are not very powerful on their own in explaining actual behaviour as are lower-level traits, such as anxiety, assertiveness, compliance and deliberation. This paradox then poses a challenge in how to support learning and identity development at work.

On the one hand, the value of learning for self-understanding means that people could benefit from understanding more about their personality type, particularly if it is used as a starting point for an individual in seeing how certain under-developed aspects of one’s personality could be strengthened. On the other hand, having someone tell you that you need to change aspects of your personality can be toxic: a major identity threat in itself, because it is very hard to do. Personality influences how work-related learning and identity development play out, but how this insight can be used to support learning needs to be handled sensitively.

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5. Can you tell your own career story or help others tell theirs?

Giddens (1991) argued that “a person’s identity is not to be found in behaviour, nor—important though this is—in the reactions of others, but in the capacity to keep a particular narrative going” (p. 541). This means that individuals’ identities at work are now more loosely coupled to their roles in relationship to family, leisure, citizenship, democracy and so on. This means that there is greater scope for choice in relation to outcomes, but that the processes, including learning, at work in the construction of identities at work are similar to those processes in the development of identities outside work. Individuals “must continually integrate events which occur in the external world, and sort them into the ongoing ‘story’ about the self” (Giddens 1991, p. 541), so they may wish to align narratives in their work and non-work in order to create a ‘common story’ or indeed develop narratives where different aspects of their lives are kept largely separate. It is the processes of identity development in different realms of our lives which transfer: identity as narrative means we have to negotiate between the personal and social in all areas of our lives in order to create our own ‘stories’.

Do you feel you have a clear narrative for your career story? 

Additional resources to examine different aspects of identity development:

Video: Gianpiero Petriglieri, from INSEAD, explains what we can all learn from artists. The Art of Career Development: Role of Expertise, Meaning, Courage and Congregation.

Personality and identity: Myers–Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) videos: How To Predict Your Future By Knowing Your Personality Type; Thinkers vs Feelers – not either/or preferences; emotions not same as feelings; Material on the 16 types. For example: The Best INFP Career Choices; The INTP Personality Type;

Identity Theory & Social Identity Theory: Basics (cartoon introduction)


Dewey, J 1963 (1916), Democracy and education, Macmillan, New York.

Brown, A. (1997), A dynamic model of occupational identity formation. In A. Brown (Ed) Promoting Vocational Education and training: European perspectives, Tampere, Univeristy of Tampere, (pp 59-67).

Fromm, E 2001 (1942), Fear of freedom, Routledge, London.

Giddens, A (1991), Modernity and self-identity: Self and society in the late modern age. Polity Press, Cambridge.

Riesman, D 1961 (1950), The lonely crowd, Yale University Press, New Haven, CT.

Professional Perspective

Working Well With Others

Supporting Your Learning and Development

Six Key Drivers of Change

How Work Identities Change

Career Adaptability

Six key drivers of change

Change in the world of work is evident for you and for your employing organisation. We will focus upon six key drivers of change. Three operate at the global (macro) level: globalisation, greening, and greying. Three operate at the societal (meso) level: ICT, (youth) unemployment, and skills mismatch. Of course, all six play out ultimately in an individual’s life.  As well as a labour market overview, we have curated three short films of real people telling their individual career stories, which illustrate the three macro drivers.

Read the written commentary below (and view the presentation slides on the changing environment in the study material) then have a go at answering the questions in the conversation below:

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1.   Globalisation is the process by which organisations develop international influence and/or start operating on an international scale. In recent years, this has put considerable pressure on Europe’s competitive position. European nations now have to compete with countries across the world and deal with the consequences of the international financial and economic crises. Improvements in global communications are affecting the distribution of work geographically across labour markets on a global scale. There is now much less certainty about where work will be done in the future and by whom. Increasingly, there is a single global market for everything, including people. Capital, people and jobs are increasingly mobile and less constrained by national boundaries. Recently, many governments have introduced austerity measures to try to establish budgetary stability, to address the economic crisis.

Individual career story – globalisation

Watch this film clip of Kate by clicking on the arrow.  As a Fragrance Manager, this chemistry graduate identifies how customers worldwide want air fresheners to smell, then works with her technical team to develop products. Just thinking about this career story, if this wasn’t a ‘long plan’ how did she find herself in this job?

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Here’s another female scientist, Sixtine.  Her job is to create new paints and coatings for cars, as requested by the design team. She explains that she might be given a photo or a fabric swatch to match – or the designers might brief her on the essence of the colour they want, such as a red shade being more ‘flashy’ or ‘luxurious’. She works in France for BASF, a multinational company which ‘creates chemistry for a sustainable future’.  Click anywhere in the photo below to view the film (in French – you have just read the summary in English).

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Question: In what ways has globalisation had, or might have in the future, an impact on your local labour market and local employers?

2.   Greying refers to the accelerating ageing of populations across Europe. Europe faces a three-fold challenge:

    • both population and workforce are ageing as more of the ‘baby boom’ generation reaches retirement age;

    • increased life expectancy; and

    • a falling birth rate.

Greying puts pressures on health care services, economic growth and the financing of social welfare systems. It has accelerated the shift in balance between people in employment and retirees – that is, the dependency ratio between the economically active and retired population has widened. This means that those of us in paid employment have to support an increasing large proportion of people not in employment. There is a need to anticipate and plan as older people retire, so that a sufficiently skilled work force is maintained. There is also an increasing demand for employment in the elderly care sector, as there is a larger proportion of the population living longer, with complex care needs for longer.

Individual career story – greying

Watch this film clip of a Sonia who describes herself as ‘computer phobic’ yet changed jobs, became ICT literate (thanks to on the job training) and feels her career has progressed. What was the secret of her conquering her computer phobia? Was there an emotional aspect to her on the job learning?

Question: Identify ways in which the ageing profile is having an impact on employment in your area?

3.   Greening: ecological challenges. Global warming and the decrease of natural resources increasingly forces sectors to redirect and focus on sustainable businesses.

Individual career story – greening

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Watch this short film about Xavier, a forestry technician, by clicking anywhere on the photo above. The film is in French, but an English summary follows. He is responsible for the wild flora and fauna, and we see him selecting a fallen tree to be harvested for profit. He explains the dual aspect of his role when on foot boar hunting takes place in the forest – safeguarding the public, and policing the hunters if necessary. Towards the end of the film, he explains that he wanted to do this job from when he was little, having always lived in the countryside in France, surrounded by nature.

But the greening economy goes beyond working in the countryside;  Christine is a Household Waste Recyling (HWR) Supervisor, working in a city.   Christine explains that she has learnt ‘as she’s gone along’ but also refers to her formal qualification in HWR, gained with support from her multinational employer within a training plan.

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Questions: Think of as many examples as possible of ‘greening’ our economy. What new skills are required for the ‘greening of jobs’? How does this affect your work?

4.   ICT (Information and Communications Technology): the expansion of the influence of ICT has been the a key development over the past 30 years and looks set to dominate labour market changes over the next 30 years, sometimes in combination with other technologies (like biotechnology or nanotechnology). ICT has resulted in huge changes in both processes and increasingly also in products and services. These are dramatically changing the worlds of work, employment and education. Children are growing up in a world that is permeated by technology and information. Social networking, virtual competency acquisition and multi-tasking are now a taken-for-granted- part of their development process. In parallel, new forms of employment emerge. Modern service delivery has become fundamentally IT-dependent. ICT has altered basic labour market mechanisms like the way employees are recruited or the way job seekers apply for a job.

Questions: Consider employers in your area and suggest ways in which they now recruit, using social media. How does this impact on your role? What implications does this have for those populations who typically have low employment participation? How have you helped address this?

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5.   Skills mis-match between labour demand and labour supply. A key labour market trend identified is the shift towards demand for highly skilled workers. In general, there is a rising demand for higher level occupations, requiring higher level qualifications (i.e. at degree level) and various types of generic skills. However, at the same time, there is a clear trend towards a growing number of lower level service jobs, like in hotels and catering, distribution and other areas. The changing patterns of employment by sector and occupation are therefore projected to lead to a job polarisation (i.e. job growth at both higher and lower-levels of the occupational spectrum, with the demand for many jobs in the medium-level occupational layer becoming thinner).

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However, some high skilled jobs will not be as well paid as in the past. Unemployment rates are growing and the prospect of a large-scale war for talent is looming as companies have to deal with a build-up of bottleneck vacancies and a shortage of job seekers with the required qualifications.

Questions: In your job, are skill mis-matches an important factor? What impact do they have on your work? How have you responded?

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6.   Youth unemployment could be linked more generally to low employment participation rates of some target groups that score less well in labour market statistics and are a cause for concern. The low-skilled, young people, people aged 55 and older, migrants, occupationally disabled persons, long-term unemployed, people in poverty and other disadvantaged groups, remain a structural problem. Without paid employment, many suffer from social exclusion, are relegated to the margins of society and suffer multiple disadvantages. In addition, a widening educational gap is evident, with investments in lifelong learning still low among these groups.

Questions: What groups of socially excluded claimants do you meet in your work? How does this impact on your job? How have your responded to the needs of these groups?

Additional material:

Video: Zygmunt Baumann – The Ambiance of Uncertainty (Europe, migrations and modernity).  The late Professor Baumann commenting, as a sociologist, on modernity and migrations in Europe.  He also briefly considers identity, which we are looking at in the next unit in this lesson.

Those of you working in the guidance field, particularly in Public Employment Services, might like to look at the following papers and videos which focus on the changing environment for PES

The way the labour market functions has a knock-on effect on the way Public Employment Services have to operate across Europe. A recent paper (EU, 2013) presents a common strategy for the future, which has been endorsed by all European Public Employment Services, while EC (2015) outlines the Europe 2020 strategy comprising the EU’s agenda for growth and jobs for the current decade.

EU (2013). ‘Public Employment Services’ Contribution to EU 2020. PES 2020 Strategy Output Paper‘. The Europe 2020 strategy outlines the EU’s agenda for growth and jobs for the current decade:

European Commission (2015). Europe 2020 Strategy.

European Commission (2012), Effective services for employers: forging partnerships for the future, Brussels, Author: Tina Weber. This paper outlines why PES need an effective employer engagement strategy. Note the European Network of Public Employment Services was established to compare PES performance through benchmarking; identify evidence-based good practices and foster mutual learning; promote the modernisation and strengthening of PES service delivery, including of the Youth Guarantee; and prepare inputs to the European Employment Strategy and the corresponding national labour market policies. Their PES knowledge centre contains further documentation on issues relevant to PES across Europe.

Additionally, the World Association of PES has also produced material on how public employment services are changing, including: videos on:

Public employment services and change management (WAPES 2012) and

The World of Public Employment Services – Presentation (2016). This presentation is accompanied by a book and other downloadable resources on “The World of Public Employment Services; the book“, edited by OECD, the IDB and WAPES. These resources highlight the challenges and opportunities facing PES and gives details of the activities of PES in 73 countries around the world.


Professional Perspective

Working Well With Others

Supporting Your Learning and Development

Six Key Drivers of Change

How Work Identities Change

Career Adaptability

Supporting your learning and development in a changing world of work

1.    Learning for personal development not just career progression 

Learning and development have become increasingly important in the changing world of work. You will know this from your own experience of employment, where organisations are having to deliver more for less.  In the public sector one focus is on delivering value for money.  In the private sector, the focus may be on keeping the business going in tough times.  Adapting to these changes may not always feel easy or comfortable but might be required of you. Your learning is often framed by the needs of the organisation and/or your own ideas for career progression.

However, career progression is not always the key influence in whether you learn. Your own personal development can act as a powerful motivator.  A ten country European study concluded that interest in learning was often driven by the desire for personal development rather than career progression, even where highly-skilled individuals were over-qualified for their current jobs (Brown & Bimrose 2012). Indeed, given the strong emphasis of many respondents on learning for personal development it may be that messages promoting learning for employability are less effective than those that primarily stress the importance of personal development, establishing personal networks and meeting new challenges. That is, career self-management messages could emphasise the immediate benefits of being a learner rather than where it leads in terms of employment, particularly if the opportunities available to an individual at that time are highly constrained (Brown et al., 2010; Brown & Bimrose 2012).

2.    Who we are and what we do – questions of learning and identity  

According to Warr (1987) we are most positive towards work when we have achieved emotional / affective well-being; are able to deal effectively with work tasks; exercise a degree of control over significant aspects of work; our aspirations are in line with broader work goals and a desire for improvement; and there is integrated functioning in that there is coherence between the personal and social elements of identity. Thus the development of identities at work goes hand in hand with the need for significant learning across a range of domains. We will discuss identities further in unit 4 of this lesson, but for the moment the focus is upon learning.

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Learning is individual but also contains a social dimension. An individual learns through interaction and communication with others. The process of learning at work though does not generate a single type of interaction. Rather learning takes place in contexts in which there may be multiple dimensions to the nature of the interactions: there may be a host of working and other relationships that have an influence upon the learning process.

Does anything in the above commentary resonate with your own experience or attitudes? 

Further reading on learning at work: 

References: Brown, A. & Bimrose, J. (2012). ‘Role of vocational training and learning at work in individual career development across the life-course: examples from across Europe’, in Beruflichkeit zwischen institutionellem Wandel und biographischem Projekt [Professionalism through institutional change and biographical projects], eds A Bolder, R Dobischat, G Kutscha &  G Reutter, Springer, Wiesbaden, pp. 167-188.

Brown, A., Bimrose, J., Barnes, S-A, Kirpal, S., Grønning, T. & Dæhlen M. (2010) Changing patterns of working, learning and career development across Europe, , Coventry: IER, University of Warwick. Available from:

Warr, P. (1987). Work, unemployment, and mental health. Clarendon Press, Oxford. If you find it difficult to access this work, here’s an alternative open access review: Waddell G. & A. Kim Burton (2006).  Is work good for your health and well-being? London: TSO.

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3.    Four dimensions of learning and identity development: Relational; Cognitive; Practical and Emotional

Learning and identity development can occur across four domains, namely: relational development; cognitive development; practical development; emotional development.  Learning may involve development in one or more domains and development in each domain can be achieved in a number of different ways.  Although these patterns can be found in all learners, how you learn is unique to you.  Knowing about these dimensions and how they work for you can help you learn more readily, or get you going afresh if you’re feeling stuck. Each is described below, together with some case examples drawn from our recent research.

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4.    Relational development – learning with and from interacting with other people

A major route for relational development is learning through interactions at work, learning with and from others (in multiple contexts) and learning as participation in communities of practice (and communities of interest) while working with others. Socialisation at work, peer learning and identity work all contribute to individuals’ relational development. Many processes of relational development occur alongside other activities but more complex relationships requiring the use of influencing skills, engaging people for particular purposes, supporting the learning of others and exercising supervision, management or (team) leadership responsibilities may benefit from support through explicit education, training or development activities.

Jack from the UK had switched career and now who worked as a carer. From the outset Jack learned much about his work from engaging with residents in the care home as well as learning from other staff. He had received letters from residents expressing their gratitude, which had boosted his confidence. His manager encouraged him to become a trainer in the care home, and although nervous and unsure he delivered the training and his self-efficacy increased.

Question: which have been the most effective ways you have learned about the importance of relationships in your work?     

5.    Cognitive development – acquiring knowledge and thinking skills

A major work-related route for cognitive development involves learning through mastery of an appropriate knowledge base and any subsequent technical updating. This form of development makes use of learning by acquisition and highlights the importance of subject or disciplinary knowledge and/or craft and technical knowledge, and it will be concerned with developing particular cognitive abilities, such as critical thinking; evaluating; synthesising etc.

Bernard, a Czech automotive worker, participated in a short internal company technical training programme which positively surprised him in terms of practical outcomes and motivated him to actively work on his vocational development. ‘You had to know your stuff, the trainer was extremely competent, he knew his field very well, but sometimes I had difficulties to follow him. Anyway, it was really done by professionals who knew their stuff, and I appreciated it very much. I was very satisfied. I learned lots of things that were later very useful for my work […] It was very interesting to meet people from a completely different and a rather specialised area. I learned a lot of things and I was proud of it. I think this was the moment that made me change my attitude towards learning. I became much more curious.’

Question: do you find that although the knowledge underpinning your practice is important, it can sometimes be hard to transfer that into your day to day work?   

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6.    Practical development – learning by doing, by experience, by taking on challenges

For practical development the major developmental route is often learning on the job, particularly learning through challenging work. Learning a practice is also about relationships, identity and cognitive development but there is value in drawing attention to this idea, even if conceptually it is a different order to the other forms of development highlighted in this representation of learning as a process of identity development. Practical development can encompass the importance of critical inquiry, innovation, new ideas, changing ways of working and (critical) reflection on practice. It may be facilitated by learning through experience, project work and/or by use of particular approaches to practice, such as planning and preparation, implementation (including problem-solving) and evaluation. The ultimate goal may be vocational mastery, with progressive inculcation into particular ways of thinking and practising, including acceptance of appropriate standards, ethics and values, and the development of particular skill sets and capabilities associated with developing expertise.

Davide, an Italian carpenter, saw learning as a practice-based process driven by curiosity, a spirit of observation, and trial and error. A major role was played by his passion for the transformation of matter, which he perceived as an almost sacred event: ‘It really struck me to see that from a piece of wood one can create a piece of furniture’.

Question: how do you keep up with the changing requirements of practice?

7.    Emotional development – making sense of your own feelings and how others feel 

For emotional development, the major developmental routes are learning through engagement,  reflexiveness that leads to greater self-understanding, and the development of particular personal qualities. Much emotional development may occur outside work, but the search for meaning in work, developing particular mind-sets, and mindfulness may be components of an individual’s emotional development. Particular avenues of development could include understanding the perspectives of others, respect for the views of others, empathy, anticipating the impact of your own words and actions, and a general reflexiveness, which includes exploring feelings. Identity development at work may also be influenced by changing ideas individuals have about their own well-being and changing definitions of career success (Brown & Bimrose 2014).

Henrik from Denmark switched career, moving into caring and developed a new relationship with his work, which he found much more emotionally engaging. While studying for his skilled worker qualification, Henrik immersed himself in individual assignments of his own choice. In one assignment, he developed a ‘product’ to help improve a pupil’s ability to communicate, an ability which was being lost due to a rare disease. When Henrik talked about the assignment he was very engaged and showed insight into the syndrome. Because the assignment was closely related to his experience and practice, he saw meaning in undertaking it: ‘It was as though there was a circle I could complete on my own.’ He received a top grade for the assignment, and it is evident that positive learning experiences and the perception of entering into learning processes that are meaningful to his life and work situation are strong motivating factors in his engagement in further learning.

Question: what have been the major influences on your own emotional development at work?  

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8.    Supporting the learning of others

Just as continuing with your own learning and development at work have become increasingly important, so has supporting the learning of others working with you.  One way a practitioner might support the learning of an individual with the process of identity development in response to the changing world of work is by helping them reflect upon their career story, develop a sense of career direction and a commitment to their learning, professional development and career adaptability (Savickas 2011).

Question: It might be helpful to examine what types of learning and development are required across the four domains in order for you to achieve your current goals.

References: Brown, A. & Bimrose, J. (2014). ‘Model of learning for career and labour market transitions’, Research in Comparative and International Education, vol. 9, no. 3, pp. 270-286.

Savickas, M. (2011). Career counselling, American Psychological Association, Washington, DC. Alternative introduction to Savickas’s ideas:  Savickas, M. (2012). Constructing Careers: Actors, Agents, and Authors.

9.    Learning as a process of identity development depends upon the value of ‘learning as becoming’ as a central idea for all those practitioners involved in delivery of career support, advice and guidance. This representation can help practitioners as well as clients consider the inter-relationships between their learning, careers and identities in their own career narratives and learning biographies.

Reference: ‘Re-framing Careers Work’ (2013) is a special edition of the British Journal of Guidance & Counselling. Selected articles include: Story telling; crafting identities, Career practitioners’ conceptions of social media in careers services, and How to be a good professional.  Check out one article at least, for the perspective it gives to your current identity.  For free access to the entire journal, click on this link.

10.    Differing roles in professional career practice, yet one common competence binding all together 

In this webinar Mulvey (2014) argues that professionalism is the common competence which binds the career workforce together, no matter what role is currently occupied (for more on the NICE roles see unit 1).

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She considers changes in: the purpose of career work; the operating context; the emerging roles and the competences needed to work effectively right now.  She challenges professionals to act on their individual learning needs.

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Can career professionals change social systems for the better?

Professional bodies normally require registered professionals to demonstrate ongoing development of their competence to practise. This is typically framed as continued or continuous professional development (CPD). It might be possible to use your learning in this MOOC as evidence of your CPD. You can join the International Association of Educational and Vocational Guidance (IAEVG) – they also publish a list of career professional associations by country.



Professional Perspective

Working Well With Others

Supporting Your Learning and Development

Six Key Drivers of Change

How Work Identities Change

Career Adaptability

Working well with others is becoming ever more important in work

1.    The world of work is changing but there are continuities too 

The world of work is always changing, but the speed, scale and implications of these changes affect us all either directly or indirectly. How is the changing world of work affecting the work you do and how you think about it? While there is change there may also be certain aspects of your work role and identity which have a long history. For example, the UK’s Public Employment Service (PES) [Department for Work and Pensions or DWP] is 100 years old. It opened on 12th December 1916 as the Ministry of Pensions and Ministry of Labour. DWP has traced a century of change through the stories of 3 front line professionals.  Use this link to see  historical moments that helped shape the department and some stories from those who were there.

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Many changes are evident, but note how in the commentary in the link above Work Coach Jan, who joined the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance in 1966, looks back on her career which stretches back fifty years:

“Throughout my career in DWP, it’s always been about the people. Working with colleagues, customers, and external partners, has always given me a huge amount of job satisfaction”  Jan

Some skills are important in many contexts and your role changes in step with other changes in your organisation. On the other hand, what happens when your career goes in one direction for a (long) while but then you need to change direction. The following video is obviously light-hearted but there is a serious point about what do you do if your circumstances change and your impressive skill set is not appreciated by prospective employers:

So, what do we know so far about how you fit into the changing world of work? First, it is a good idea to try to make sense of how the world of work is changing and what these changes might mean to you. Second, you should think about the type of skills you have and the extent to which they are in demand in the current labour market. Third, certain skills associated with working with, supporting the development of, or influencing others are important in many fields.


2.    Working well with others

Many of you will be professionals supporting people who are making various career decisions relating to employment, training and education. You may work in one of a range of agencies, with a wide variety of job roles and titles. Others of you may work in jobs where your work involves providing support for the development of others and/or you may wish to develop your own skills in coaching, mentoring, providing advice and guidance, collaboration, building partnerships etc.

One example drawn from PES is how both individuals and organisations are expected to ‘build bridges’ involving greater collaboration in service delivery, while staff are also expected to ‘conduct’ the work of others when they work with more partners, including employers. European PES are transforming into ‘work focused gateways to welfare systems’ (EU (2013) PES Strategy Output) and the practices of ‘bridging’ and ‘conducting’ are emphasised as new ways of working for PES professionals – see attached study material on this topic.

‘Building bridges’ involves collaboration in service delivery, while ‘conducting’ also involves working with employers and being more proactive:

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These illustrations are examples of how services and organisations are becoming increasingly inter-linked and more employees are required to have well-developed collaboration skills in their external facing roles. Hence, working directly with employers is becoming increasingly important for PES practitioners, who now need ‘influencing’ and ‘conducting’ skills. The World Association of Public Employment Service (WAPES 2012) highlights how employers should be regarded as important customers, or clients, of PES services.  It also highlights that services to jobseekers must become more individualised: ‘Change will always be with us: it affects how we organize our structures, our people, and how we support our clients. In order to remain one step ahead, employment services need to remain focused on their core service offer. The trend globally sees jobseekers getting more individualized coaching and employers demanding a more reliable skills supply pipeline that matches their needs’ (WAPES, 2012).

Staff are expected to develop their coaching skills as well as their influencing and conducting skills*. What is interesting here is that these changes are not just part of changes in public services, or even service industries more generally, they can be seen in manufacturing industry too. In the aerospace industry, change is so widespread, that manufacturing staff are paid more if they have skills ‘in supporting the learning of others’ in their work group. In major engineering companies project management now requires conducting and influencing skills too.   *We will be presenting ‘coaching and peer coaching’ in the next lesson.

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The case for greater partnership working in PES is made by Dulce Baptista (pictured below) from the International Development Bank (IDB) in the video which can be accessed from the following link:  The World of Public Employment Services – Presentation (2016)

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[a supporting publication from WAPES and IDB in cooperation with OECD (2016) can be downloaded from this link. Another key finding from the publication is that PES (and other guidance) staff need to focus on supporting clients’ skills development from a life-cycle perspective rather than simply getting them into work.]

3 How your role includes you in the career professional community of practice 

The Network for Innovation in Career Guidance & Counselling in Europe (NICE) is an open European network which offers training support for people who practise career guidance and counselling (career and employment practitioners).  For nearly a decade, the NICE network has drawn on expertise across 30 European countries, sharing good practice and demonstrating the importance of innovative training for effective career guidance work.  The NICE handbooks (Volumes 1 & 2) set out ‘common points of reference’ to promote co-operation and transparency across different roles and contexts. The diagram below illustrates the five professional roles of career practitioners.

Career practitioners can switch between these professional roles at work, sometimes combining them, sometimes focusing on a particular role.  So a career professional working with a client who is homeless may step into the role of social sytems intervenor.

Other professionals may find they adopt one of the roles for some parts of their work e.g a university lecturer who has responsibility for a student (as their personal tutor) may deliver some career education.  A Trades Union representative may step into career counselling and a keyworker with homeless people may need to give career information or run some assessment.

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Reference: Schiersmann, C., Einarsdóttir, S., Katsarov, J., Lerkkanen, J., Mulvey, R., Pouyaud, J., Pukelis, K. and Weber, P. (2016). Editors. European Competence Standards for the Academic Training of Career Professionals; NICE Handbook Volume 2. Berlin & Toronto: Barbara Budrich Publishers. Available from:

4.     Applying these ideas to your own setting

In the sections above we gave particular examples of how changes in the world of work are affecting public employment services (PES). Some of you may work in PES, but others may work in related or more distant fields. We welcome your contributions too. As well as sharing information on your professional role, your job title and your background in the discussion below, you may wish to say something about your work context. Your work identity is framed in particular geographical contexts and it would be useful to compare contextual differences with others: for example, variation in unemployment rates; openness of job offers (that is, whether they are advertised and the nature of the recruitment process); skill formation systems; and the extent to which they offer permanent or temporary employment; the importance attached to equality of opportunity and how this is promoted and/or safeguarded.

Another action you could take is to extend this conversation with others in your community of practice / your organisation / your country / online through Twitter      or LinkedIn.

Professional Perspective

Working Well With Others

Supporting Your Learning and Development

Six Key Drivers of Change

How Work Identities Change

Career Adaptability

The changing world of work from your professional perspective

Learning objective: to shape the current debate on the changing world of work and what that means in your practice. 

You’re aware of changes in the world of work. We show what we (along with Public Employment Service professionals) see as the key issues. Then it’s over to you!  Shape the debate, from your perspective on these changes and what they mean for you.

By the end of this lesson you will have: 

  • made sense of how the changing world of work is having an impact on your professional role
  • contributed to a community of professional practice which can support you as an individual
  • understood the benefits of dynamic interplay betwen individual and group learning