For most of us, getting a job is not enough; we would also like to move up the ladder. Promotion is a measure of how well one is doing in one’s career. How quickly occupational advancement occurs (or does not) may lead to such labels as “fast-tracker” or “dead-ender” (Kanter, 1976). Barack Obama, shown here being inaugurated as the president at age 47, is an example of a fast-tracker. People who want to advance learn quickly how long to stay at one level and how to seize opportunities as they occur; others soon learn the frustration of remaining in the same job, with no chance for promotion.
How a person advances in a career seems to depend on professional socialization, which includes several factors besides those that are important in choosing an occupation. Among these are expectations, support from co-workers, priorities, and job satisfaction. Before we consider these aspects, we will look at a general scheme of occupational development.
Super’s Theory Over four decades, Super (1957, 1980) developed a theory of occupational development based on self-concept. He proposed a progression through five distinct stages during adulthood, resulting from changes in individuals’ self-concept and adaptation to an occupational role: implementation, establishment, maintenance, deceleration, and retirement. People are located along a continuum of
Work, Leisure, and Retirement 453
vocational maturity through their working years; the more congruent their occupational behaviors are with what is expected of them at different ages, the more vocationally mature they are.
Implementation Establishment ^
Maintenance Deceleration ^ Retirement
The initial two phases of Super’s theory, crystallization (identity development as a source of career ideas) and specification (focusing on and training in specific lines of work), occur primarily during adolescence, and the first adulthood phase has its origins then as well. Each of the stages in adulthood has distinctive characteristics:
• The implementation stage begins in late adolescence or the early 20s, when people take a series of temporary jobs to learn firsthand about work roles and to try out some possible career choices.
• The establishment stage begins with selecting a specific occupation during young adulthood. It continues as the person advances up the career ladder in the same occupation.
• The maintenance stage is a transition phase during middle age; as workers maximize their efficiency,
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they begin to reduce the amount of time they spend fulfilling work roles.
• The deceleration stage begins as workers begin planning in earnest for their upcoming retirement and separating themselves from their work.
• The retirement stage begins when people stop working full time.
In Super’s framework, people’s occupations evolve in response to changes in their self-concept (Salomone, 1996). Consequently, this is a developmental process that reflects and explains important life changes (Jepsen & Dickson, 2003). This process sheds a developmental light on Holland’s ideas. Investigative and enterprising people are likely to come from more affluent families, in which the parents tend not to have investigative or enterprising occupations. Interestingly, initial occupational goals were not as important for social types as for the other two; social types appeared more flexible in eventual occupational choice.
However, a shortcoming of Super’s theory is that the progression assumes that once people choose an occupation, they stay in it for the rest of their
working lives. Although this may have been true for some employees in the past, it is not the case for most North American workers today (Cascio,
1995) . The downsizing of public and private organizations since the late 1980s has all but eliminated the notion of lifetime job security with a particular employer. It remains to be seen whether new developmental stages will be found to underlie the new occupational reality.
Occupational Expectations. People have expectations regarding what they want to become and when they hope to get there. Levinson and his colleagues (1978) built these expectations into their theory of adult male development, which was later extended to women (Levinson & Levinson, 1996). Based on findings from the original longitudinal study begun in the 1940s on men attending an elite private college, Levinson and his colleagues (1978) found considerable similarity among the participants in terms of major life tasks during adulthood. Forming a dream, with one’s career playing a prominent role, is one of the young adult’s chief tasks.
Throughout adulthood, people continue to refine and update their occupational expectations. This usually involves trying to achieve the dream, monitoring progress toward it, and changing or even abandoning it as necessary. For some, modifying the dream comes as a result of realizing that interests have changed or that the dream was not a good fit. In other cases, failure leads to changing the dream—for example, dropping a business major because one is failing economics courses. Other causes are age, racial, or sexual discrimination, lack of opportunity, obsolescence of skills, and changing interests. In some cases, one’s initial occupational choice may simply have been unrealistic. For example, nearly half of all young adults would like to become professionals (such as lawyers or physicians), but only one person in seven actually makes it (Cosby, 1974). Some goal modification is essential from time to time, but it usually surprises us to realize we could have been wrong about what seemed to be a logical choice in the past. As Marie, a 38-year – old advertising manager, put it, “I really thought I wanted to be a pilot; the travel sounded really interesting. But it just wasn’t what I expected.”
Perhaps the rudest jolt for most of us first comes during the transition from school to the real world. Reality shock, or the realization that the real world does not work like it says in the book, sets in, and things never seem to happen the way we expect. Reality shock befalls everyone, from the young worker to the accountant who learns that the financial forecast that took days to prepare may simply end up in a file cabinet (or, worse yet, in the wastebasket) (Van Maanen & Schein, 1977). The visionary aspects of the dream may not disappear altogether, but a good dose of reality goes a long way toward bringing a person down to earth. Such feedback comes to play an increasingly important role in a person’s occupational development and self-concept. For example, the woman who thought that she would receive the same rewards as her male counterparts for comparable work is likely to become increasingly angry and disillusioned when her successes result in smaller raises and fewer promotions.
The Role of Mentors. Imagine how hard it would be to figure out everything you needed to know in a new job with no support from the people around you. Entering an occupation involves more than the relatively short formal training a person receives. Indeed, much of the most critical information is not taught in training seminars. Instead, most people are shown the ropes by co-workers. In many cases, an older, more experienced person makes a specific effort to do this, taking on the role of a mentor. Although mentors by no means provide the only source of guidance in the workplace, they have been studied fairly closely.
A mentor is part teacher, part sponsor, part model, and part counselor (Heimann & Pittinger, 1996). The mentor helps a young worker avoid trouble (“Beware of what you say around Bentley”). He or she also provides invaluable information about the unwritten rules that govern day-to-day activities in the workplace (not working too fast on the assembly line, wearing the right clothes, and so on) (Leibold & Voelpel, 2006; Levinson & Levinson, 1996). As part of the relationship, a mentor makes sure that his or her protege is noticed and receives credit for good work from supervisors. Thus, occupational success
Work, Leisure, and Retirement 455 often depends on the quality of the mentor-protege relationship. The mentor fulfills two main functions: improving the protege’s chances for advancement and promoting his or her psychological and social well-being (Eby & McManus, 2002; Kram, 1980, 1985; Linnehan, 2001; Noe, 1987).
Playing the role of a mentor is also a developmental phase in one’s occupation. Helping a younger employee learn the job fulfills aspects of Erikson’s (1982) phase of generativity. In particular, the mentor is making sure that there is some continuity in the field by passing on the accumulated knowledge and experience he or she has gained by being in it for a while. This function of the mentor is part of middle-aged adults’ attempts at ensuring the continuity of society and accomplishing or producing something worthwhile (Erikson, 1982). In this sense, mentoring is clearly an example of intergenerational exchange in the workplace.
The mentor-protege relationship develops over time. Based on her in-depth study, Kram (1985) proposes a four-stage sequence. The first stage, initiation, constitutes the 6- to 12-month period during which the protege selects a mentor and they begin to develop their relationship. The second stage, cultivation, lasts from 2 to 5 years and is the most active phase of the mentoring relationship. This is the period when the mentor provides considerable occupational assistance and serves as a confidant. The third stage, separation, is the most difficult. It begins when the protege receives a promotion, often to the level of the mentor. The protege must emerge from the protection of the mentor to demonstrate his or her own competence. Both parties experience feelings of loneliness and separation. The final period is redefinition. In this period the protege and mentor reestablish their relationship but with a new set of rules based more on friendship between peers. Research supports this description of the developmental process, as well as the benefits of having a mentor (Allen et al., 2004; Chao, 1997; Lankau & Scandura, 2002; Raabe & Beehr, 2003; Seibert, 1999).
Some authors suggest that women have a greater need for a mentor than men do because they receive less socialization in the skills necessary to do well in the workplace (Busch, 1985). Women with mentors
456 CHAPTER 12 also have higher expectations about career advancement opportunities (Baugh, Lankau, & Scandura,
1996) . However, women seem to have a more difficult time finding adequate mentors; some evidence suggests that only one-third of professional women find mentors as young adults (Kittrell, 1998) and have more difficulty in establishing mentoring relationships with male colleagues (Welle & Heilman, 2007). One reason is that there are few female role models, such as the one shown in the photo, who could serve a mentoring function, especially in upper-level management. This is unfortunate, especially in view of evidence that women who have female mentors are significantly more productive than women with male mentors (Goldstein, 1979). Although many young women report that they would feel comfortable with a male mentor (Olian et al., 1988), researchers note that male
Mentor-mentee relationships cut across all ages.
mentor-female protege relationships may involve conflict and tension resulting from possible sexual overtones, even when there has been no overtly sexual behavior on anyone’s part (Kram, 1985; Welle & Heilman, 2007). Finally, male and female mentors differ in their approach. Whereas male mentors provide more career mentoring, female mentors provide more psychosocial mentoring (Allen & Ebby, 2004).