Anxiety, Career Choice and Aptitudes! PART II


Career after collegeThis blog post covers part II of an article published by Dr. Tavantzis in the Highlands Ability Battery newsletter.  The article deals with career anxiety of ‘quarter-lifers’, young adults who are just beginning their work life….


Young Adulthood

During this stage, Donald Super – and most career theorists would agree —
considers that the most significant developmental task is Establishment. Young adults go through a series of “trial” jobs (Exploration Stage), before establishing themselves in what seems a stable career. On both sides of the Establishment stage they meet with a series of crises when they are forced to find answers to the basic questions life poses. At each crisis or turning point, life poses the same essential questions to each of us, and we have to find new answers as we outgrow our last ones. The questions are:

1.    How can I best contribute or be productive?
2.    How do I find satisfaction and, yes, even passion in my work?
3.    How do I balance work and love (my intimate relationships)?

This process of establishing oneself is the primary task associated with young adulthood. Once stabilized, Consolidation and Advancement become the next developmental tasks.

In this stage you are faced with the consequences of entering and completing college. You have been in two worlds (high school and college) populated primarily by your peers, and you are suddenly launched to a place where you need to find meaningful work. At the same time, you face hearing the voices of your parents, and seeing your own family going through changes. You may even understand that they have not stood, frozen in time, while you were in college during those 4 (or was it 5) years! And in the midst of all this, you still need to focus on becoming your own person, the main event in your life. To become your own person, you need to continue acquiring self-knowledge. However, while the basic issues are the same today perhaps what has changed most is the length of time of this stage, as well as its character!

Key Themes Impacting Young Adults
Some key themes that reflect the lengthening and complexity of this life phase emerge from our research (see Transition to Adulthood, Spring 2010). They are:

    Need for higher education
    Life expectancy expanding
    Financially greater challenges in establishing oneself
    Cultural change in attitudes towards sex
    Greater focus on personal development and maturity

All these result in the need of young adults for more ongoing support from their parents to help them launch their careers successfully. The old markers of 18 or 21 years of age are now meaningless. The notice we used to hear from parents (hopefully no longer) “once you are 21 you are on your own” no longer makes sense. The period we are in now in resembles more the pre-industrial world in which independence was acquired over a longer period of time, and within the confines of the supportive family of origin.

“Changes in the coming-of-age schedule are, in fact, nothing new. A century or more ago, the transition to adulthood was also a protracted affair. In an agriculture-based economy, it took many young adults some time to gain the wherewithal to leave home and form a family… Today young adults take far longer to reach economic and social maturity than their contemporaries did five or six decades ago. In large part, this shift is attributable to the expansion of higher education beginning in the late 1960s.”(Furstenberg, 2010).

Unfortunately, as Furstenberg (2010) and others point out, societal supports for these changes are non-existent.  Mass media recognized the gap and came up with pejorative labels that made it seem that we were experiencing a breakdown in personal character, calling young adults who return home ‘boomerangers’ and parents who intervening in the college or work life of their children ‘helicopter’ parents.  What is often not addressed is that young adults in their senior high school years are continuing to make decisions with little basic information (Career Institute for Education and Workforce Development, 2002), or that “too few depart high school with the agility, self-reliance, critical-thinking…needed to adapt in the future” (Feller, 2003). From our personal experience and conversations with students ‘things don’t get much better in college’.