What is a Career?

Career-Related Questions and Answers
Resource: Phifer, P. (2003) College Majors and Careers, Fifth Edition. New York, NY: Ferguson Publication. 

What does the word "career" mean? 
For many people, career means the part of life that is concerned with employment.  From an occupational standpoint, it means the sum total of the various jobs you may hold during your lifetime. However, these definitions do not fully capture the meaning of career. We would like you to think of career in a broader, more life-encompassing way. Think of the decisions you make about a job or a college major as valuable components of a lifelong process. When viewed in this manner, career can be defined as the sum total of decisions that direct your educational, social, economic, political, and spiritual endeavors and reflect your unique personality characteristics and basic life values.  

What is career decision making?
You can best understand good decision making by first defining the term decision. A decision can be defined as the act of choosing. A decision, whether you are aware of it or not, is a response to a question, concern, or problem. Appropriate career decisions can be further defined as the ongoing lifelong process of making choices that complement your personal attributes and help you to realize your basic life values. Indeed, a career decision should be made with great care, for they will significantly influence your direction, personal satisfaction, and fulfillment in life.  

Is career development different for an older adult than for a younger person? 
While the basics of career development (self-assessment, decision-making, occupational awareness, exploration, and implementation) are the same regardless of age, variations in maturity and life experiences necessitate different approaches. Some career specialists believe that most adults, like children and young people, go through a number of developmental stages. Consequently, they consider the life stage of a person before selecting a counseling strategy. 

What is career success?
Career success really depends on the individual. For some, career success is measured by financial and material accumulation. Others base career success on recognition and popularity. Still others believe that real career success comes only through helping others or making a contribution to society.  

Career success can come when you achieve inner satisfaction through the continuing realization of the following:

  • Your deepest and most cherished life values in every major endeavor (i.e., home, work, school, and leisure)
  • Your opportunity and inspiration to use and develop current and desired skills
  • Your excitement about past, current, and future achievements