Why is Work and Career so Important in our lives?

//Why is Work and Career so Important in our lives?

Why is Work and Career so Important in our lives?

The development of a professional identity is crucial, as researchers have found that it signifies life contentment and happiness. Likewise, Sigmund Freud identified work and love to be the two powerful methods humans employ in order to gain happiness and keep suffering at bay (Freud, 1930/1989, p 732).

In a similar fashion, Erikson (1950/1963 as cited in Broderick & Blewitt, 2015) stressed that intimacy (love) and generativity (work) are the domains where individuals can enjoy self- expression and develop their sense of self, especially in early and middle adulthood. Yet, the task of choosing one’s profession can be a challenging and multifaceted process that entails matching the individual characteristics, his personal aspirations and the demands of a certain job.

Researchers have been trying to identify the key factors to a successful professional and career launch in order to help young people during this challenging phase. They have found that a strong sense of identity and self-knowledge play a key role in making good career choices (Broderick & Blewitt, 2015).

Additionally, Andreas Hirschi (2012) studied the possibility that the relationship of ‘calling’ to work engagement is mediated by work meaningfulness, occupational identity, and occupational self-efficacy. Hirschi concluded that callings have positive outcomes because they provide a sense of meaningfulness and identity at work while they allow people to more often experience work engagement, dedication, and absorption.

Callings are defined as a consuming, meaningful passion for a particular domain (Bunderson & Thomson, 2009 as cited in Hirschi, 2012) and guide a person to view his profession as his purpose in life (Hall & Chandler, 2005 as cited in Hirschi, 2012). Moreover, Dik & Duffy (2009 as cited in Hirschi, 2012) stressed that people with a sense of calling in their careers experience a deep sense of meaning, dedication, and personal involvement in their work. Therefore, identifying one’s true calling in life is a crucial factor in work satisfaction that will lead to life satisfaction and highly functioning, content individuals.

Two Theories of Career Development

I will examine Holland’s theory of personality development as well as Super’s theoretical developmental approach and attempt to identify the contributing factors in a meaningful professional life. Holland (1985, 1997 as cited in Broderick & Blewitt, 2015) argued that a person’s happiness is closely linked to the fit of his personality traits and his work. He stressed that during early adulthood individuals develop a modal personality orientation; a personal and preferred style or approach for dealing with social and environmental tasks. Holland suggested that most people could be categorized as having one of six modal orientations that can be part of the individual’s personality.

The six modal orientations are: realistic, investigative, artistic, social, enterprising, and conventional.

He explained that a job or career demands certain personality traits that should be compatible with one or more of these interactive styles in order to achieve professional success and happiness. Furthermore, Holland argued that each type of modal orientation is also a type of vocational environment. A good example of a successful match is an individual with the ‘social’ personal orientation type who is likely to be sociable, friendly, cooperative, kind, and understanding and chooses the profession of a counselor or social worker. Additionally, Holland and his colleagues claimed that neither individuals nor environments fall neatly into only one ‘type’ but have one most characteristic style, a second characteristic style and a third one. In order to illustrate this trend, they developed a coding system that consists of three letters, which correspond to the three most prominent characteristic styles. Holland argued that employers could increase their employees’ job satisfaction through job crafting where they increase the job fit by modifying job content, job aspects and proactively seeking feedback.

Likewise, Super (1972, 1984, 1990 as cited in Broderick & Blewitt, 2015) is agreeable with Holland’s conclusion that job satisfaction is most likely when an individual’s personality traits are well matched with his/her profession. However, Super focuses more on the developmental processes that determine both the emergence of one’s vocational self-concept and various factors that affect job selection throughout the lifespan. Super argued that vocational self-concept is part of one”s total identity and constructs the notion of which qualities of self would be a good fit for the job requirements.

Two things define vocational self-concept: a person’s view of his personal and psychological traits and his personal assessment of his life circumstances (i.e. opportunities created by economic conditions, his socioeconomic status, his family and friends network). Super viewed vocational self-concept as evolving through various life stages; starting in early childhood in the growth stage (0-14 years old) where children are developing elements of identity (ideas, attitudes, interests) that will formulate their vocational self-concept later on in life.

He argued that during the exploratory stage from young adulthood up to 24 years old, vocational self-concept is shaped but career choices are not finalized yet. General vocational goals are defined in the earlier phase of the exploratory stage (crystallization), gradually progressing to the specification of more concrete vocational ideas (specification), and finally to the completion of education and entry to the workforce (implementation). Super suggested that during the establishment stage (25 to 44 years old) work experience provides the platform on which the matching of vocational self-concept is tested that can lead to a reevaluation process or to confirmation until the self-concept is finally established (stabilization). During the next phase-the maintenance stage (45 to 64 years old), individuals make adjustments to improve their professional performance, which can lead to higher status and seniority (consolidation). However, Super and Overstreet (1960) argued that individuals could go through additional stages of crystallization, specification, implementation, and stabilization when their life situation changes (i.e. loss of job, financial crisis, divorce).

The Meaning the Counseling Profession Has Added to My Life

My calling as described by Hirshi (2012) was evident to me when I was nine years old and received counseling to treat my fear of darkness that led me to the realization that I wanted to become a counselor. The idea of helping people achieve higher levels of happiness, contentment and functionality was filling me with excitement and anticipation. According to Holland’s developmental theory, my primary personal orientation type is ‘social’, which fitted perfectly with the helping and social nature of the counseling profession. I believe that my secondarily personal orientation type is ‘analytical’ and the third is ‘enterprising’. The analytical personality trait allows me to be analytical, cautious, critical, curious, independent, and intellectual; traits that enhance the analytical and intellectual orientation of counseling. Additionally, my enterprising trait gives me the qualities of being adventurous, ambitious, energetic, enthusiastic, optimistic, self-confident, and resourceful; that are necessary in interactive professions where I need to be confident and optimistic when my clients are struggling or have lost hope.

Additionally, I believe that the successful matching of my personality traits with the nature of my profession have contributed significantly in feeling content with my life as well as in the formulation of a strong vocational self-concept that Super described. I was lucky to personally experience the positive nature of counseling when I was young while I must have been self-aware enough to realize that my personality traits would match the demands of the counseling profession. My work with people gives me the opportunity to express my social personality traits and fulfill my life purpose of helping and supporting people in need. This powerful combination makes me feel that my work impacts people’s lives, which I find significantly rewarding and adds meaning to my life.


Broderick, P., C., & Blewitt, P. (2015). The life span: Human development for helping professionals. New Jersey: Pearson.

Hirschi, A. (2012). Callings of work engagement: Moderated mediation model of work meaningfulness, occupational identity, and occupational self-efficacy. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 59(3), 479-485.

By |August 23rd, 2016|Work|0 Comments

© Maria Micha. All Rights Reserved. All articles and content belong to Maria Micha and may not be reproduced or used without express permission.

About the Author:

Becoming a psychotherapist was a decision I made early on in life during my late childhood years. It was almost as if I did not have a choice. My true interest in the emotional wellbeing of the people in my environment and my motivation to assist them find solutions to significant life issues, combined with the overwhelming feeling of satisfaction when people found inner peace, made my studies in psychology a necessity.

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