A career planning and employment resource for people who are blind or partially sighted

The Career Development Process

Children and youth progress through a career development process as they mature. It consists of four stages: Career Awareness, Career Exploration, Career Preparation, and Career Placement. Adults also continue to grow and develop in their careers as they age, albeit at a slower rate than children.  Adults usually enter the final development process (the career placement stage) in the latter stages of their secondary or post-secondary educational experiences. They then gradually progress through an additional two stages: Career Maintenance and Career Mentoring.

However, adults who acquire a disability (e.g. adventitiously blinded adults) may need to cycle back through some of the stages of the career development process. This is because they initially progressed through the process as fully sighted people and may have many of the same misperceptions as the general public about what a person can do with limited or no sight.

Following the acquisition of disability-specific skills, it’s important for adults who lose vision to re-assess themselves in terms of the career development process. They will need time, in much the same way that children and adolescents need time, to move through the six stages. The difference is that adventitiously blinded adults will not need as much time to go through the first four stages of the process as children do.

The six stages of the Career Development Process: 

  1. Career Awareness
    Children experience the career awareness stage as they learn about themselves and what they enjoy doing (interests), what they can do particularly well (abilities), and learn what’s important to them (values or beliefs).

    It’s during the career awareness stage that children also learn about the world of work: what jobs are available in the community, what jobs their parents and other significant adults in their lives are doing, and what tasks are inherent to these different types of jobs. For children who are blind or partially sighted, it’s important to let them explore tools, materials, and activities associated with domestic chores and to give them responsibilities when they are old enough to do tasks around the house.

    It’s also important to describe what others are doing outside of their visual or tactual range – what tasks they are performing, what they are wearing, what tools they are using, etc.  – so that they can learn about jobs and job tasks though this kind of casual or "incidental" exposure.
  2. Career Exploration
    The next stage is career exploration and this is when children begin to investigate the careers that are of interest to them. They learn the skills that are required and how to develop their knowledge, skills, and abilities to enter career fields that appeal to them.

    They read biographies or autobiographies of famous people and learn about their careers, watch movies or television shows with characters performing in different jobs, observe adults doing things that they’d like to be doing (e.g., performing music or competing in athletics), and  ask adults questions about jobs of interest and the careers associated with them. During the career exploration stage, children are trying to sort the roles they see adults playing and determine which of those roles might suit them.

    This is the time that they explore their talents and determine how others are using similar skills and abilities in careers. It’s important that children actively engage in community-based functions such as field trips or “take your child to work” days to encourage them to investigate topics and tasks related to career opportunities. They need to attend performances in areas of interest, participate in recitals and competitions, or join teams to see how their performance compares to their same-aged peers.
  3. Career Preparation
    In the career preparation stage, children and youth gather the knowledge they will need to perform in their careers, including the basic literacy skills necessary to function in modern society and work successfully in an information age. In addition, they continue to refine their basic work competencies such as learning different organizational techniques and expected work behaviours such as following instructions.

    During the career preparation stage, they also refine their skills and abilities through participation in school and community activities; as well as, at home with chores as they assume more and more responsibility with age.

    All children have areas of innate ability. It’s during the career preparation stage that they determine which of their natural abilities or talents they want to strengthen through practice and training to a point that they can compete with others whose talents are comparable. It’s during this stage that adolescents decide whether to prepare for further academic training following their secondary school programs, pursue vocational skills training, or go to work.

    Through engagement at school, chores at home and activities in the community, such as volunteer experiences, youth develop skills that will transfer to future work environments and prepare them for their careers.
  4. Career Placement
    Career placement is the stage that is most often experienced during late adolescence and early adulthood, when young adults land their first job outside of their homes for pay. They typically work at a variety of jobs, “trying them on for size”. It’s through placement into jobs that young people learn what employers expect of them, how to be responsible and contributing members of society, as well as the value of doing work for remuneration (whether it’s money or the more subtle benefits received through apprenticing such as skill development and gaining experience). 
    They also have the opportunity through such engagement to secure references from people outside of their immediate families who can vouch for their ability to perform on a job. This access to prospective references is a critical factor for youth with disabilities as employers tend to pay more attention to references from other employers than to those received from friends and family.
  5. Career Maintenance
    The career maintenance stage follows the successful landing of a job. During this stage, the worker settles into a pattern, becoming comfortable with job duties and co-workers and finding a balance between work and play. Adults who successfully manage their careers typically map out where they’d like to be over time and strive to achieve those goals.

    The skills required to maintain employment are largely social (learning to get along with co-workers, customers or clients) and, to a lesser degree, vocational (learning the knowledge and work-related skills to perform well and consistently meet productivity standards). Learning social skills is critical for individuals because if their co-workers, customers or clients like them, they will help them keep their jobs – if they don’t, they will work against them, either overtly or covertly, and maintaining employment will be a challenge.

    While adults may change jobs a number of times over the course of their working lives, it’s imperative that those changes be as positive as possible (moving to a new job because of an improved opportunity, a chance to assume more responsibility, or relocating to a new community). To maintain a career, it’s important to consider how jobs people have had and are doing relate to their overall career objectives and goals.

    If an individual’s job doesn’t connect to their long-term career goals, it’s like starting over with each move to a new job. If individuals must re-career due to downsizing or an injury or illness, they need to be prepared to discuss how the work they’ve performed previously has transferability to their new career goals.
  6. Career Mentoring
    When adults near the end of their working lives, they often have the opportunity to mentor other workers and guide them in their career development process. This career mentoring stage can occur while an individual is still working or following retirement. The career mentoring stage is a time to prepare young people or people new to employment to the expectations and demands of a career field.

    It’s in the career mentoring stage where mature workers have an opportunity to share what they’ve learned that has enabled them to be successful in their jobs and set the stage for others to follow suit. Career mentoring may be thought of as succession planning: current workers teach those who will take their positions in the future.​​​​​​

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