The Age and Stage Career Myth: Find Career Wellbeing using the 7 Season's of Life Model

mindset Jun 19, 2023

Rethinking Career Development: Move Beyond the Age and Stage Model to Find Career Wellbeing and Personal Wellbeing. 

It's time to rethinking career development and to move beyond age and stage model. Not alone has the research in this area been disproven, it is no longer helpful in our quest to find career wellbeing. Reset your relationship with your career and your personal wellbeing as you read this article...

Levinson's Age & Stage Model

We have extensive knowledge of and are familiar with the stages of development from birth to early adulthood. In many ways, we have a roadmap that helps us understand the various ages and stages of development up until the end of our teenage years. For example, based on our age the academic school year, provide a predictable ebb and flow of change year on year. However, we have still much to learn about our psychological growth and development beyond childhood. Social psychologist Daniel Levinson identified this gap in our knowledge in the 1970s. Based on his research, he proposed a model of adult male development, distinguishing between stable and transitional phases in adulthood. Stable phases involve men making crucial life choices, using those choices as the foundation to build their lives upon, and working towards personal and professional goals. These stable phases are characterised by structure and purpose. On the other hand, transitional periods represent the time it takes to transition from one stage to another.

Levinson's model is likely familiar to you. In your 20s, you make decisions about your life, career, and important relationships, establishing a foundation for your future. Based on the roadmap designed during your 20’s, your 30s are dedicated to building your personal and professional life based on those choices while you prioritise security, stability, and building expertise. Levinson referred to this phase as the ‘BOOM’ or ‘Becoming One's Own Man’ phase.

As you enter your 40s, you may experience a mid-life crisis, characterized by a struggle with authority and a yearning for independence. This crisis often leads to a breaking-out phase, which can bring either positive change or additional challenges. These experiences tend to shape the following decades until your 60s, which Levinson views as a phase of decline as retirement and the end-of-life approach.

Limitations of the Age and Stage Model

Levinson's seminal work, 'The Seasons of Man's Life,' gained popularity despite its narrow focus on white cisgender college-educated men. This approach disregards the experiences of most of the the world's population, including women and individuals from diverse backgrounds. As it does, it perpetuates a skewed understanding of work and careers, one that fails to consider the diverse range of identities, cultures, and backgrounds that exist and co-exist in our modern world.

Embracing an Inclusive Perspective: A New Approach

The age and stage model overlooks the ambiguity, uncertainty, and dynamic nature of careers. Instead of adhering to its rigid notions of specific seasons, it is possible to embrace a more dynamic and evolving career narrative. This perspective recognises the constant growth, learning, and adaptation that occurs throughout our professional and personal journeys. It allows for a more nuanced understanding of career development and supports individuals to navigate their own unique paths across, between and within each season.

Factors Shaping Career Experiences

To achieve this, even if we don’t necessarily like it, we must acknowledge that our careers experiences are shaped by broader societal structures, biases, and cultural norms. Factors such as gender, race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic background significantly impact career opportunities, agency, advancement, and access to resources.

The Evolving World of Work: Navigating Uncertainty

The age and stage model's linear trajectory and mid-life crisis concept have led to misconceptions about career development. It disregards the unique challenges and experiences faced by individuals who do not conform to this narrow framework. Every individual's career and life experiences are influenced by multiple factors, including gender, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic background, sexuality, family status, and political beliefs. Embracing a more inclusive perspective that reflects the diversity of human experiences is crucial not only for understanding the complexities of career well-being but also for fostering sustainable careers and ensuring personal success in equitable and supportive environments.

Introducing an Alternative Seasons Approach

Acknowledging the limitations of the age and stage model, we propose a new framework for career development. The 7 Seasons of Life Approach recognises the diverse experiences of individuals and provides a more inclusive perspective. These seasons reflect different the different seasons people experience across the course of their career, as they attempt to live life while making a living.

Since, every individual career experience is unique this Seasons of Life Framework suggests that people are likely to pass within, across, between or through a season at any time in life, and may in fact exist between two or more seasons at any stage.  The Seasons of Life in this context attempts to give language to the human experience of living life while making a living, all the while trying to protect your career wellbeing and personal wellbeing.

The 7 Seasons of Life (And Career)

Season of Pause: Taking a break and finding breathing space to prioritise career well-being as you achieve a healthier and better blend between work and life.

Season of Play: Focusing on exploration, building subject matter expertise, and engaging in activities that bring joy and fulfilment.

Season of Progress: Emphasises growth, goal setting, and acquiring the necessary knowledge and skills for career advancement.

Season of Survival: Navigating challenges, adapting to external circumstances, and seeking support to overcome obstacles.

Season of Explore: Curiosity-driven research, self-reflection led, while considering alternative career paths.

Season of Reject: Embracing change by leaving current roles or industries and seeking new opportunities.

Season of Liminality: A period of transition, self-reflection, and decision-making when individuals navigate in the space that exists within, between, and across seasons.

Gentle Reminder

Remember, this is not about choosing or defining, it is about supporting you to find the language you need to design your own version of success during this season of your life. This refers to your whole life, not just one aspect of it. Your career wellbeing is one part of your overall wellbeing and your identity, and while it forms the core of your sustainable career, it does not define you.

You will pass through, within, between and simply exist in some seasons. On the other hand, you will thrive, flourish and progress in others. The key to both experiences is to know that you are developing in your career, that no choice, no season, and no decision is the wrong one.

As you do, be kind to yourself and activate your Permission Mindset…trust me you won’t be disappointed…

If you would like to find out more about The Seasons of Life you can read my book Total Reset: How to quit living to work and start working to live.





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