Spotlight on Super’s self-concept theory
Applying Super's theory of self-concept can help your clients at different stages of their career development.
Self-concept is the core of Super’s theory
The second career theory we’ll shine our spotlight on is Donald Super’s theory of how self-concept relates to career development. Our self-concept is created by our life and work experiences, abilities and personality.
Super thought who we are changes throughout life and this influences our long-term career decisions.
He also created the concept of career development stages. He first saw them as five stages of the lifecycle. But later they were used to understand a person’s experience at any stage of their career.
Super’s five life stages:
- Growth (birth to age 14): You develop a self-concept, become aware of your future goals, or think about changing your career.
- Exploration (ages 15 to 24): You find the right career through courses, work experience and hobbies. You may develop and plan a career goal and complete relevant training.
- Establishment (ages 25 to 44): You secure a job in your chosen field and develop skills, build relationships with co-workers, and look for chances to advance your career.
- Maintenance (ages 45 to 64): You adjust and update your skills.
- Decline (ages 65 and up): You may start planning retirement, or you may be losing energy or interest in a job and getting ready to change your career.
Use Super’s theory to help clients at all stages of their careers
Clients starting a career
You can help clients who are uncertain about their first role or want to return to work by:
- encouraging them to be curious and explore different hobbies and work experience
- helping them find information about areas of work they’re interested in
- getting them to look at training options, including bridging, free or short courses
- supporting them with their decision making
- building their confidence for interviews, for example, by showing them informational interviewing skills
- emphasising how personal skills are useful on their CV
- showing them opportunities to learn from role models, for example, through job shadowing.
Clients who need a new challenge
Encourage clients who feel stuck in their job to have a career discussion with their manager. Suggest they:
- explore options in their current workplace, such as moving into another area within the organisation
- find ways to update or broaden their skills.
Clients who want to change careers
For some clients, their self-concept may have changed to the point where they no longer feel connected to their work. You can help these clients toward a change of career by:
- helping them understand that career change is a normal part of career development
- explaining how they’re at the decline stage of Super’s cycle and returning to the beginning of the cycle
- encouraging them to explore new career ideas, identify other interests, or take courses to develop new skills.
Find out more
- Super’s theory
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- Flynn, A, ‘Super’s Theory of Career Development’, accessed August 2019, (woman.the nest.com).
- Super’s Career Development Theory’, accessed July 2019, (career.iresearchnet.com).
Updated 3 Oct 2019