Last week, we provided an overview on a relevant career development theory. Now that you have an understanding of Super’s Life-Span/Life-Space Theory, let’s take a moment to further explore its applicability to real life. We often see individuals dealing with a variety of issues that relate to this theory, including the following:
- Many fellows have been intensely focused on their role as a “student” or a “trainee” and have a difficult time seeing how their skills and professional identity can transfer to a new role.
- After a PhD and postdoc, more roles often get added and intensified, sometimes so rapidly that an individual doesn’t recognize that their values around these roles are changing.
- Even if they do recognize that their values and priorities are changing, they don’t always own them or feel free to acknowledge them. This often happens in part because they have been in environments with less ambiguity and/or complexity.
- Complexity often comes with additional roles. It can be harder to say what’s important when you are not only considering yourself, but your lab work, your mentor, your partner/spouse/significant other, your child(ren), your ill or aging parents, your leisure pursuits, and the list can go on and on.
Maybe some of these points resonated with you. Combining all of these factors with the need to find another job in a complex and often changing world of work can make things quite challenging to say the least.
As noted, Super’s theory challenges individuals to construct their own identification and understanding of all of their life-space identities. Your life roles will likely change overtime depending on your particular stage of life; however, also remember that not all roles hold the same value to you. Additionally, you might have a co-worker or a boss who highly values a life-space that seems unimportant to you. Given all of this, it can be hard to be introspective and identify what is most meaningful for you, right now in this very moment.
This can also be a useful framework to think about when trying to achieve life balance. A blogger created a Balancing Life Roles Worksheet, where you estimate how much time you currently spend in each role and how much time you would prefer to spend in each role. This can be a good way to keep tally; however, it also often helps to visualize it, so career counselors often recommend a life roles activity.
Draw a large circle on a sheet of paper. Then using this as a pie chart, divide the circle into various “life role wedges” that represent the different “hats” that you wear in your life. The size of the wedges should coincide with the prominence of each role. For example if you feel that a work or family role is how you primarily define yourself, then that role make take up a significant chunk of the circle. See the example below and try it out for yourself.