Catherine Hughes. PhD
It is generally accepted that individuals need to be adaptable to succeed in the contemporary world of work characterized by changing skills requirements, short-term contract work, less secure work arrangements, technological change and more. The concept of career adaptability has featured prominently in the career development literature in recent years. But where did this concept come from? What is career adaptability? How can career practitioners apply career adaptability to support their clients?
Origins of Career Adaptability
Career adaptability first appeared in the career development literature when the usefulness of career maturity for adult career development was questioned. Career maturity refers to career choice readiness and methods of coping with age-appropriate vocational development tasks (Super, 1990). Adaptation to vocational development tasks rather than maturation was considered to be the central process of adult career development (Super & Knasel, 1981). Adaptation accounts more adequately than maturation for the recycling through life stages and revisiting vocational development tasks that adults do when they are faced with expected or unexpected career transitions at varying times throughout their working life. This prompted Super (1983) to reserve career maturity for adolescent career development and recommend career adaptability as the corresponding term for adult career development. In more recent times questions were raised about the relevance of career maturity in diverse and multicultural contexts where contextual factors may influence the timing and nature of the vocational development tasks that adolescents face (Watson, 2008). Concerns such as this resulted in career adaptability being generalized across the life-span as the central career development process for children, adolescents and adults (Savickas, 1997).
Career Adaptability Now
Over the last decade career adaptability has been explained in career construction theory (Savickas, 2013) and has been widely researched (Johnston, 2018 ). Career construction theory proposes that the adaptation that is required to fit oneself to a new environment or changing context results from a sequence of:
In career construction theory, career adaptability is one element of adaptation. More specifically, Savickas and Porfeli (2012, p. 662) define career adaptability as “… a psychosocial construct that denotes an individual’s readiness and resources for coping with current and anticipated tasks, transitions, and traumas in their occupational roles …” Career adaptability is comprised of four dimensions, or career adapt-ability resources (Savickas & Porfeli, 2012):
In essence, people who show concern about their vocational future, who believe they have some control over it and are deliberate and decisive in dealing with vocational development tasks, transitions and work traumas, who are curious about possible future selves and work scenarios and who feel confident about their capacity to implement their goals possess the internal coping resources to respond with fitting behaviors to new or changed career circumstances.
“Increasing a person’s career adaptability resources, or career adapt-abilities is a central goal in career education and counseling” (Savickas & Porfeli, 2012, p. 663). Accordingly, career adaptability is a construct of great importance to the everyday work of career practitioners.
Applying Career Adaptability
The Career Adapt-Abilties Scale (Savickas & Porfeli, 2012) was developed in collaboration with researchers from 13 different countries. This instrument is freely available from www.vocopher.com. The Career Adapt-Abilties Scale is comprised of 24 items and yields a total career adapt-abilities score. The first six items relate to the Concern Dimension, the next six items relate to the Control Dimension, the next six relate to the Curiosity Dimension and the final six items relate to the Confidence Dimension. This means that scores for each career adaptability dimension can be calculated to more precisely identify student or client career adaptability strengths and career adaptability resources that need further development.
The Career Adapt-Abilities Scale can be used to support career interventions in one-to-one career counseling, group career counseling, career education workshops or career classes. For example:
In summary, career adaptability is a career development construct that is associated with career construction theory. It is highly relevant to the day-to-day work of career practitioners. The Career Adapt-Abilities Scale is freely available and can be used in a variety of ways to assess and enhance student or client career adaptability and their capacity to respond appropriately to vocational development tasks, career transitions and work traumas throughout life.
Hughes, C. (2017). Careers work in schools: cost-effective career services. Samford Valley, Queensland, Australia: Australian Academic Press Group.
Johnston, C. S. (2018). A systematic review of the career adaptability literature and future outlook. Journal of Career Assessment, 26, 3-30. DOI; 10.1177/1069072716679921.
Sampson, J. P., Reardon, R. C., Peterson, G. W. & Lenz, J. G. (2004). Career counseling & services: A cognitive information processing approach. Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole – Thompson Learning.
Savickas, M. L. (1997). Career adaptability: An integrative construct for life-span, life-space theory. The Career Development Quarterly, 45, 247-259.
Savickas, M. L. (2013). Career construction theory and practice. In S. B. Brown & R.W. Lent (2013). Career development and counseling: Putting theory and research to work (2nd ed., pp. 147-183). Hoboken: NJ, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Savickas & Porfeli (2012). Career Adapt-Abilities Inventory: Construction, reliability, and measurement equivalence across 13 countries. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 80, 661-673. DOI: 10.1016/j.jvb.2012.01.011
Super, D. E. (1983). Assessment in career guidance: Toward truly developmental counseling. The Personnel and Guidance Journal, 61, 555-562.
Super, D. E. (1990). A life-span, life-space approach to career development. In D. Brown and L. Brooks (Eds.), Career choice and development: Applying contemporary theories to practice (2nd ed., pp. 197-261). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Inc.
Super, D. E. & Knasel, E. G. (1981). Career development in adulthood: Some theoretical problems. British Journal of Guidance and Counselling, 9, 194-201.
Watson, M. B., (2008). Career maturity assessment in an international context. In J. Athanasou & R. van Estbroeck. International handbook of career guidance (pp. 511-523). Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer-Science.
By Shelley Tien
According to Mark Savickas and Erik Porfeli (Journal of Vocational Behavior, 80-3, 2012), “Researchers from 13 countries collaborated in constructing a psychometric scale to measure career adaptability. Based on four pilot tests, a research version of the proposed scale consisting of 55 items was field tested in 13 countries. The resulting Career Adapt-Abilities Scale (CAAS) consists of four scales, each with six items. The four scales measure concern, control, curiosity, and confidence as psychosocial resources for managing occupational transitions, developmental tasks, and work traumas.” The CAAS is available free in English on Vocpher.com (http://vocopher.com/CareerTests.cfm).
I participated in this study, conducting my research in Taiwan and Macau. There are now versions translated in many different languages in different countries. For Chinese, there are three versions: China (Ho), Taiwan (Tien, available at http://web.ntnu.edu.tw/~lantien/journals/The_Career_Adapt-Abilities_Scale-_The_Psychometric_Characteristics_and_Construct_Validity_of_the_Taiwan_Form.pdf), and in Macao (Tien, et.al available at https://www.researchgate.net/publication/260044423_The_Career_Adapt-Abilities_Scale_in_Macau_Psychometric_Characteristics_and_Construct_Validity).
The Career Adapt-Ability Scale has 24 items which assess four subscales: Concern, Control, Confidence, and Curiosity. Another subscale, Cooperation, also with 6 items developed by Savickas, was deleted in the world-wide version because the results for this scale were not distinct from the other four subscales. I think the idea of Cooperation is important in Chinese collective culture. One day in Shanghai Normal University, I met Dr. Fred Leong and shared this idea. He totally agreed and we then did a cross country analysis based in the five scales, cooperation included. The results indicated that the five-scale version was also supported. The paper was published in the Journal of Career Assessment.
Many master’s level research theses were conducted in Taiwan based on the CAAS. Most of them describe factors related to using the CAAS. For example, one studied the relationship among career self-efficacy, career adaptability, and work adjustment for adult workers in Taiwan (Chinese version with English abstract is available at http://agc.ncue.edu.tw/text37.1-2). Another study proposed to explore the relationship among career calling, career adaptability, and career satisfaction of teachers with different demographic backgrounds. This study used a set of inventories which measure each of these factors separately. The model proposed that there is a causal relationship among career calling, career adaptability, and career satisfaction. A causal relationship was confirmed by the data, among other interesting findings. These results were published in the newsletter of the Taiwan Career Development and Consultation Association, in Chinese (http://www.tcdca.org/?p=3027). Contact me at Research@AsiaPacificCDA.org if want to know more about these or other findings.