Friday, 22 July 2022

Levinson's stages and success

Stage-based understandings of careers are strong in Aotearoa. Education stages are laid out in the New Zealand Qualifications Framework, encompassing secondary and tertiary education levels. This framework describes the knowledge and experience that graduates will possess on completion, and what further education opportunities each qualification staircases into (NZQA, 2015).

Levinson (1978) described four adult stages of career: those of pre-adulthood; early adulthood; middle adulthood; and late adulthood. These are also known as the "novice", the "settling down", the "mid-life", and the unnamed last phase which we can assume to be 'retirement' (Levinson, 1978). 

Levinson suggests that from 17 to 22 years, most novices transition into tertiary education or employment. While both lead to emotional and monetary independence from their parents, as their first attempts at adult roles in 'settling down' (Inkson et al., 2015), I am interested here in following those novices who choose the education path. From 23 onwards, as the 'settling down' phase progresses, young people can be considered ‘successful’ if they are following their chosen career qualifications, and staircasing up the New Zealand Qualifications Framework levels (NZQA, 2015).

However, graduation ‘success’ may not necessarily equal success. While close to 60% of first year graduate doctors remain committed to medicine, 40% change career by the first year following graduation. It has been found that "18 years after their [career] selection, 58.9%, 78.2%, and 86.6% of doctors’ career choices matched career aspirations held at years 1, 3, and 5 post-graduation respectively" (Zarkovic et al., 2006, p. 6). The 40% who changed career obviously determined that medicine was not for them, possibly because the work as advertised did not match the reality: "in their first 3 years post-graduation [... a significant number of] students ultimately end[ed] up in different careers. [Further, a]bout a third of the respondents from our study who appeared to have made their career decisions did so while still in medical school. [...It would be prudent to have] better career guidance at all stages of a medical career" (p. 6).

Nice to think that career development is recognised as actually being useful. 

However, it is also very useful before commencing our study toward our professional qualifications to have a clear understanding of what the job will actually entail once we have qualified. I get the feeling that many doctors graduate without this clear understanding. So they cannot 'settle down'.



Inkson, K., Dries, N., & Arnold, J. (2015). Understanding Careers (2nd ed.). SAGE Publications Ltd.

Levinson, D. J. with Darrow, C., Klein, E., Levinson, M. & McKee, B. (1978). The Seasons of a Mans Life. Knopf.

NZQA. (2015). The New Zealand Qualifications Framework. New Zealand Qualifications Authority.

Zarkovic, A., Child, S., & Naden, G. (2006). Career choices of New Zealand Junior Doctors. New Zealand Medical Journal, 119(1229), 1-8.

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