'Mid-career change' : an exploratory study of the processes of 'career' and of the experience of change in 'mid-life'
Examination of a wide range of literature on both 'career' and 'middle age' finds many concepts ill-defined and underlying assumptions (such as 'development') unquestioned; and an emphasis upon intra-individual rather than contextual factors. The 'career change' research approached the topic from the perspective of the observer and that of the dominant theories as an objective event to be explained in terms of individual characteristics. In the present environment of change, the thesis argues the heed for a wider exploration of this experience within a dynamic and holistic model of 'career' and with the recognition of the significant subjective dimension. The fieldwork attempts this in its biographical approach in unstructured, tape-recorded interviews with 32 men preparing to enter a new occupation. Close textual analysis of the interviews (on a literary model) identifies the influence on the shape of the 'career' of the interaction of factors both exogenous and endogenous to the individual. It is interpreted that the individual negotiates a temporary 'truce' between these factors, which holds until the interacting factors change and cause it to break down. The individual's re-negotiation of the 'truce', as seen in the present phase, may lead to minor adjustments or major re-directions through the several dömains of life. For some, the experience of the present focusses upon the re-definition of self and/or the environment: this 'broken truce' overlays the objective realities of occupational change. The examination of other aspects of this negotiation (use of resources, of advice and information, models and mentors; mode of decision-making) identifies the significance of the 'orientation to the environment': the time perspective and the perception-of and responses to the environment. The implications for research, theory and counselling are noted throughout. The study concludes its evaluation of theory by Suggesting that systems theory offers an appropriate, fruitful and comprehensive approach. However, there remains the need to recognise the actor's view and thus an exploration of the 'soft systems' approach is recommended. Through the thesis note is taken of the 'career' of the research itself and its relationship with the 'career' of the researcher.