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A “Super” Approach to Understanding Life Balance!

As 2017 marks ContactPoint’s 20th anniversary, we wanted to take a look at the most popular sections of our website as well as the most-read articles through a series of blog posts, and reflect on what they say about how the field has evolved over the past two decades.

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By Rob Straby

 

Are You Struggling with Life Balance?

Do you or your clients find it difficult to juggle all of the roles in your life? Feeling overwhelmed with the demands of work, family and community? If so, you are not alone! The Canadian Mental Health Association states that 58% of Canadians experience “overload” with the competing roles in life!

Although the challenge of balancing life roles may seem recent, Donald Super initially identified it as an important area many years ago!

 

What Are “Life Roles”?

Donald Super’s (1910-1994)1 theory of career development has influenced a generation of career development practitioners. Super’s concept of “career” is very broad. It includes the sequence of activities that a person does during the course of a lifetime, which includes pre-occupational, occupational, a-vocational, and post-occupational roles–all the positions that a person occupies.

Super described nine major “positions” or life roles that individuals may adopt in their lifetime:

  • Child
  • Student
  • Leisurite
  • Citizen
  • Worker
  • Spouse
  • Homemaker
  • Parent
  • Pensioner

 

Not everyone will take on all of these roles, of course, but it is readily seen that Super intended much more than mere “work” when he discussed careers. In fact, “worker” is only one of the life roles.  To Super, all of the life roles interact with each other; to examine any life role in isolation is to miss the point of Super’s concept of career. Also, Super conceived each of the life roles to change with development. The parent life role, for example, takes on various forms as children grow up, enter school, leave home and enter the work force. As each of the life roles increases or decreases in importance, other life roles are affected.  Thus, a person beginning the spouse life role, while strongly pursuing the worker life role, may neglect the life roles of the leisurite, citizen and student.

What is work “salience”? The practices of career development are useful to career counsellors and their clients only when work is important to the clients. Super used the term work salience to refer to the importance of work within an individual’s life. Individuals with low work salience have lower interest in work; however, they may be very involved and adaptive within other life roles (e.g., parent, student).  To Super, it is important for career counsellors to remember that work is not of utmost importance to everyone. Some individuals use work merely for the purpose of having sufficient funds to do what they want to do in other life roles.  It is important for career counsellors to assess a client’s level of salience for their life roles. This helps to ensure that planning in one area (e.g. career) can be kept in balance with the needs of other roles (e.g. parenting).

 

The Life Role Checklist: The following link (http://contactpoint.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Life-Career-Roles-Checklist.pdf) provides a helpful tool to assess what a person’s current life role needs and priorities are. Give this a try and then consider what actions you might take!

 

Is Super Still Relevant Today?

Donald Super made significant contributions to the field of career development. I would suggest that his model of life roles is more important today than when he first wrote about it. In my work with clients, I primarily use a narrative approach. However, I also integrate discussions about life roles into this narrative. Through this approach we are able to assess where role conflicts exist and create plans to achieve balance.

 

Want to learn more about the challenges of balancing careers and caregiving? Checkout CERIC’s Literature review here: http://contactpoint.ca/listing/impact-of-caregiving-on-careersemployment/

Photo courtesy of Mush Sukerav: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mishism/3057621374.

 

 

References

1 Super, D.E. & Savickas, M.L. & Super, C.M. (1996). The Life-Span, Life-Space Approach to Careers. In D. Brown & L. Brooks (Eds.), Career Choice and Development. Third Edition. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

 

AUTHOR BIO

Rob Straby has followed his passion for the innovation and development of state of the art career systems for fifteen years. He is the Program Coordinator for the Career Development Practitioner Certificate at Conestoga College and regularly blogs at Straby.com

As 2017 marks ContactPoint’s 20th anniversary, we wanted to take a look at the most popular sections of our website as well as the most-read articles through a series of blog posts, and reflect on what they say about how the field has evolved over the past two decades.

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