The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word "career" as a person's "course or progress through life (or a distinct portion of life)". This definition relates "career" to a range of aspects of an individual's life, learning, and work. "Career" is also frequently understood[by whom?] to relate to the working aspects of an individual's life - as in "career woman", for example. A third way in which the term "career" is used describes an occupation or a profession that usually involves special training or formal education,; considered[by whom?] to be a person's lifework.[failed verification] In this case "a career" is seen[by whom?] as a sequence of related jobs, usually pursued within a single industry or sector: one can speak for example of "a career in education", of "a criminal career" or of "a career in the building trade". A career has been defined by organizational behavior researchers as "an individual's work-related and other relevant experiences, both inside and outside of organizations, that form a unique pattern over the individual's life span." 
The word "career" ultimately derives from Latin carrus, referring to a chariot. The semantic extension whereby "career" came to mean "course of one's public or professional life" appears from 1803.
For a pre-modernist notion of "career", compare cursus honorum.
By the late 20th century, a wide range of variations (especially in the range of potential professions) and more widespread education had allowed it to become possible to plan (or design) a career: In this respect the careers of the career counselor and of the career advisor have grown up. It is also not uncommon for adults in the late 20th/early 21st centuries to have dual or multiple careers, either sequentially or concurrently. Thus, professional identities have become hyphenated or hybridized to reflect this shift in work ethic. Economist Richard Florida notes this trend generally and more specifically among the "creative class".
Career management or career development describes the active and purposeful management of a career by an individual. Ideas of what comprise "career management skills" are described by the Blueprint model (in the United States, Canada, Australia, Scotland, and England) and the Seven C's of Digital Career Literacy (specifically relating to the Internet skills).
Key skills include the ability to reflect on one's current career, research the labour market, determine whether education is necessary, find openings, and make career changes.
According to Behling and others, an individual's decision to join a firm may depend on any of the three factors viz. objective factor, subjective factor and critical contact.
These theories assume that candidates have a free choice of employers and careers. In reality, the scarcity of jobs and strong competition for desirable jobs severely skews the decision-making process. In many markets, employees work particular careers simply because they were forced to accept whatever work was available to them. Additionally, Ott-Holland and colleagues found that culture can have a major influence on career choice, depending on the type of culture.
When choosing a career that's best for you, according to US News, there are multiple things to consider. Some of those include: natural talents, work style, social interaction, work-life balance, whether or not you are looking to give back, whether you are comfortable in the public eye, dealing with stress or not, and finally, how much money you want to make. If choosing a career feels like too much pressure, here's another option: pick a path that feels right today by making the best decision you can, and know that you can change your mind in the future. In today's workplace, choosing a career doesn't necessarily mean you have to stick with that line of work for your entire life. Make a smart decision, and plan to re-evaluate down the line based on your long-term objectives.
Changing occupation is an important aspect of career and career management. Over a lifetime, both the individual and the labour market will change; it is to be expected that many people will change occupations during their lives. Data collected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics through the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth in 1979 showed that individuals between the ages of 18 and 38 will hold more than 10 jobs.
There are various reasons why people might want to change their careers. Sometimes career change can come as the result of a long-anticipated layoff, while other times it can occur unexpectedly and without warning.
A survey conducted by Right Management suggests the following reasons for career changing.
According to an article on Time.com, one out of three people currently employed (as of 2008) spends about an hour per day searching for another position.
Career success is a term used frequently in academic and popular writing about career. It refers to the extent and ways in which an individual can be described as successful in his or her working life so far.
During the 1950s and 1960s, individuals typically worked for one or two firms during their career and success was defined by the organization and measured by promotions, increases in salary, and/or status. Such traditional careers were exemplified by Donald Super's career stage model. Super's linear career stage model suggested that careers take place within the context of stable, organizational structures. Individuals moved up the organization's hierarchy seeking greater extrinsic rewards.
Early career success may breed disappointment later, especially when a person's self-worth is tied up in their career or achievements. Professional success tends to come early in some fields, such as scientific research, and later in other fields, such as teaching.
Earnings can be expressed either in absolute terms (e.g. the amount a person earns) or in relative terms (e.g. the amount a person earns compared with their starting salary). Earnings and status are examples of objective criteria of success, where "objective" means that they can be factually verified, and are not purely a matter of opinion.
Many observers argue that careers are less predictable than they once were, due to the fast pace of economic and technological change. This means that career management is more obviously the responsibility of the individual rather than his or her employing organisation, because a "job for life" is a thing of the past. This has put more emphasis on subjective criteria of career success. These include job satisfaction, career satisfaction, work-life balance, a sense of personal achievement, and attaining work that is consistent with one's personal values. A person's assessment of his or her career success is likely to be influenced by social comparisons, such as how well family members, friends, or contemporaries at school or college have done.
The amount and type of career success a person achieves is affected by several forms of career capital. These include social capital (the extent and depth of personal contacts a person can draw upon), human capital (demonstrable abilities, experiences and qualifications), economic capital (money and other material resources which permit access to career-related resources), and cultural capital (having skills, attitudes or general know-how to operate effectively in a particular social context).
There are a range of different educational, counseling, and human resource management interventions that can support individuals to develop and manage their careers. Career support is commonly offered while people are in education, when they are transitioning to the labour market, when they are changing career, during periods of unemployment, and during transition to retirement. Support may be offered by career professionals, other professionals or by non-professionals such as family and friends. Professional career support is sometimes known as "career guidance" as in the OECD definition of career guidance:
The activities may take place on an individual or group basis, and may be face-to-face or at a distance (including helplines and web-based services). They include career information provision (in print, ICT-based and other forms), assessment and self-assessment tools, counselling interviews, career education programmes (to help individuals develop their self-awareness, opportunity awareness, and career management skills), taster programmes (to sample options before choosing them), work search programmes, and transition services."
However this use of the term "career guidance" can be confusing as the term is also commonly used to describe the activities of career counselors.
Career support is offered by a range of different mechanisms. Much career support is informal and provided through personal networks or existing relationships such as management. There is a market for private career support however the bulk of career support that exists as a professionalised activity is provided by the public sector.
Key types of career support include:
Some research shows adding one year of schooling beyond high school creates an increase of wages 17.8% per worker. However, additional years of schooling, beyond 9 or 10 years, have little effect on worker's wages. In summary, better educated, bigger benefits. In 2010, 90% of the U.S. Workforce had a high school diploma, 64% had some college, and 34% had at least a bachelor's degree.
The common problem that people may encounter when trying to achieve an education for a career is the cost. The career that comes with the education must pay well enough to be able to pay off the schooling. The benefits of schooling can differ greatly depending on the degree (or certification) obtained, the programs the school may offer, and the ranking of the school. Sometimes, colleges provide students more with just education to prepare for careers. It is not uncommon for colleges to provide pathways and support straight into the workforce the students may desire.
Much career support is delivered face-to-face, but an increasing amount of career support is delivered online.
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