Super's Stages of Occupational Development: Definition & Examples

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  • 2:09 Growth
  • 3:01 Exploration
  • 3:50 Establishment
  • 5:00 Maintenance
  • 5:53 Decline
  • 6:39 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Devin Kowalczyk

Devin has taught psychology and has a master's degree in clinical forensic psychology. He is working on his PhD.

Donald Super devised a developmental stage theory involving one's personal growth, acquisition of skills, and general development towards working. We will explore those stages in this lesson.

Occupational Development

Everyone should be working. We live in a society where you need transferable pieces of cloth known as 'money' to purchase goods and services. We don't live in a communist state where everyone is assigned a job to ensure they work, so that means everyone needs to find their own job. Since everyone is different, everyone approaches the task of getting a job a little differently. And since psychologists like to take simple things that people do and describe them complexly, that is what we will be doing in this lesson.

Specifically, we will be looking at Super's stages of occupational development, which is a developmental model emphasizing personal growth and experiences, interacting occupational preferences, and competencies. Donald Super crafted this stage theory to explain the changes that occur to someone over a lifetime and how that interacts with one's occupational choices. Many other theories look at just personality and occupation, but this one combines one's developing experiences also into it. Let's break this down some, shall we?

A developmental model is something that describes changes over time. This is typically tied to aging groupings. Super's stages first start at age 0 to 14 and the second is 15 to 24. With each stage, there are different things happening: sometimes they can only happen inside one age category, and other times they can happen whenever the person reaches that stage.

What makes Super's stages so unique is that it is one of the few that looks at and attempts to explain personal growth and experiences over a lifetime interacting with occupational preferences. Many models attempt to look solely at personality and how that plays into what you chose to do for work. But not Super's; it looks at the whole person, from the time you're very young until you're really old. So, without further ado, let's look at each stage.

Stage 1: Growth

Between the ages of 0 and 14, the focus is on growing characteristics. You have to start somewhere, and in this model we start at birth until your mid-teenage years. Here, you're growing your basic characteristics - that is to say, who you are.

Specifically, the focus is on developing self concept, attitudes, and understanding one's needs within the general world of work. Nowadays, kids aren't really doing real work, but many kids do chores around the home. And nearly all children go to school, so they learn about persisting and doing something they may not want to do.

One of the main points of growth is also developing the idea of what work is. Ask any kid what they want to be when they grow up, and you'll get a response. Some are more realistic than others - I'm referring to those who want to be animals.

Stage 2: Exploration

Between the ages of 15 and 24, the focus is on exploring one's roles. Here, kids are starting to get jobs and begin making serious decisions that will impact their future. Are they going to complete high school? Are they going to get married? Are they going to college? What path are they going down?

Here, Super emphasizes how those in their late teens and early 20s are trying out different roles through classes, work experiences, and hobbies. They now have the intellectual capacity and resources to explore the ideas of childhood dreams a little more fully. Some may find out that they don't want to follow a particular career path, while others become more strongly committed. Tentative skill development and choices are made. Here, the first steps down the path are taken.

Stage 3: Establishment

Between the ages of 25 and 44, the focus is on establishing one's career. Nobody gets out of college and finds the right path straight out of the gate. There is some maneuvering and testing of roles to determine where one best fits. I kind of see this like a seed with everything it needs wrapped up inside. It bounces along until it finds the right place to establish itself. Eh, get it? Establish itself?

Super emphasizes entry-level skill building and stabilization through work experience. An individual has likely selected a path that they want to follow, but they are just starting out on it. The individual will need to set down roots in their path and then figure out all that goes along with it.

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