Adaptable Careers: Maximizing Less and Exploring More

2009 – In this article in Career Development Quarterly,  Annelies van Vianen, Irene de Pater and Paul Preenen argue for a new direction in career theories. Most people struggle with making career decisions. College students anxiously worry about their inability to decide which career to take. Humans are known to find it difficult to use rational strategies when making difficult decisions, yet many career theories argue that rational planning is necessary for career development. The authors of this article argue that this may have been true in the past, but today is no longer possible or necessary for a healthy career.  

Career Adaptability

The authors argue that modern careers will not be stable. The job functions an employee currently fills and is specialized in may no longer be relevant 5 years later. At the same time new functions requiring new skills are constantly emerging. Because of this, it may no longer be wise to focus on specializing in a single position or skill, or to aim for a linear career path. To adapt to these changes, workers should focus on their own career adaptability instead. Which means preparing for the future uncertainty of their jobs, and the opportunities presented by newly emerging job. It is to accommodate this change in strategy for careers that the authors suggest a new career theory centered around this career adaptability.   

Practical implications for job counselors

The authors argue that rather than focusing on decision making, counselors should instead focus on helping their clients to develop a flexible attitude towards their career. This may be particularly beneficial for marginalized groups who have had limited access to learning experiences. Their past limited environment will give a bad picture of their capabilities and seeking a fit for this bad picture will prevent them from obtaining a better career. Focusing on career adaptability will offer better opportunities for marginalized groups, and workers in general.  


Van Vianen, A. E. M., De Pater, I. E., & Preenen, P. T. Y. (2009). Adaptable careers: Maximizing less and exploring more. The Career Development Quarterly, 57(4), 298-309.

The article is attached