Career Path Development Case Study: Human Resources

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23rd Sep 2019 Human Resources Reference this


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Case study of a career, analysed in terms of career theories covered in the module.



Tina1’s career path is outlined below and a number of theories will be used throughout this essay to examine it.

Career Outline:


Tina’s profession was not a career goal, which had been agreed on from an early age. Tina chose to go to university due to external influences from her family. She embarked on a business studies degree in 2006 and upon graduating, decided that HR was the field she wanted to pursue. The decision was based on factors such as an unstable economy and career choice being safe. Whilst undertaking the undergraduate degree, Tina worked Part time at PC World. Due to Tina having a generic degree in nature and having graduated when the recession had hit, her career was built by her carrying out temporary HR assignments in various industries and sectors. It was extremely difficult for Tina to be given continuous temporary roles so when she wasn’t working in HR she worked in her other role at PC World. Tina was eventually offered a permanent role as an HR Assistant for a private sector organisation in London and decided at this stage to resign from her role at PC World.

Having decided that HR was the career path that she wished to follow, Tina decided to undertake a postgraduate degree in it. Tina had resigned from her permanent role when deciding to embark on the university course so upon graduating had to carry out a number of temporary HR assignments to enable her to gain experience at different levels. The qualification gave Tina an advantage, as she possessed the qualification required for her to progress in HR. Tina after having completed her postgraduate degree has seen herself working in organisations such as the National Gallery, BEIS and the NHS, a position she currently holds today.


Career development and the link to ages and stages:


A career is open to several interpretations and is described as being a mixture of roles performed by a person in a course of their life (Super, 1957), as a decision tree depicting the decision points faced by a person going through school and the world of work (Flanagan & Cooley, 1966) and as a sequence of life phases in which conflicting groups of developmental responsibilities are encountered with (Buehler 1933; Super, 1957). A life career rainbow has been suggested (Super, 1980) in an effort to outline more appropriately the many different aspects of a career throughout a person’s life.


A life career rainbow has been offered as a means of helping to hypothesis careers, the progressive involvement and emotional commitment to each role. Self-actualisation in a number of different roles, role clashes, and the factors of role selection and performance are also discussed.

Two strong changes are identified in Tina’s education and career; the move from a generic business studies degree and the decision to embark on a career in HR resulting in a move to go back to university to complete a postgraduate degree in it. Both will be outlined and assessed alongside (Super, 1980) life career rainbow model. The career decision as described by Tina was due to her graduating at a time when the economy was unstable and feeling that a career in HR would be a safe choice. It’s important to highlight that Tina whilst exploring roles in HR also worked part-time in PC world and had thought to carve a career for herself in retail prior to graduating. This however later was concluded to be an unviable option.

Two stages of the (Super, 1980) life career rainbow model will be concentrated on, as they are most relevant in outlining how the model is relevant to Tina’s education and career choice.

According to the (Super, 1980) career rainbow model, at the ages of 15 – 24, we are exploring, thus meaning that we are still at the age at which we are unsure of what we’d like to do in terms of career. By exploring we are able to try out various types of roles, which we believe interest us at that particular point. Taking into account Tina’s educational background and career, it can be said that she explored working in retail whilst undertaking her undergraduate degree to get a sense of whether a career in retail upon graduating from university would be a viable option for her. Her undergraduate degree could also be construed, as her exploring as the degree that she selected for herself was generic which would eventually have resulted in her having to pick a career within a business remit for herself. Tina went to the university due to influences from her family and there could be a possibility that had she not been under those pressures, she would ultimately have chosen not to have gone to university.

(Super, 1980) career rainbow model focuses on maintenance as being key for individuals from the ages of 45 – 64. Maintenance at this age would mean that an individual would’ve decided on their career and would be working in a role, which is suited to their skill set. Maintenance, however, does not tie in with career progression, as an individual could be happy to stay with an employer for a number of years and be receiving fulfilment from that job. This stage ties in nicely with Tina’s career as she was successful in being appointed in her first permanent HR role in 2012, embarked on completing an HR postgraduate degree in that same year and was able to gradually progress in her career by building up experience in various organisations. Tina was eager to learn and had supportive managers throughout her career and for those reasons outlined able to grow.

(Super’s Life Career Rainbow 1980, 1997, 2002)


The life career rainbow when first proposed had two major defects to it: lack of clear recognition particularly in relation to the factors of decisions, and that it seemed quite rigid in uniformity. (Super, 1980)

The life rainbow model has a limitation, which can be construed as concerning in this day and age. There is agreement that growth may occur between the ages of 1- 4 and exploration may occur between the ages of 15 – 24, however, the other stages are out of sync. Establishment looks at individuals building a life and family between the ages of 25 – 44 however that may no longer be the case as we are living in a modern era and people are now deciding to have families later in life. Maintenance from the age of 45 – 64 also does not work as the younger generation are now more inclined to build their careers from a younger age. It is also important to highlight that maintenance does not necessarily link in with career progression. The final stage in the model outlines that decline begins at the age of 65+; however, this is no longer the case as many individuals are deciding to work longer. As per UK employment law, older workers can freely retire at a time that they choose. Employers cannot force their employees to retire or fix a retirement age. Recruitment of older workers might occur because of positive employer experience of staff continuing past 65 (Lain, 2012).

Motivational theory

(Maslow, 1943, 1954) hierarchy of needs is a motivational theory in HR and psychology that comprises of five stages of human needs.



(Maslow’s hierarchy of needs 1943,1954)


(Maslow, 1943) initially specified that individuals would be required to satisfy lower levels before proceeding to meet the higher-level growth needs. He later however specified that satisfaction of needs is not compulsory and admitted that his earlier accounts may have given a false impression that a need must be satisfied completely before the next need emerges

Tina’s parents would have provided her when younger with the physiological need. The physiological need is the biological requirement for human survival. When Tina, however, left university to pave a career for herself in HR, she would have provided herself with the physiological need. The basic functions such as sleep; food, drink, and shelter are needed in order for an individual to survive. Tina would‘ve been at an age where she would’ve been able to look after herself.

Further up the hierarchy, we have esteem needs and self-actualisation needs. Tina would’ve been required to exhaust the esteem need in her career as that need focuses on building a reputation for herself and respect for others. It is important in an organisational context that individuals are able to build relationships with peers at all levels of the business. There would, therefore, have been a need for Tina to build relationships with both internal and external stakeholders of the business. Respect generally takes time and as you need to get to know people you work with that respect grows.

The Self-actualisation stage focuses on Tina’s Career in HR and her going back to university to complete her postgraduate degree in HR. By completing the degree, she provided herself with ample experience and knowledge to allow her to better herself and grow.

A limitation of this model is that the theory assumes that all needs need to be experienced together. Physiological needs are important due to them being based on human survival however the other needs are just as important. Tina would not have achieved the esteem need and self-actualisation need had she not bettered herself by going to university and paving a career for herself in the HR field. The physiological need is therefore not the all or none. The needs hold equal weighting when it comes to importance.


Kaleidoscope theory


(Maniero and Sullivan, 2005) developed a model to outline how men and women think about and enact their careers.

‘A kaleidoscope career is created on an individual’s own terms defined not by an organisation but by an individual’s own life choices, values, and limitations. Like a kaleidoscope, a career is vibrant and as life changes, the career can be altered around those changes rather than surrendering control and letting an organisation dictate your life for you’. (Maniero and Sullivan, 2005)


Tina’s decision to embark on a career in HR was due to factors such as; unstable economy and career choice being safe. Authenticity was not present in the early stages of her career, as she happened to fall into the HR field due to reasons mentioned above. Authenticity, however, did make itself available when Tina went back to university to complete her postgraduate degree in HR. It was at this point that she had recognised that HR was the field she wanted to build her career on.

It is important to outline that mid-career there is a discrepancy between the model and Tina’s career. According to (Maniero and Sullivan, 2005), ‘ as people grow older, a shift in their priorities is made apparent. For women – the desire for challenge remains, however, is pushed back to make way for a new parameter – the need for balance.’ Tina’s desire for challenge remains and authenticity is present too as she feels passionate about the field she works in and longs to progress in it. Balance, however, is not apparent as Tina does not have priorities and commitments such as children and is able to work longer hours. Tina’s mid-career was initially motivated by money, however, as she progressed up the career ladder, the challenge aspect of the (Maniero and Sullivan, 2005) model increased for her as she was more motivated at that stage to better herself so she could apply for more senior level posts.

‘When both men and women reach their thirties and forties, situations change for both. Men continue to pursue work challenges whilst women tend to back off to make room for the more personal aspects of their lives. There is a shift in the kaleidoscope for women whereas the pattern remains un-deviated for men who are in a breadwinner role’ (Maniero and Sullivan, 2005). Tina has seen some changes in her career since entering her thirties, however, backing off to make room for personal aspects of her life has not been one of them. Tina is more passionate about her role now than she was when she initially embarked on an HR career. Her thirst for challenge has increased, as has her thirst for authenticity. There is currently no room for balance in Tina’s career as it is not required.

The kaleidoscope theory feels better suited to someone in the eighties who was happy to develop a career earlier on in their life but also get married and have children. Tina got married at 29, however, is now in her thirties and has no intentions of having children anytime soon. Tina is focused on challenge and authenticity is now more important to her than previously.


The three theories used in this essay have played a nice role in outlining Tina’s educational and career choices. The (Super, 1980) model and the (Maniero and Sullivan, 2005) kaleidoscope model integrate quite nicely with each other in outlining how Tina’s education and career were formed. Not all stages of the (Maslow, 1943) hierarchy of needs model need to be met in order for it to work. Tina’s career choice was initially driven due to external influences however over time this changed.



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