The "High Five" of Career Development
Redekopp, Dave E.
ERIC Clearinghouse on Counselling and Student Services, Greensboro, NC;
Canadian Guidance and Counselling Foundation, Ottawa (Ontario)
- Some experts1 who were asked to spend a day together,
summarized what they knew about career development in five pithy
messages. These messages would be used to promote career development in
Canadian youth. What resulted is the "High Five" of career development:
- Change is Constant
- The famous American philosopher, Yogi Berra, once said, "The future
ain't what it used to be." We Canadians took that statement to mean that
predictions about the future are difficult because the processes of
change, not just the content of change, are changing. In the world of
work, for example, the role of the automotive technician is changing not
only due to technological changes in cars but also due to segmentation
of the industry. Therefore, the process of defining an "automotive
technician" is changing while the content of the technician's work is
also changing. Thus, predictions about the technician's role (or any
other work role) are tenuous.
- Rapid and continuous technological, economic, demographic, and
social changes directly influence the world of work. As a result, the
"labor market" of the past is quickly becoming a "work dynamic" that is
difficult to encapsulate with occupational dictionaries, codes, or
titles. For example, dozens of environmental roles exist today that did
not exist at the turn of the decade. New jobs are emerging and old jobs
are changing to require new skills, knowledge, and attitudes.
- Personal change occurs continuously as well. People grow and develop
new skills, attitudes, knowledge, beliefs, networks, and other assets
at varying rates. Assessment tools, the backbone of traditional career
development, give our clients the impression that change is unlikely;
that who they are is who they will be. People who recognize, value, and
nurture their own fluidity, will better adapt to their changing
- Likewise, goal-setting needs to be reconsidered in light of constant
change. Goal-setting can be useful, but the dogged pursuit of goals can
prevent people from optimizing chance opportunities. Goals have to be
seen in context with serendipitous discoveries. Gelatt's (1989) concept
of "positive uncertainty" applies here.
- Follow Your Heart
- When change is constant, relatively stable guideposts become all the
more important. The "heart" (the set of characteristics that includes
values, entrenched beliefs, and interests) is reasonably stable and is
well worth heeding. One's "heart" drives one's career path. Skills,
knowledge, and attitudes are simply tools that allow the path to be
- A corollary to this message is that dreaming is normal, natural, and
appropriate. Career development practitioners often concern themselves
with helping clients become "realistic" at the expense of their client's
dreams. Many people have "unrealistic" dreams, but there is nothing
wrong with pursuing them and cherishing them. Ultimately, reality will
impose itself on people and trying to accelerate this process may be of
little benefit. On the other hand, people can move towards their dreams
when provided with the tools and strategies to do so.
- Focus on the Journey
- One of the reasons our field has been preoccupied with helping
individuals select appropriate occupational destinations is that we wish
to help people find work that is meaningful and fulfilling. In doing
so, however, we have tended to underemphasize the meaningfulness of the
journey towards one's vision. Now, since continual change undermines the
predicting of occupational destinations, we must take great efforts to
help people enjoy the process: to better fulfil their values, beliefs,
and interests withevery decision they make. In fact, focusing on
the journey means people move away from feeling a need to make "the
correct decision" ("What should I be?") and move toward examining the
immediate and enduring effects of virtually all decisions ("What do I
want to be doing now and in the future?").
- Stay Learning
- "Lifelong learning" has become a catch phrase. However, the public's
beliefs imply that nothing more needs to be done once an occupational
destination is reached. We will be better able to communicate the
prescription to "stay learning" when the first three messages of the
"High Five" have been adopted. Learning is constant when change is
constant, and learning can be enjoyable and meaningful when it is seen
as part of a journey that fulfils one's heart.
- Unfortunately, many people cringe in terror when they hear about
"lifelong learning." People who have had limited success with formal
learning are anxious about "lifelong learning" and need to know that
most learning does not occur in formal settings. Individuals are
continually accumulating assets (e.g., skills, contacts) through
experience, but few people have a mechanism by which they can identify,
record, and organize these assets. Consequently, they often do not
recognize that they have undergone a tremendous amount of learning.
People need ways to keep track of their learning experiences.
- Be an Ally
- This last theme brings us back to the old idea of the importance of
community. Many people do not feel part of a community and do not have
the wherewithal to create one for themselves. Many youth, in particular,
see the labour market (or work dynamic) as something external, "out
there," and distant. They do not realize that the labour market
surrounds them, and is represented by their parents, neighbours,
friends' parents, and parents' friends. These allies surround youth, yet
the two appear unable to connect with each other.
- Our field and our society have stressed independence and autonomy;
perhaps a re-examination of interdependence and community would be
appropriate. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. Rather, it is a
sign of strength when one can identify a need, clearly express the need,
and articulate how others can help one meet the need. This is
particularly true when one wants to learn continually, keep up with
change, and adapt to change.
- The "High Five" can be described in a variety of ways. Different
client groups respond to different descriptions and examples. We have
incorporated these messages in a variety of products, workshops, and
speeches, and we have used a variety of ways to explain them. Some
examples of their application follow:
- We have found that people respond favourably to these messages. Each
message has a a universal quality which reaches virtually all
audiences, as the following testimonials indicate. From a grandmother
who read the ENGAGE materials: "Don't know how I reached this age
without knowing and achieving some of the suggestions. Good for any
age-real treasures. We sure do a lot of muddling along in life without
knowing how to improve." Parents respond particularly favourably to the
"High Five"; the messages remove some of the intense pressure they feel
to help their children decide "what they are going to be."
- The group for which these messages resonate most strongly are
front-line career development practitioners. The "High Five" provides a
framework in which they can place all their reservations about elements
of their practices (e.g., giving tests, helping clients choose
occupational destinations, ensuring clients are "realistic"); elements
that they were guiltily subverting without being able to fully explain
(to themselves or others) their reasons for doing so. We generally hear a
collective sigh of relief from practitioners when we present the "High
- 1 These individuals were Pat Butter, Donna Davidson,
Barrie Day, Aryeh Gitterman, Helen Hackett, Tracy Lamb, John McCormick,
Dave Redekopp and Michele Tocher. Don Myhre, Bev Ross and Marnie Robb
formalized the messages into the "High Five."
- Change is constant.
- Follow your heart.
- Focus on the journey.
- Stay learning.
- Be an ally.
The "High Five"
- ENGAGE is a learning-to-learn system for youth that includes
products and workshops for youth, parents and teachers. The "High Five"
messages form the core of the system. (See Robb, 1995 for a
- Opportunities With Change is a career development workshop for professionals, in which the concepts and activities directly follow the "High Five."
- Everyday Career Development is a course and text for
secondary school teachers designed to help them infuse career
development into their day-to-day teaching activities. The course is
based heavily on the "High Five." (See Millar, 1995 for a description).
- Gelatt, H. B. (1989). Positive uncertainty: A new decision-making framework for counselling. Journal of Counselling Psychology, 36, 252-256.
- Millar, G. (1995). Helping schools with career infusion. ERIC/CASS Digest No. 95-57.
- Redekopp, D. E., Lemon, F., Fiske, L., & Garber-Conrad, B. (1994). Everyday career development: Participant's guide. Edmonton, AB: Alberta Education, Learning Resources Distribution Centre.
- Robb, M. (1995). ENGAGE: A Career Development-Based,
Learning-to-Learn Program for Youth, Parents, & Teachers. ERIC/CASS
- Ross, B. (1994). Engage: Your life. Edmonton, AB: Centre for Career Development Innovation.
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- Dave Redekopp and Barrie Day are principals of the Life-Role Development Group Limited in Edmonton, Alberta.
- Marnie Robb is an independent career development consultant in Edmonton, Alberta.