Super Theory Case Study


by Sandra Lim, CPRW, CCM, CECC

Stojan made his initial career choice at the age of fourteen, before fully developing his self-concept and exploring the world of work. Through non-normative career events experienced upon immigration to Canada, he recycled through the establishment stage and developed a sense of self-efficacy. He has now been able to integrate self-concept and world of work information to not only select – but to create – his perfect career.

In the eleven years since Stojan arrived in Canada he has experienced over 35 job changes. Many of these changes were in response to unanticipated events as he struggled to support his family in a land with significantly different employment practices than he was accustomed to in his home country of Yugoslavia.

At the tender age of fourteen, Stojan left home to attend a police officer training school. He started working as a police officer at age nineteen. He decided to immigrate to Canada in 1989; by that time, he was married with two children. He described the many struggles he faced as a new immigrant: the unfamiliar language, the cold climate, and subsequent problems in his marriage. However, a dominant concern was expressed in statements such as “What am I going to do in Canada? I have to make some kind of life for my kids,’ and “I was very unhappy – I left a good job back home to clean bathrooms – what is my future?”

Today, he is 47 years old and self-employed as the owner of a successful painting business. He derives great satisfaction from his work, and enjoys his relationship with his clients. The path he traveled to arrive at this point can best be understood within the framework life span theory. Contributions from Super and other theorists are applicable to Stojan’s career development.

Stojan’ s Career Development

Super’s conception of career maturity is concerned with the readiness of individuals to make good choices. Stojan’s career choice took place initially at age fourteen. He explained this decision by stating that his father encouraged him to go to police school. He did not offer any of his own reasons for selecting this career. He began his career as a police officer at age nineteen; yet he did not consider pursuing police work upon arriving in Canada – he stated that he had had enough.

Super’s theory depends on the integration of self-concept and information about the world of work. Stojan’s career choice appears to have been made somewhat prematurely, during a time when adolescents develop an understanding of their interests, capacities, and values (Ginsberg). According to Super’s adult life stages, the exploration stage (in which individuals make an effort to get a better idea of occupational information, choose career alternatives, decide on occupations, and start work) ranges from about 15 to 25 years of age. Stojan’s ready acceptance of his father’s advice would have precluded his ability to integrate his developing self-concept and world of work information as inputs into the career decision-making process.

At approximately age 37, Stojan immigrated to Canada and found himself taking on a variety of jobs to support his family. Having worked as a police officer in Yugoslavia for close to 20 years – and at a time of life when the average person would be in the advancing substage of Super’s establishment stage – upon coming to Canada, Stojan found himself recycling to the stabilizing substage several times. Although immigrating to Canada was a voluntary, anticipated (normative) transition, Stojan experienced several non-normative career events once he arrived (Louis). This may have been particularly disconcerting for him since he related that it is very hard to lose a job in his home country. Furthermore, there was evidence in Stojan’s story that the work life role is the salient one for him.

Stojan described his early years in Canada as “really hard.” Of the non-normative career events he described, the first occurred when he lost his part-time waiter job. Although he was working at a factory during the day, he went door-to-door to find a job, and was eventually hired as a busperson, even though he already had experience as a waiter. Later, he was let go from a house painting assistant job (work he liked very much), and then he was laid off from the hospital where he had worked for seven years.

The salience of the work life role appeared to be indicated by Stojan’s value expectations (along with knowledge, commitment, and participation). Not only did he feel the need to provide income for his family, but work also allowed him to meet value needs of achievement and social interaction. His voice was filled with pride as he related how he had learned to make pizza, did his best as an operating room porter, and took on extra duties in the orthopedic surgery ward. He also expressed joy in the “family” he had at the hospital, and for the time he spent playing with the kids coming in for surgery.

Stojan had enjoyed the experience of house painting as an assistant. His expectations and beliefs concerning his ability to successfully perform this work developed as people began approaching him for painting contracts on his own. As he experienced their appreciation for his work, he gained a sense of self-efficacy. When he as laid off from the hospital, he decided to take a package. As he put it, he was busy; he was no longer afraid that he wouldn’t be able to find a job. He was able to integrate his self-concept and information about the world of work to start his own painting business in 1997. He stated, “My success is coming from my head and hands,” and related how his clients believe in him, trust him, and listen to his ideas. In addition to achievement and social interaction, Stojan’s current career allows him to meet value needs of aesthetics, autonomy, creativity, and economic rewards. Although Super’s life stages do not seem to be written with the self-employed in mind, Stojan can be said to be in the maintenance stage.

Self-concept is described as how individuals view themselves and their situation. Stojan has learned much about himself and the world of work since he made his initial career choice in adolescence. He has been able to integrate this information to create a positive situation for himself out of a non-normative career event.

Stojan will spend the coming years in Super’s maintenance stage. Because of his love for his work, he will likely grow his business through updating and innovating activities.


Applying Career Development Theory to Counseling, Richard S Sharf, Brooke/Cole Publishing Company, Pacific Grove, CA, 2nd edition, 1997.

Sandra Lim, CPRW, CCM, CECC is a Certified Electronic Career Coach (CECC). Through her company, A Better Impression, she provides résumé and career counselling services to help her clients create a better impression. She can be reached at



Rudolph careering through the snow

In his book, Understanding Careers: The metaphors of working lives, Kerr Inkson uses the stories of a number of celebrities to illustrate particular career theories. I thought I would follow suit.

The career of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer provides a clear illustration of many of the theory ideas we have talked about in this blog. The vocational choices available to a reindeer in Lapland provide a very limited opportunity structure. You very rarely hear of reindeer becoming accountants, doctors or weather presenters. In fact, aside from sleigh pulling, the only other accessible destinations would appear to be venison burgers and fur coats. It is easy to imagine Rudolph circumscribing these options fairly quickly.

Other evidence of Rudolph’s ‘career as an inheritance‘ comes from the fact that his father was either Donner or Blitzen (depending on which version you believe), both well-known sleigh pullers in their own right.

So, with such strong role models in the family, there may well have been a certain amount of influence on Rudolph to follow that particular path. But it seems that there were negative as well as positive ‘community interactions‘ in Rudolph’s formative years. He seems to have received a certain amount of negative ‘feedback’ from all of the other reindeer.

At this point in Rudolph’s story, happenstance appears to have played a crucial part. Many careers are strongly influenced by changes in the economic climate, but it was changes in the actual climate that gave Rudolph his opportunity to shine.

  • What theoretical influences can you spot in the careers of Frosty the Snowman and Good King Wenceslas?

Have a Merry Christmas!

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This entry was posted on 23 December 2009, 16:33 and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through RSS 2.0. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


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