Career as an experiential learning voyage : Development of experiential assessment methodology in a lifelong learning context

Abstract: This research is in the management discipline, more specifically in human resource management concerned with staffing. It examines a relatively new phenomenon: career changes by a special cadre of individuals who have advanced education and training, perhaps a doctoral degree in sciences, humanities, or engineering, and who, at the dusk of their careers, became entrepreneurial and strive to switch from an executive position in business to an academic post or vice versa. In the light of recent societal and environmental developments, and the fact that people more often change careers, there is a growing need for systematic assessment processes. For people who want to change careers at an older age, there are no assessment models available and consulting agencies have not specialized in these areas.By using the assessment methodology developed in this research, it is possible to assess a person’s lifelong careers and to use these assessments in recruitment situations. The models explain how to select shortlisted candidates. The models are based on learning theory, especially experiential learning theory which is particularly important for candidates with lifelong careers and older exam certificates. The models give special attention to the learning that has taken place in practice for people aspiring to change careers. The respondents of the empirical study were of this type. Ten people with lifelong careers were interviewed through a narrative method but guided through a learning model of content, incentive, and interaction. Their cases have been related to experiential learning theory to give a foundation for developing an assessment methodology of lifelong careers. The concepts of competence and employability are central, as assessment has to be towards an object and purpose: a candidate for a job in a recruitment situation.The special characteristic of this study is that it deals with people who show entrepreneurial behavior by shifting to business after a long career in academia, or vice versa. For them a lifewide career can be described by the occupation they have had in the two professions, academia and business. Lifelong careers give candidates possibilities to see their lives’ courses in retrospect and to assess their careers. Based on recruitment criteria set up by the employer, candidates have the opportunity to deliver information and evidence for employability through describing their competences to assessors. Special weight should be put on describing the life courses through eras of their professional lives and what has motivated them in specific eras – and especially what has motivated them to change careers.The portfolio is a tool suitable for lifelong career reporting – especially on the candidate side as this gives him a “database” from which he can tailor job applications and address employer requirements. On the employer side, there is a need for assessment methods to select the best candidates. With the assessment methodology developed in this research, employers have models and tools for more objective recruitment of candidates. This research provides concrete methods for assessing candidates and models for quantitatively prioritizing shortlisted candidates. The aim of the study is to make assessment methodology and tools for recruiting purposes, especially for entrepreneurial people with a lifelong career.