Careers rarely develop the way we plan them. Our career path often takes many twists and turns, with particular events, choices and people influencing our direction.

We asked Bru Amerlynck from An Garda Síochána to give some advice for people considering this job:


Bru Amerlynck


An Garda Síochána

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  Bru Amerlynck
Go to college first, travel, see the world. If you can get a qualification in any field then do.

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Development of Self-Concept

Adolescence is a process where the young person is gradually cutting the necessary bonds of childhood, learning who they are, building a self-concept, questioning their world, measuring themselves against peers, growing in confidence. It is a journey of self-discovery where a new and wonderfully unique identity is gradually forged. Of course it’s also a confusing and sometimes frightening time.

Think of the great work adolescents do in separating from their parents, in copper-fastening their own identities, in facing down their fears and anxieties and while all that is going on – they also manage to plan their future lives and selves as well!!! It’s a lot to handle. Your role as mentor, coach, counsellor, reality-checker, advisor and generally agreeable safety net is crucial at this time.

What is a Self-Concept?

Self-Concept refers to what we believe about ourselves, our personal attributes and who and what we are. Our self-concept changes over time and develops as a result of experience.

How does it develop?

We build our self-concept through communication with others, contact with others and relationships with others and in particular the bonds we have with significant key people in our lives. Children gradually develop an awareness of self – their age, gender, hair colour, height, favourite things. As they mature the concept of self grows in complexity. As a young person matures and their self-concept settles, their confidence strengthens to the point where they are less influenced by praise or criticism or other external influences.

Who are the main influencers in the development of Self-Concept?

The opinions that significant and key people (e.g. parents) have of us are crucial to helping us understand ourselves well. Beyond these key figures the response of others e.g: teachers, siblings and peer group contribute to how we see ourselves. Other influences on the development of the young person’s self-concept are contact and communication with groups such as sports clubs, social or voluntary activities. Finally as parents we are keenly aware that Media, Social Media and Stereotyping can all play a role in the development of a young person’s self-concept.

What's all that got to do with careers?

The self-concept begins to become firmly established towards late adolescence. Up to that point the young person can experience fluctuations of self-awareness and self-esteem. Their concept of self is not entirely settled. According to Donald Super’s CAREER DEVELOPMENT THEORY, Self-concept changes over time and develops as a result of experience. So Career Development is a lifelong process and there are FIVE KEY LIFE AND CAREER DEVELOPMENT STAGES.








Age 0 – 14

Development of Self-Concept, attitudes, needs and   general world of work


Age 15 – 24

Trying out different roles and occupational options through subject classes, work experience, part-time jobs, pastimes, travel,   relationships, networks, sports & voluntary activities. Skill &   Competency development, Provisional and definite choices made


Age 25 – 44

Skill Building, stabilising, career consolidating, career advancement, additional qualifications, professional memberships, credentials and recognitions


Age 45 – 64

Holding onto one’s job, up-skilling, continuity of role, A reflective period, often a time for career refocusing after child-rearing


Age 65 +

Reduced output and focus on retirement

Nowadays also a time of people seeking new roles, including mentoring or focussing on new or re-activated interests

Careers Guidance with students in secondary school is mostly concerned with Stages 1 and 2. Much of the work, career and personal assessments, aptitude & psychometric tests, group work, information sessions and work experience that go on with students in senior cycle is focussed on Stage 2 – The Exploration Stage.


In a nutshell please I'm very busy...

Your child will gradually discover and settle on who they are from their relationships, communications and experiences with family, friends, social experience and social forces. Deciding and settling on a career will be a similar journey of discovery with many of the same influences at play.

What can I as a parent do to support my child in developing their Self-Concept?

Every child develops a Self-Concept one way or another - it's up to parents to help in making sure it is a healthy one, and serves the child well. Be available. Be supportive and give them space to develop as individuals. Encourage independent thought, exploration and action. Shine the torchlight in the right direction and keep a discreet supply of batteries for when things don’t go according to plan.

A word of advice: Avoid retracing your own career journey – either its successes or failures. It’s their journey and they will want to make their own way as far as possible. Carl Rogers was a pioneering psychologist who broke Self-Concept down into three areas:

  • Self-Image = our view of ourselves
  • Self Esteem = how much we value ourselves
  • Ideal Self = What we wish we were really like

When Self-Image and Ideal Self overlap well, it makes for a congruent and contented individual. When there is only little overlap – for instance if the person has a low view of themselves and feel they will never achieve their ideal self – this can make it difficult for a person to achieve self-actualisation. Rogers said that for a person to reach their potential they must have the opportunity to develop in an environment that provides them with

  • Genuineness
  • Acceptance
  • Empathy

Try to ensure that your child spends time with those who are most genuine, who accept them as they are and who are empathetic towards them and basically on their side.


Getting to know your child and what they like to do

A young person needn’t be a deep philosopher to find out who they are and what they might like to do with their lives. They have been developing a self-concept since early childhood. Almost every experience contributes towards that development in some way. Each time they play a match, read a book, spend a day volunteering, make a prize-winning presentation, make a chip buttie or sit up late at night chatting to their friends, they are drawing a step nearer to a good understanding of who they are and what they want to do with their lives.

You can help this process by encouraging and supporting them, and by ensuring they have opportunities to immerse themselves in activities that are rewarding and productive in some way. Be open to the fact that your child will try on many career identities before settling on the one that suits them best so opportunities to explore and discover are important. Allow them to make their own mistakes wherever reasonable. 


A helping hand in developing a career concept   

As part of the process towards developing a career concept, students undergo assessment in schools in a number of different ways. Access to formal self-assessment tools has increased significantly in recent years. In our Career Assessment Tools page we look at the pros and cons of different types of career assessment and aptitude tests.

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