By everyone’s account, Kevin has the ideal life. At the age of 39 he has attained the title of…

By everyone’s account, Kevin has the ideal life. At the age of 39 he has attained the title of vice-president of corporate planning for XO Engineering Services Inc. (fictitious name), a mid-sized engineering firm specializing in providing support for largescale infrastructure projects around the world. Kevin has spent his entire professional career at XO. At the age of 23 Kevin received his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from one of the top universities in the United States. While he looked at a number of engineering companies prior to graduation, he was most impressed with XO right from the start. By Kevin’s estimation, XO was a progressive organization that had outstanding growth prospects and really seemed to care about its employees. During the interview process, he was surprised by how many times he heard that XO was like a family. Many of the employees whom Kevin met during his site visit had spent their entire careers at XO and some had been with the company for its entire 30-year existence. Another selling point in favor of XO was that its corporate headquarters was in a Virginia suburb right outside of Washington, D.C. Kevin had grown up in northern Virginia and really wanted to stay in the metro Washington, D.C. area. For all of these reasons, the choice of XO as an employer was a “no-brainer” for Kevin. Kevin’s Early Career Kevin’s work ethic, intelligence, and charisma were recognized by XO’s senior management early in his tenure with the company. In every assignment and project, Kevi superiors would give him glowing evaluations. Kevin’s rise up the corporate hierarchy was meteoric, at least by XO’s standards. He went from a junior to a senior engineering position in two years and to a project manager two years after that. With XO’s encouragement, Kevin had gotten an executive MBA from a top-notch business school in Washington. By the time he was 30, Kevin was an assistant vice-president, and at the age of 34 he was promoted to vice-president of engineering services. At age 38 he was moved to his present position. His current salary and bonus now total over $200,000 per year. He is financially well off and he knows that XO’s senior management and board of directors see him as a future senior officer, maybe even the CEO someday. His decision to take a job with XO many years ago has paid off for Kevin. He is in a secure, stable career with a solid company and he has great prospects for further advancement. Kevin’s Nonwork Life While an undergraduate, Kevin met and began dating Anne, a fellow student pursuing a degree in education. After three years of dating, they got married. While Kevin was starting his career at XO, Anne began teaching seventh grade English in a school district close to their home. The two-career relationship worked well, with both Kevin and Anne enjoying much success in their careers. And their dual incomes afforded them a comfortable lifestyle. Kevin and Anne agreed that they wanted to have children as soon as they could. Two years after they got married, they had their first son and two years later they had another son. Their dual-earner relationship resulted in a fair number of childcare challenges and stresses when the two boys were younger, but Anne’s job meant that she could be counted on to get home in the afternoon and she had her summers off. Both Kevin’s and Anne’s parents lived relatively close by, and they took turns watching the boys when needed. Once the two boys started school, the childcare challenges became less difficult to manage. With his career on the fast track, Kevin did not get too involved in child-rearing activities—he just did not have the time. His job required him to travel about 30 percent of the time, so he was often away from home, and when he was at the corporate headquarters he usually put in some long hours. As his sons got older, Kevin became involved in helping coach their sports teams. Both boys enjoyed athletics and they started playing baseball and football as soon as they were old enough. Kevin had played both sports in high school and he was quite pleased that his sons gravitated to these two sports. When he was not traveling, Kevin really enjoyed the time he spent coaching. He always looked forward to the practices and games, not only because he could spend time with his two sons, but he also believed that he had a positive influence on all the players he coached. Just recently, several parents approached Kevin about becoming the manager of the travel baseball team for the next season. The travel team, of which Kevin’s older son was a member, consisted of the top players in that age group. Because of the higher caliber of play, the travel team usually practiced twice a week and also played two games per week. While Kevin was flattered by the invitation to manage the team, he knew that his job demands would make it impossible for him to consider the offer seriously. Nevertheless, he really did want to manage the team and found himself bitter that his job was getting in the way of something that he really wanted to do. Kevin’s Dilemma For at least the past three months Kevin has been having a difficult time being motivated about his work. After 17 years at XO the job is not as challenging as it once was and the same old routine has gotten to be a hassle. The regular travel overseas is the worst part because it takes him away from his family for several days at a time. When he is away, he has a hard time focusing on his work—he just counts down the days to when he can get back home. His work has not really suffered yet, mainly because his technical and managerial skills are still sharp, but he worries that if he doesn’t get his act together soon his performance might begin to slip. Deep down, Kevin really envies his wife and her career. He sees Anne’s teaching and counseling of children as fulfilling work, at least when compared with engineering. And unlike himself, it seems as if his wife is always motivated for her job. She also gets to spend a much greater amount of time with their children than he does. When he daydreams, Kevin secretly wonders what it would be like to be a teacher. One of the local colleges has been running ads for a program that would allow individuals who already have a bachelor’s degree to get a teaching degree with only a year’s worth of coursework. And he sees listings in the local newspapers for math and science teachers. Kevin is certain he would be a great teacher with his technical skills and all of his real-world experience. His daydreams often fade quickly though, especially when he considers all that he would be giving up if he were to change careers. For one thing, his starting salary as a teacher wouldn’t even be a third of what he is making as an executive with XO. Plus, if he were to leave XO now, he would be leaving a tremendous amount of potential future income “on-the-table” so to speak given his chances for further promotions and compensation increases with XO. Longer-term, if he were to leave XO before he hit the age of 50, he would also forgo a substantial amount of pension income in his retirement. He hasn’t spoken with Anne about his daydreams and even if he did discuss the idea with her, he isn’t sure how she would react. She seems happy with the current situation and the successes they have achieved together. To willingly take a significant step backward in their household finances might not sit too well with her. While in the midst of one of his daydreams, Kevin was brought back to reality by a knock at his office door. It was the CEO of the company and he wanted to know if Kevin was free for lunch that day. Kevin wasn’t sure if the invitation to lunch was a good thing or not—after all, his boredom in his work might have finally caught up with him. To Kevin’s surprise, the lunch with the CEO wasn’t negative at all; in fact, it should have been looked at as good news. The CEO explained to Kevin that XO’s senior officers, with the blessing of the board of directors, had decided to make a major expansion of the company’s operations into South America. Kevin knew that the expansion was possible, given that he had actually made the formal proposal to the Board. While XO already had an office in Brazil, this new strategy would significantly expand operations in that country and throughout the region. The purpose of the lunch was to gauge Kevin’s interest in taking over the expanded operations in South America. The CEO explained how much confidence he and the board of directors had in Kevin and that he was the clear-cut choice to head this mission. The CEO hinted that if he were successful in this venture, he would be the heir apparent to the CEO position in two or three years. Of course, the move would mean a promotion to the senior vice-president level and a major increase in compensation. The CEO further explained that Kevin would need to move to Brazil, but the expatriate assignment would likely only be for two years. The CEO asked Kevin to think about the offer and also discuss it thoroughly with Anne. He asked Kevin to get back to him in a week or so. The company needed to move quickly, because if Kevin wasn’t interested, they would likely go through an external search to fill the position. After the lunch, Kevin sat at his desk in stunned silence. As he was about to leave and head home, he remembered that he had to go directly to the football field for his younger son’s practice that evening—the team has a big game this weekend and they need Coach Kevin to help get them prepared. Case Questions 1. Based on the definition and the description of the protean and boundaryless perspectives of careers as provided in this chapter, do you think Kevin has adopted these approaches to his career? Why or why? 2. Do you think Kevin sees himself as successful in his career? Why or why not? 3. What social and nonwork factors are influencing Kevin’s career choices? How big a role should these factors play in the career decisions of an individual? Should they play a role? 4. Do you think Kevin’s age and the fact that he is approaching midcareer are having an effect on his “daydreaming” and the questioning of his future career direction? Why or why not? 5. If Kevin sought your help, what advice would you give him in terms of the management of his career? If you had to make a prediction, what career choices do you think Kevin will make?

 

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