Lifelong Learning, Counseling, and Life-designing to promote Careers for the Future

TitreLifelong Learning, Counseling, and Life-designing to promote Careers for the Future
Type de publicationChapitre d'ouvrage
Année de publication2020
Titre de l'ouvrageHumanistic futures of learning. Perspectives from UNESCO Chairs and UNITWIN Networks
Auteur(s)Rossier, J., Aisenson G., Chabra M., Cohen-Scali V., Di Fabio A., Heslon C., Masdonati J., Ribeiro M. Alfonso et San Antonio D. Maria
VilleParis, France
Texte complet

Lifelong learning, counseling, and life designing to promote sustainable careers for all


Submitted by the UNITWIN Network Life Designing Interventions (counseling, guidance, education) for decent work and sustainable development

Contributors: Jérôme Rossier1, Gabriela Aisenson2, Meenakshi Chhabra3, Valérie Cohen-Scali4, Annamaria Di Fabio5, Christian Heslon6,7, Jonas Masdonati1, Marcelo Afonso Ribeiro8, and Donna Marie San Antonio9

1  Research center in vocational psychology and career counseling (CePCO), Institute of Psychology, University of Lausanne, Switzerland

2    Research and Interventions Team in Career Counseling (GIIPO), Faculty of Psychology, University of Buenos Aires, Argentina

3GlobalInterdisciplinary Studies, Lesley University, United States

4    Center of Research on Work and Development (CRTD), Institute of Studies of Work and Vocational Guidance (INETOP), Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers, France

5    International Laboratory for Research and Intervention Psychology for Vocational Guidance, Career Counseling and Talents, University of Florence, Italia

6    West Catholic University (UCO), Angers, France

7    Center of Research on Work and Development (CRTD, EA 4132), Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers, Paris, France

8  Research Center in Work Studies and Career Counseling and Guidance, Institute of Psychology, University of São Paulo, Brazil

9    Division of Counseling and Psychology, Lesley University, United States



Author Note

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to the UNITWIN Network Life Designing Interventions (counseling, guidance, education) for decent work and sustainable development, Scientific coordination, Research center in vocational psychology and career counseling (CePCO), Institute of Psychology, University of Lausanne, CH-1015 Lausanne, Email:, or to Jérôme Rossier, Institute of Psychology, University of Lausanne, Lausanne, CH-1015. Email:

The contribution of Jérôme Rossier and Jonas Masdonati benefited from the support of the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES—Overcoming vulnerability: Life course perspective (grant number 51NF40-160590) and of a project aiming at adapting and strengthening educational guidance and career counseling in West Africa (grant number IZ08Z0_177295), all financed by the Swiss National Science Foundation.The contribution of Marcelo Afonso Ribeiro benefited from the support of the CNPq—Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico, Brasil (National Council for Scientific and Technological Development, Brazil) by means of a regular research grant (304599/2018-2).





In contemporary societies, careers are characterized by unpredictability and frequent and increasingly complex work transitions. In this context, people are expected to self-manage and self-construct their careers throughout the lifespan. This tends to exacerbate social inequalities and exclusion processes within and outside education and the labor market. Lifelong counseling and education are therefore crucial to promote sustainable careers and access to decent and dignified work. These interventions should be inclusive, promoting social justice, as well as context- and culture-sensitive, which means adapting and co-constructing new conceptualizations of careers. Interventions also need to adopt a holistic approach, situating career issues within challenges in all life spheres, and targeting not only the individual but also communities and the public arena. Finally, lifelong counseling and education are expected to foster individuals’ empowerment and fulfillment, and consider also the impacts of careers on global concerns in terms of sustainability. To address these challenges, we define and describe the notion of sustainable careers, address the opportunities and limitations of both lifelong education and counseling for promoting them, and discuss diversity and inclusion issues for fostering workers wellbeing.

Keywords:sustainable careers, lifelong counseling, lifelong learning, life designing, decent work, social inclusion




Lifelong learning and counseling are becoming key practices. They must be studied and supported by international organizations and put into action by national public policies. They aim to help individuals to face a set of major social changes occurring all over the world. The context of liquid society described by Bauman (2005) means that individuals are forced to reorganize their lives and continuously question their increasingly uncertain future. They are required to identify and define by themselves the core values they want to defend and that will define their social position and identity. In this context, the issue of access to work is crucial to insure decent lives and it simultaneously plays an important role for an individual’s life-long self-construction (Guichard, 2005). The Labor market appears to be becoming less structured than in the past. If core workersstill have classic careers with permanent contracts, many peripheralworkers have to accept poorly skilled jobs, with short term or no contracts. The labor market continues to develop more and more social and economic grey zones, which are social spaces where traditional regulated work categories are disappearing (Bureau, Corsani, Giraud, & Rey, 2019). At the same time, with the rapid development of new technologies and forms of communication, people have new opportunities for work and learning. However, these situations require people to become more adaptive, strategic and entrepreneurial, in order to manage this fluid labor market and the possible obsolescence of their knowledge and skills. Moreover, the working world and workers are also facing the global challenges of climate change and the biodiversity crisis, which require radically innovative production practices. Workers must now imagine their careers anticipating the consequences of their actions on a planet with limited resources (Guichard, 2016). These changes constitute major considerations for policy makers when developing public policies in order to promote access to sustainable careers for all.

Sustainable careers

In this 21st century characterized by an unstable labor market with frequent job transitions, constructing sustainable careers and finding decent work and a decent life emerged as fundamental challenges (Blustein, Kenny, Di Fabio, & Guichard, 2019). The new research area of the Psychology of sustainability and sustainable development helps to define both sustainable careers and life projects (Di Fabio & Rosen, 2018). If traditionally a product has been considered sustainable because it employs manageable amounts of materials and can be produced with renewable and non-polluting processes, the construction and management of a sustainable career and life project is also based on attention to preserving, generating, and regenerating resources (Di Fabio, 2019). Career and life are more sustainable if rooted in a paradigm of meaning, anchored to authenticity, self-attunement and purposeful identitarian awareness (Di Fabio, 2014). The construction of a sustainable career and life requires a preventive perspective in guidance and career intervention, balancing employability on one hand and objective talents and potential (what I am able to do), subjective talents and potential (what energizes me in doing it) on the other. Thus sustainable careers and sustainable lives promote sustainable development and decent work through the respect for talents and for the meanings of each person within his or her culture and environment, in terms of harmonization of complexity in/with self, the natural environment and other environments (Di Fabio & Tsuda, 2018).

Lifelong learning as a key component lifelong employability

Ethnic, racial, gender, and social class disparities in education and employment continue to constrict life course choices and outcomes for much of the world’s population. At the same time, however, there are promising innovations for engaging lifelong learners in gratifying, sustainable educational endeavors that open doors to new employment possibilities, especially for historically marginalized populations (American Psychological Association, 2012; Chan et al., 2019; ILO, 2018). Specifically, there is a call for discourse and activities in lifelong learning that prioritize social justice, rather than market-driven goals, as a primary force (Vargas, 2017).

These social justice-oriented efforts have four key qualities: First, successful lifelong learning opportunities work within the contextual, cultural, and community realities of the learner. By recognizing the place-based lived experience of the learner, educational opportunities are more likely to be relevant and engaging. Psychology of learning theory clarifies the importance of socio-cultural context in the conceptualization and direction of one’s working life and career (Duffy, Blustein, Diemer, & Autin, 2016). Second, lifelong learning programs should challenge deterministic policies by encouraging democratic reciprocity and enabling the learner to be a self-determining agent (Biesta, 2006). Third, the design of lifelong learning should be grounded in an awareness of human development across the lifespan (Erikson, 1975; Elder, 1998) and there should be an intentional effort to address life stage concerns that are most relevant. Fourth, inventing the future is both an interpersonal and intrapersonal process (Jarvis, 2006). New innovations in lifelong learning attend to both; they give a relational space for self-understanding within a collective, through the articulation of one’s own unique, creative, and desire-driven narrative (Guichard, 2016).

Lifelong counseling and life designing for sustainable careers

Drastic changes have been occurring at an accelerated rate in both social and working contexts, and these have meant that individuals must actively adapt to these changes and that more workers are forced to make transitions in their working lives. For this reason, personal and career development interventions that can accompany and guide individuals are needed throughout life so that individuals can best cope with changing conditions and can best promote their own career development. This means that vocational guidance only to help young people to manage their school-to-work transition is no longer sufficient. We must promote lifelong counseling policies.

Lifelong counseling and life design interventions are intended to accompany people in their life-long career and personal constructions, helping them to generate actions that promote their attainment of sustainable careers and decent working conditions. Individuals become constructive agentsof their own realities, in relation to the social contexts in which they develop, and the subjective experiences they generated within themselves. It is crucial to take cultural and social diversity into account and to give particular importance to situations of social injustice that affect vulnerable social groups. This can be achieved by focusing on individual empowerment, by promoting community intervention programs, and by strengthening institutional support and public policies that promote access to sustained careers and lives (Aisenson, Legaspi, & Valenzuela, 2018). In this context the concept of sustainability has to consider three interconnected aspects: The development of a dignified life with and for others, secured by fair and supportive institutions, and ensuring the sustainability of authentic human life on our planet (Guichard, 2016).

Lifelong learning and counseling across cultures

Counseling practices and theories are social and cultural productions, and are deeply influenced by these factors. For this reason, they cannot be transposed across cultures without being appropriately contextualized. This contextualization will favor the understanding and adherence of counselees, who will benefit more from counseling or educational intervention. Contextualization is therefore a key factor if we want to promote lifelong learning and counseling for all, considering the great social and cultural diversity around the world. We make recommendation here for aspects that should be considered when contextualizing counseling practices and theories.

Firstly, at the epistemological level, it is important that concepts are re-developed using an interdisciplinary approach that considers the dialogical interaction between these concepts and the context. We may say that concepts have “to be forged with others, not for others” (Freire, 1975, p. 32). It is essential to be sensitive to cultural differences and specificities. In some cases, when co-constructing unifying concepts, it seems especially useful to integrate some aspect of mainstream theories with culture-specific aspects in order to create new adapted theoretical frameworks. Such a combined emic-etic approach allows theory crafting to make them locally relevant (Arulmani, Bakshi, Flederman, & Watts, 2011). Secondly, within each cultural setting, diversity, in terms of the intersectionality of gender, social class, or race/ethnicity, etc., should be considered when developing theories and practices. And, finally, lifelong strategies and counseling practices should be deconstructed and reconstructed always in a process of co-construction (Nota & Rossier, 2015) and by means of an intercultural dialogue (Santos, 2014). In that sense, group-based interventions and communitarian strategies should be fostered. Thus, the context must always be considered and intercultural dialogue is key in promoting sustainable careers for all by means of lifelong learning, counseling, and life design across cultures.

Lifelong learning and counseling for all

An assumption underlying the concept of lifelong learning is, equitable access of learning for all. The Sustainable Development Goal 4 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Developmentis to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all(UN General Assembly, 2015). The idea is to provide opportunities to engage fully and gain from inclusive and equitable quality lifelong learning for people of all ages, gender, and across different socio-economic, and cultural backgrounds. Yet equity in access to lifelong learning continues to be more an ideal than a reality. While the shift from national economies to a digital global economy and the proliferation of networked technologies have expanded platforms for lifelong learning, they have also created technological divides and further complicated the issue of access and participation in lifelong learning. The danger is for lifelong learning to become restricted to the privileged few who have the infrastructure available to them and who are equipped with the knowledge and skills to participate in it. Marginalized and disenfranchised groups such as the elderly, women and girls, people living in poverty or in extreme conflict contexts, those with disabilities or reduced mobility, refugees, migrants, and ethnic and racial minorities can be left out of opportunities. To realize equitable access to lifelong learning for all demands effort on a local and global level, to leverage resources and engage in alternative methods grounded in the arts and indigenous approaches, to support and promote lifelong learning for those who are typically excluded from the discourse.

Lifelong learning and counseling to promote well-being

The psychology of working perspective links the context, personal resources, decent work, needs fulfillment and well-being in unified model (Blustein, 2006). However, well-being is often forgotten by educational or career counselors, who tend to be more focused on the question of the fit between individuals and their professional context and the feasibility of their choices and projects. Considering the meaning of work (Morin, 2008) or the ethos of work(Mercure & Vultur, 2010), as an important need to be fullfield, helps us to consider well-being in our counseling interventions. This focus on meaning can be combined with a life-span perspective, considering counselees’ self-calendar(Neugarten,1996) or subjective age(Heslon, 2016). Such an integrative model would consider the temporalities of age and existence, along with the fluctuations of the relation to work among the main vectors of well-being during life. If well-being is something between hedonism (perfect happiness filled with positive affects without any negative affect) and eudemonism (search for fulfillment and full life), then the goal of any counseling process is to allow people to integrate their stories considering and their temporalities as suggested by Montaigne (1586). In other words, holistic life design practices can contribute to well-being if they consider both, and in a manner synchronized with ages of life, relation to work, but also all other life spheres.


Sustainable careers imply an adequate fit between the person and the context, as well as access to dignified work over time, in order to promote happiness, productivity, and health (De Vos, Van der Heijden, & Akkermans, 2018). Access to dignified work and a sustainable career is of course closely linked with social inclusion and recognition (Urbanaviciute, Bühlmann, & Rossier, in press). In a rapidly evolving labor market, lifelong learning should sustain workers’ employability over time. However, lifelong learning is not enough, because the evolution of the structure of the labor market may also lead to careers that are made up of sequences of experiences in different economic sectors. These transitions can happen throughout the career and may represent moments of vulnerability. For this reason, public policies should also promote lifelong counseling to help people manage these transitions. Such interventions can promote the conservation of resources, proactive growth and development, and self-awareness. However, such interventions cannot simply be standardized if we want them available for all. The process of adapting interventions throughout the world must include considering the cultural context and local diversity. In addition, we must consider the person and the diverse contexts in which he or she evolves; thus a life design approach considering all socially defined life spheres is necessary to understand a person’s situated or contextualized identity development (Savickas et al., 2009). People’s subjective representation of themselves and of their environment overtime underlies their situated identity development, allowing them to navigate across spaces over time (Rossier, Maggiori, & Zimmermann, 2015). To understand individuals’ career trajectories, the context, life spheres, and different layers of identity(ies) must be considered simultaneously. People’s identity allows them to be the agent of their lives and to make sense of their trajectories in a dynamic social, economic, and political context. To promote sustainable careers for all, public policies all over the world should promote access to education, lifelong learning, lifelong counseling and life designing, considering in particular diverse, underserved, and vulnerable populations. 




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