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Teaching the teachers. Sargent College's department of rehabilitation counseling works with people who have physical, developmental, or psychiatric disabilities to develop the resources and skills they need to obtain satisfying work and lead fulfilling lives. Recently, Associate Professor of Rehabilitation Counseling Norman Hursh was awarded a three-year training grant from the Rehabilitation Services Administration entitled Skill-Based Vocational Evaluation Education to Empower Persons with Severe Disability.

Hursh plans to develop a national training model for graduate rehabilitation counseling programs. He would like to add a training component to graduate programs on how to evaluate individuals who have been underserved or difficult to help in the past, such as individuals with traumatic head injuries, learning disabilities, psychiatric disabilities, and work-related injuries. Hursh will also design special training in the technological advances and assistive technology used for evaluating these individuals. Another priority is to develop a national program to further encourage minority students with disabilities to enroll in graduate level programs in rehabilitation counseling.

The new protean career contract. Organizations have been undergoing sweeping transformations because they must be more flexible and faster in the market than ever. This means that employees must fundamentally rethink their careers, argues SMG Professor of Organizational Behavior Douglas Hall.

In the winter 1998 issue of Organizational Dynamics, Hall and consultant Jonathan Moss report that today's employees pursue a "protean career" rather than the "organizational career" of several years ago. "The protean career is based on self-direction and the pursuit of psychological success in one's work," says Hall. "The new career contract is with yourself, not your organization."

Pursuing the protean career requires a high level of self-awareness and personal responsibility. "People can no longer just be competent in their functional area," says Hall. "They also have to develop what we call metacompetencies. It's not just your learning that counts -- it's your ability to learn how to learn."

In the future companies will not manage their employees' careers, but rather provide the opportunities and resources to enable the employee to develop identity and adaptability and thus be in charge of his or her own career. "In this new environment, learning will come through new work challenges and relationships," says Hall. "A diverse workforce, mentoring, networking, and coaching are all excellent sources of continuous learning, if the opportunity is provided to use them."

Since the average time it takes for an organization to arrive at an understanding of this new career contract is seven years, Hall and Moss propose some steps to accelerate the process. A key one is simply to talk openly about this new contract. "In most firms, top executives still feel guilty they can't provide the old-style lifetime career contract," says Hall. "Instead, they should use everyday job challenges and work relationships to help employees grow. They should reward employees for learning new competencies. An organization must realize that careers are now boundaryless. The company must open a dialogue with employees and support them."

"Research Briefs" is written by Joan Schwartz in the Office of the Provost. To read more about BU research, visit


15 May 2003
Boston University
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