What is Career Development?

“You can’t just sit there and wait for people to give you that golden dream. You’ve got to get out there and make it happen for yourself.” – Diana Ross  

Career development refers to identifying and articulating one’s skills, strengths, and experiences relevant to personal career goals.

Students and employees with career development skills should be able to independently navigate and explore job options, as well as self-advocate for opportunities in the workplace.

Individuals that have these skills are more likely to move into roles where their skills are most suited and their aspirations are best met. Employers also invest in career development because it prevents employee turnover within organizations, and leads to higher engagement and productivity. 

Career development can also be defined as a process that spans the entire lifetime of an individual. From early childhood through retirement, our career aspirations and identity are constantly evolving.

Why is it Important? 

On the individual level, career development is a significant factor in developing a successful career. By focusing on opportunities for growth, learning, and progression, individuals are more likely to meet their individual career goals. Without a focus on career development, it is more likely that employees may become stuck in roles that offer little advancement, leading to higher employee burnout and dissatisfaction. 

Career development is quickly becoming important for organizations as well. This is because organizations are now aware that career development initiatives benefit their needs as well as the needs of their employees. 

Here are some more reasons why career development is so important!

Identifying and Resolving Business Needs
  • With career development, organizations can plan more effectively with regular audits that highlight any potential need for internal restructuring. These company forecasts allow organizations to identify which skills are lacking in their operations and subsequently offer additional training to up-skill their employees.
Ensures a Steady Supply of Qualified Talent
  • Quite often, the most qualified and aspirational job seekers tend to apply to companies that are known for their career development and progression programs. Thus, when organizations prioritize career development, they will inevitably attract some of the best candidates.
Guaranteeing a Good Fit Between Employer & Employee
  • Different careers require different skillsets. To advance in their career and perform the job well, employees must pursue their own career development. This will ensure the best fit between the company and the employee.
Enhanced Job Satisfaction & Productivity
  • When organizations prioritize and encourage career development, employees will feel more supported and motivated. They will often stay with a company longer since there are opportunities for growth and career progression. This stability and upward mobility can lead to higher rates of overall job satisfaction and productivity.
Promotes Equity in the Workplace
  • Career development programs in the workplace provide equal opportunities to employees to improve their skillsets and advance their careers.

The Career Development Process

There are many different stages and steps in the career development process, and knowing these stages can help you to ultimately be successful in reaching your goals.

  1. Self-Assessment: Before the career development process can even begin, we must first develop and identify our personality and self-concept. This stage commonly spans from childhood through young adulthood and is a time when we explore our interests, career values, skills, abilities, limitations, and work styles. By assessing these qualities, we can develop an understanding of which occupations match our unique preferences.
  2. Career Awareness: This stage involves learning about the career paths that are available to us. Each career requires a certain set of skills and knowledge that can be gained through experience, education, and qualifications. We must learn about the opportunities that are available to us, as well as which next steps to take.
  3. Goal Setting: Once we have sufficient background knowledge of ourselves and our chosen career, then we can begin to set specific goals. Consider developing a career action plan with an outline of the steps you must take to achieve your short and long-term goals. In addition, a vision statement can help you articulate your overall purpose and mission.
  4. Skill Development: Now for the fun part! Developing your skills is an ongoing process that begins before employment starts and should continue throughout your entire career. UC Berkeley suggests a 70-20-10 rule for skills development:
    1. 70% should come from on-the-job direct experience
    2. 20% should come from interactions with others (such as with a mentor)
    3. 10% should come from training, classes, conferences, etc.
  5. Career Management: As your career progresses, it is important to build relationships and create a network. In addition, continuous career planning and goal setting are common as priorities change. The career development process is not always on a straight upward trajectory, and in fact, that is quite rare! Career development is typically a lifelong journey with many unexpected twists and turns along the way.

Career Development Tips

“The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want and if they can’t find them, make them.” ~ George Bernard Shaw

You probably have a better understanding now of the career development process and why career development is so important for both individuals and organizations. As a student, graduate, intern, or employee, there are so many different ways to develop your career and advance yourself professionally. Here are some of our top tips for your career development:

Make a Plan, and Write it Down
  • We recommend setting aside some time to think about your career goals for the next 5 years, as well as the steps you must take to achieve them. The most important thing is to write down your plan! You will remember your goals and priorities much better if you take the time to put pen to paper.
Become More Self-Aware
  • Self-awareness is one of the most important aspects of your career development. There are many different ways to cultivate self-awareness, but the first step is introspection. Set aside time to be alone with no distractions – perhaps by taking a walk outside, doing some stream-of-consciousness journaling, or mindfulness meditation. The goal is to objectively understand your strengths and weaknesses so that you can set the right intentions moving forward. Personality tests and asking for honest feedback from someone you trust can also be helpful. But don’t solely rely on these methods, as introspection is still the most important tactic for developing self-awareness.
Expand Your Network
  • Consider joining a professional association relevant to your chosen career field. Attend conferences and events to meet your peers and stay up to date with the industry. 
Find a Mentor
  • Your mentor can be a current or past manager, co-worker, or someone within your professional network whom you look up to. They can provide you with the experienced perspective that will help you define your career goals. Monthly meetings can focus on sharing accomplishments and establishing career milestones.  
Pursue Opportunities to Develop Your Skills
  • Look for opportunities both within and outside of your company. There are a variety of online courses and certificates that can be useful to your career development if you aren’t sure where to start. For example, Pagoda Projects offers our Employability and Digital Competency Skills courses!
Take Advantage of Career Centers
  • If you are a university student, chances are that your campus has a career centre that can assist you with career development planning, resumes, mock interviews, job applications, and more. Take advantage of these resources if they are available to you!

Overall, career development is a lifelong process that requires intention, vision, and purpose. While your goals may adapt and evolve throughout the course of your lifetime, understanding the fundamentals of career development will aid you in every professional endeavour.

Additional Sources & Resources

  1. What is Career Development?
  2. 5 Tips to Improve Your Career Development
  3. Self Awareness: How to Be More Self-Aware
  4. Five Career Development Tips: Be Your Own Best Advocate
  5. TEDxTalk: How to Find the Person Who Can Help You Get Ahead at Work – Carla Harris
  6. TEDxTalk: The Secrets of People Who Love Their Jobs – Shane Lopez
  7. TEDxTalk: Why Some of Us Don’t Have One True Calling – Emilie Wapnick