Career Development: Definition and Tips

What is career development?

Career development is the process of wanting a position and developing the skills, knowledge and motivation to eventually pursue it. You may notice a career when you’re younger and try to learn more about the responsibilities and duties involved in the role as you get older, or you may become interested in a new career later on in your life.

As you learn more about a career and start pursuing it, you can continue developing your skills and discovering more about your desired career until you meet the qualifications to work in the role. This allows you to work your way up to management or leadership roles by improving your skills and gaining more valuable experience. This career development typically continues until retirement.

As you’re establishing which career may be the best for you or if you’d like to advance in your current role, different factors may impact your decision. Factors that influence career development are:

  • Personality, characteristics and interests

  • Knowledge and skills

  • Financial resources and obligations

  • Age

  • Family support and obligations

  • Physical strength and abilities

These factors may keep you from pursuing the role you originally thought you wanted and may instead lead you to a new position. For example, if you’re an outgoing person who enjoys interacting with people, you may decide to pursue a position like marketing or public relations that involves regularly collaborating with others rather than a role that consists of limited interaction with others.

Why is career development important?

Career development is often what motivates you to develop personal and professional goals that allow you to advance in your career. Setting plans and strategies to help achieve your goals can make work more enjoyable and your life feel more meaningful. Employers may encourage your passion to improve yourself and offer different resources that help you expand your knowledge and skills.

If you’re consistently working to enhance your skill set and perform in a role that makes you happy, your organization may benefit from the valuable work you’re producing for them. Employers may also enjoy your passion to develop in your career as it may motivate you to stay at the company longer to advance in your role.

Stages of career development

There are several stages you may undergo as you grow in your field. While everyone’s career journey is different, here are the stages of career development many professionals experience:

  • Growth: The growth stage involves developing natural skills and observing different job positions. You start learning where your strengths and weaknesses lie and how they align with potential careers.

  • Exploration: This stage involves learning more about careers that may intrigue you and discovering the tasks and responsibilities each career holds. You may receive additional education and work experience in a role and may decide if you want to continue working in this field or pursue a different one.

  • Establishment: In this stage, you’ve typically decided which career to pursue and are working to eventually move up in the role. You may consistently try to engage in more educational opportunities that better prepare you for leadership or management positions.

  • Maintenance: At this point, you should be satisfied in your role and may have achieved many of your goals. You may either continue building and accomplishing more or decide to pursue a different role or field.

  • Decline: Upon retirement, your focus and productivity in your career may lessen as you focus on maintaining your personal health by relaxing and resting. Your work hours may decrease or stop entirely during this stage.

How to develop in your career

Follow the steps below to learn how you can effectively develop and grow in your career:

  1. Assess your strengths and areas to improve

  2. Research possible careers that align with your strengths and abilities

  3. Create a vision and set career goals for yourself

  4. Determine the skill set and education you need to advance in your career

  5. Develop and enhance your knowledge and skills

1. Assess your strengths and areas to improve

All jobs require certain strengths and skills to be successful and provide quality work. As you think about the job you may want to pursue, try to analyze your strengths. You can write your strengths and skills down if this helps you better picture your abilities. Once you’ve noted them, write down skills you know you need to improve.

2. Research possible careers that align with your strengths and abilities

Once you’ve gained an understanding of where your talents lie, you can now compare them to the responsibilities and duties of certain positions. You should also examine your interests and discover how often you may use them to perform in certain roles. You can research possible positions online by searching phrases like “jobs that use creativity and communication skills,” for example.

To learn more about different career paths, you can speak with career counselors or attend local job fairs. This can help you gain a better understanding of what each role entails and if there are other careers with similar responsibilities that are better suited for your qualities.

3. Create a vision and set career goals for yourself

Now that you have an idea of what career you’d like to pursue, you can develop a strategy and action plan to achieve these goals. Learn what education, qualifications and skills you need for this career and set goals to obtain them. Create a vision statement to give yourself an idea of what you’re working toward. For example, if your goal is to become a graphic designer, your vision statement can be, “I would like to become a graphic designer in five years creating company websites for an advertising agency.”

From there, you should create goals you must meet to reach your vision statement. Adding on to this example, your goals could be to attend a university and receive a related degree, participate in a graphic design internship and pursue an entry-level graphic design position after graduation. Your vision statement can change as you develop new abilities and knowledge that may be better suited for other opportunities.

4. Determine the skill set and education you need to advance in your career

Once you’ve achieved the career you wanted, you can make new goals. These can be strategies to enhance your strengths and challenge yourself in your role. You can build goals that involve receiving management or leadership positions or taking on more responsibility. Learn the type of education, strengths or experience you should have to achieve each one.

5. Develop and enhance your knowledge and skills

Continue developing your skills and knowledge to make yourself eligible for upward movement in your career. Different ways you can challenge and improve yourself include:

  • Attending workshops or conferences to build your industry knowledge

  • Networking with other professionals in your field for advice and guidance

  • Meeting with your supervisor to better understand what to improve

  • Taking on new work opportunities and challenge yourself in your role

Career development tips

The tips below will help you develop within your career:

Picture your goals better by writing them down

Having goals and establishing a plan is easier to accomplish if you’re well aware of them and hold yourself accountable for achieving them. An effective way to do this is by writing each one down. This keeps them fresh in your mind and is easier to reference later when you’re searching for motivation during a challenging project.

Mention your development goals to your supervisor

Another way to hold yourself accountable for achieving your goals is by meeting with your supervisor and working with them to build a strategy. They have a better idea of how you can improve in your role and can help you create a plan to better prepare you for advancement. This also proves your commitment to bettering yourself, which may impress your manager and make them consider you for leadership opportunities.