Career Development

Career development is the process of improving an individual’s abilities in anticipation of future opportunities for achieving career objectives.

A formal approach taken by an organization to help its people acquire the skills and experiences needed to perform current and future jobs is termed as career development. Company’s policies especially policies regarding promotion, counseling the employees, opportunities to excel in future help employees to develop their career. Career development consists of skills, education and experiences as well as behavioral modification and refinement techniques that allow individuals to work better and add value.

Career development is an ongoing organized and formalized effort that recognizes people as a vital organizational resource. It differs from training in that it has a wider focus, longer time frame, and broader scope. The goal of training is improvement in performance; the goal of development is enrichment and more capable workers.

Recently, career development has come to be seen as a means for meeting both organizational and employee needs, as opposed to solely meeting the needs of the organization as it had done in the past. Now, organizations see career development as a way of preventing job burnout, providing career information to employees, improving the quality of work lives and meeting affirmative action goals. That is, career development must be seen as a key business strategy if an organization wants to survive in an increasingly competitive and global business environment.

In simple terms it means 'Providing employees an opportunity to grow', especially to those employees who deliver performance.

Definitions of Career development

Followings are the main definitions of Career development:

  • According to Schuler, "It is an activity to identify the individual needs, abilities and goals and the organization’s job demands and job rewards and then through well designed programmes of career development matching abilities with demands and rewards".
  • In the words of Mansfield, "Career development is a process in which personnel experience, concept and publicly observable aspect of career interact to precipitate each successive stage of occupational statuses".
  • According to Middlemist, Hill and Greer, "Career development is a process of planning the series of possible jobs one may hold in an organization over time and development strategies designed to provide necessary job skills as the opportunities arise".

Career development helps you take stock of who you are and where you want to go in life. In order to achieve growth, continue learning, and achieve momentum in your career you must assess your situation and your goals frequently, otherwise you doom yourself to the fate of a robot working a daily routine. Here are a few career development questions you can ask yourself:  

  • Where do I want to be in my career at the end of this year? What job would I like to retire from? It’s O.K. to think about next month or even 30 years from now. You can’t achieve career development without having a goal.
  • Do I like the field I’m working in? Career development doesn’t mean you have to develop the career you currently in, but can also mean changing careers, even changing environments. Perhaps you’ve always wanted to work in the big city. You can start thinking now about finding jobs in New York or jobs in Philadelphia. Remember, it is your career, your life, your choices. Answer your questions honestly (there are no rights or wrongs!) and reconsider the questions from time-to-time as your desires may change.
  • What would I like to learn more about? If you have strong interests in a particular area, you also probably have strengths and talents in that area. Your desire to learn more about a certain subject or field will propel you faster in your career. Find your niche!

Growth means, to an employee, one or more of the following:

  1. Climbing up the ladder in the organizational hierarchy.
  2. On-going increase in remuneration.
  3. Acquiring higher level skills & competencies.
  4. Occupying higher level Job positions.
  5. Having an opportunity to avail of some exclusive benefits (perks & privileges).

Facts [+]

A survey  showed that men tend to prefer innovative companies that are financially healthy and offer quality products and services, good training and career prospects, whereas women look for factors like easy accessibility, flexible work arrangements, pleasant atmosphere.

While older respondents had greater concern for strong management, values and image, quality products and good work atmosphere, the younger workforce look for technological innovativeness, flexible working arrangements and global career opportunities.

Most executives cited the lack of challenges or opportunity for career growth, rather than inadequate compensation, as the main reason they left their last job, according to a recent survey by executive search firm Korn/Ferry International. Twenty percent cited ineffective leadership, while 17 percent said the attractive job market was why they left their last jobs.

Top executives' exit gives PepsiCo

Feb,2012. NEW DELHI: At least three senior officials have exited PepsiCo India at a time when its global parent has announced 8,700 job cuts, potentially impacting the beverages and snacks maker's performance in the crucial summer season.

"There's a lack of roles in leadership positions; and growth opportunities are limited," a PepsiCo official said, requesting not to be named.
PepsiCo insiders said besides lack of growth opportunities within India and lesser number of roles being created for PepsiCo India officials in its US headquarters compared to the past, the company pushing diversity to accommodate more women in leading roles may have also played a role in some exits.

Career development plan at at different levels

Career development is not a mere management responsibility. It is a composite organizational process which involves people, addresses their ambitions, assigns them roles & responsibilities commensurate with their potential, evaluates their performance, and creates Job positions to accommodate growth ambitions of employees. In the career development cycle, a number of actions have to take place at different levels as outlined below:


  1. Decide what they want from their careers now and in the future.
  2. Examine individually, or along with their Supervisors, their interests & ambitions.
  3. Create 'Development Plans' by obtaining inputs from the Supervisor, to meet the requirements of the current Job and to cater for the long term perspectives.
  4. Work with the Supervisor to identify on the job learning and training opportunities and other avenues for professional development.

Managers/ Supervisors

  1. Identify the job-related knowledge, skills, competencies and experience needed for an employee to be effective in that position.
  2. Help subordinates to define their short and long term development needs which support organizational objectives and employee's career goals.
  3. Support Employee Development Plans by indicating specific steps that need to be initiated to accomplish the learning goals.
  4. Help the employee in understanding the type of Jobs which will be best suited for his/ her career growth.

Organization/ Management          

  1. Provide a job and compensation structure that support the organization's as well as individual's growth & development perspectives.
  2. Enrich job-positions to create more challenges in the work-environment.
  3. Provide time and funds for employee development activities.
  4. Create processes to utilize the knowledge, skills and abilities of each employee, aligned fully to the organizational goals.
  5. Undertake pro-active man-power planning to meet future staffing needs.
  6. Evaluate employees & create succession pipe-lines for vital job positions in the organization.
  7. Identify & nurture talent and reward performance in a transparent manner.

Systems Approach

Career development requires a systems approach.

1. This implies Institutionalization of processes to automatically capture essential data about each employee at the time of recruitment or induction.

It also includes maintenance, over the service span history of employment, of the following details:
a) training details,
b) performance statistics,
c) awards & recognitions,
d) special skills & competencies,
e) promotions,
f) pay increments and
g) Many other fields which depict the capability profile of an individual.

2. If these details are available to the management on an 'Employee Dashboard', career planning can be managed as a part of the HR Vision.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment is a psychometric questionnaire designed to measure psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions.
The Myers-Briggs personality assessment has been identifying introverts, extroverts and other personality types since 1943. Based on the theories of psychologist Carl Jung, the Myers-Briggs questionnaire has been gauging personalities through attitude, style and cultural changes occurring during the past 60 years. Many consider it an essential tool for hiring and career development. The indicator is frequently used in the areas of pedagogy, career counseling, team building, group dynamics, professional development, marketing, family business, leadership training, executive coaching, life coaching, personal development, marriage counseling, and workers' compensation claims.

Career-Impacted Life Stages

Each person’s career goes through stages that influence an individual’s knowledge of, and preference for, various occupations. People change constantly and, thus, view their careers differently at various stages of their lives. Some of these changes result from the aging process and others from opportunities for growth and status. The main stages of the career cycle include the growth, exploration, establishment, maintenance, and decline. 

a. Growth Stage: The growth stage is roughly from birth to age 14 and is a period during which an individual develops a self-concept by identifying and interacting with other people. Basically, during this stage an individual establishes his or her identity. 

b. Exploration Stage: The exploration stage is the period roughly from ages 15 to 24, during which an individual seriously explores various occupational alternatives. The person attempts to match these occupational alternatives with his or her own interests and abilities resulting from education, leisure activities, and work. 

c. Establishment Stage: The establishment stage is roughly from ages 25 to 44 and is the primary part of most people’s work lives. Hopefully, during this period, a suitable occupation is found and the person engages in those activities that help earn a permanent career. During this period, the individual is continually testing personal capabilities and ambitions against those of the initial occupational choice. 

d. Maintenance Stage: Between the ages of 45 to 65, many people move from the stabilization sub stage into the maintenance stage. During maintenance, the individual has usually created a place in the work world, and most efforts are directed at maintaining the career gains earned. 

e. Decline Stage: As retirement becomes an inevitable reality, in the decline stage, there is frequently a period of adjustment, where many begin to accept reduced levels of power and responsibility.

 Employee career development cannot take place without support from the top management. Commitment of top management is crucial. Employees also need to be given feedback about their career development efforts. It is difficult for an employee to sustain years of preparation to reach career goals unless they receive feedback. Career development does not guarantee success but without it employees would not be ready for a job when the opportunity arises.