What do we mean by career development? It is about much more than promotion and training, although it encompasses these things.
Career development is about your individual career path – planning ahead in your career, identifying your next and future moves, working out if there are any gaps in your existing skills and experience, and finding ways to fill these so that you can achieve your career aims, but also enjoy your work and find the right balance between your life and career.
Developing your career can also be about how you learn and grow in your existing job. Today’s organisations are much flatter than they used to be, with fewer layers, making traditional career paths and ladder-like progression through the ranks less common.
Lateral career moves are more likely in this environment; sideways moves into different roles, rather than upwards into more senior positions with responsibility for more people or resources. You may also have scope for developing and enriching your current job, perhaps through taking on a project or managing another person; this way you are still learning new skills and your role is always changing, not stagnating.
Career development is thinking about and planning all the different steps and elements in your career but in your life as well – proactively managing your career rather than letting it manage you. It should not be seen as a conveyor belt that is moving only in one direction – onwards and upwards. Career development can be about progression, learning and developing new skills, and reaching a more senior position; however, it can also involve taking a career break, changing the direction of your career, or downshifting and taking a less responsible or part-time position, maybe to escape office pressures or because you want more time for other important parts of your life.
This will depend on your circumstances, how you feel about your work, and what’s going on in your life at the time. Career paths and plans therefore are not binding documents which you set out at the start of your career and then rigidly adhere to for the next 25 years; rather, they are more flexible and may change with your life and career experiences.
There are many ways in which we can plan and develop our careers, and we take a look at some of these in the next pages.
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