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Glossary: HR & Recruiting Definitions

What is career development?

Career development is the process of choosing a career, improving professional skills, and advancing along that path. It's a lifelong learning process and it's not uncommon for a career development plan to change several times throughout. 

Why create a career development plan?

When an individual pays close attention to their career development, they will have a good sense of their strengths and weaknesses, as well as what they enjoy doing during work and what they might want to remove from their job description eventually. They can then focus more directly on the skills they might need to improve to see them achieve their goals.

Although career development is fundamentally about professional progression and improvement, having a career development plan in place should also be about what sort of lifestyle the person would like to achieve. For example, if the person would like to travel more, maybe they should work on positioning themselves with a company that has an open 'work-from-anywhere' policy, or flexible working hours.

The aim of career development is to bring a person closer to their ideal job title and lifestyle.

What are the advantages of creating a career development plan?

There are a lot of clear advantages of having a career development plan, both for the employee, but also the employer.

For the employer, encouraging employees to develop these plans will have the following positive outcomes:

  • Improves morale and motivation
  • Reduces employee turnover
  • Enables departments to promote employees internally, thereby reducing cost of hiring
  • Ensures that teams utilise skills effectively leading to increased work satisfaction

Employers will be able to see where each individual team member would like to get to and give them support internally to achieve it

Of course there are also many advantages for the employee, too:

  • Have clearer priorities and a better idea of what's important to that individual
  • Deeper knowledge of their job role and areas for improvement
  • A clearer sense of self awareness with a better ability to elevate strong skill sets
  • Increased awareness of career and promotion opportunities
  • Stronger career contentment

Stages of a career development plan

Stage 1: Assessment

Of course, setting up a career development plan means that the individual should have a good understanding of what their ultimate goals are. When helping someone set up their career development plan, or organising one for yourself, think about these questions:

  • What are my strengths and weaknesses?
  • What sort of tasks and projects do you enjoy the most?
  • What are my priorities in both my professional and personal life?
  • What are some of your values and interests?

During this step it could be helpful to have a conversation with a peer or a manager, as they might see some different strengths and weaknesses that are hard to notice about yourself.

Stage 2: Investigation

This step is all about exploration and how your self assessment lines up with the career that you currently have, and the position that you'd like to achieve in the future.

Now you know what your strengths, weaknesses and values are, you can look into which career paths would suit your personality and initial interests. Browse some job openings and job descriptions that seem interesting to you.

Keep these questions in mind during this stage:

  • Does your career goal require any specific qualifications or certificates?
  • Could you learn from someone you're already working with, or will you need to complete a course?
  • Are there any tools that would be useful to know for the future?
  • Are there any industry specific newsletters or events that could help you to learn more and network?
  • Could you work with a mentor?

Stage 3: Setting goals

Now you have a better idea of what you'd like to work towards, it's time to start setting some goals. Your career development goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based (SMART).

Organise your goals as a roadmap with some smaller task-oriented goals - for example, if you need to learn some software, a small goal would be to sign-up - as well as larger time-oriented goals - for example completing a course within a few months.

Stage 4: Actions

Now you should have narrowed down which types of work you'd like to do, you should have some solid job descriptions in mind and have a specific action plan for moving forward.

Focus on learning from as many people as possible in your desired area of expertise, attend networking events and make connections. This stage is great for speaking to mentors and recognising where there might still be areas to develop or focus on.

If you need to create a portfolio this would be a great time to put together everything you've learned.

Stage 5: Recurring evaluation

Feedback and evaluation is always a good idea in our professional lives. Throughout this entire process it's a good idea to continuously speak to mentors and peers about specific stages, with the aim of improving and learning consistently. 

If you are looking for a promotion, ask your senior what you might still need to work on before you can achieve your goals. If you're looking to shift careers then always ask for feedback after interviews. Keep an open mind and come with a willingness to learn. 

For a more in-depth look into skill development, take a look at our article on the future of work.

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