What is Career Development?

Career Development is defined in the Canadian Standards and Guidelines for Career Development Practitioners (S&Gs) as the lifelong process of managing learning, work and transitions in order to move toward your preferred future. There are several noteworthy elements in this definition:

  • Lifelong – career development is not summed up in a single decision. A simplistic view of career development would have a young person decide what to “be” and what education to pursue in order to achieve that – end of story.  The real story, however, generally involves multiple chapters, with distinct goals, tasks, outcomes and transitions across the lifespan.  In early childhood, career development is largely about exploration, developing a sense of self in the future and expanding horizons with respect to what that future self could encompass.  Later in adolescence, career development is about exposure, experience, reflection and the development of personal/career management and employability skills. Throughout adulthood, those skills are refined, expanded and deployed to navigate an ever changing labour market. The Blueprint for Life/Work Designs articulates the life/work competencies Canadians need to proactively manage their career development from kindergarten to adulthood.
  • Managing – career development will happen whether it is managed or not.  The question is the extent to which you want to influence your career direction versus leaving it to chance.  Current levels of youth unemployment and underemployment, job dissatisfaction and mental health claims in the workplace would suggest that leaving it to chance, more often than not, does not pan out.
  • Learning, work and transitions – career development is the mechanism by which learning (formal and informal), work (paid and unpaid) and the transitions between are navigated.
  • Preferred future – career development is about intentionality.  Done well, it ensures that the decisions we make about learning and work are grounded in knowledge of self (personal interests, attributes, values and skills), and knowledge of educational/labour market realities (conditions, finances, prospects, entry requirements, progression and pathways).  Done well, it ensures you are prepared for the realities of your choices, have the skills and supports to manage and, importantly, are clear about why the choice is right for you, fueling your motivation, focus and success. Career development also recognizes that both we and our labour market change over time. What we want and what is possible are not static.  Whether we are employed with one company long term, pursue entrepreneurial ventures or piece together our living through multiple contract, project-based and portfolio work, we will need to adjust and adapt, re-conceive and re-create our careers. This demands vigilance and career management and employability skills.

A 3CD Working Group has created a Primer in an effort to simplify and clarify the language used in our field.