According to Thomas G. Gutteridge, human resource management has several components: control and evaluation, organizational design, human resource planning, and career development.

Organizations devote a substantial part of its resources to these components, ensuring that they are implemented properly and effectively, toward the attainment of organizational objectives and goals.

What is Career Development?

© | Sergey Nivens

Among these components, the one that is considered to be the shared responsibility of the employer and the employee is Career Development.

In this guide, we explore 1) what is career development, 2) why you should care about career development, 3) factors that influence it, 4) the career development theory, 5) the career development process, and lastly 6) tips for your successful career development.


Gutteridge defines career development as the “outcomes of actions on career plans as viewed from both individual and organizational perspectives”. Breaking that down, career development is viewed from two points of view: the employer (the organization) and the employee (the individual).

The organization’s objective is to maximize its human resources productivity to achieve its goals, and career development aids in that outlook by ensuring the “best match between people and jobs”. The organization will place importance on how its employees are managing their respective careers, and will take steps that provide structure to the employees’ progress on their chosen career paths.

From the point of view of the employee, career development is very important, since it serves as a useful tool or even a launching pad for them to obtain their objectives, which could be anything from getting higher pay or receiving incentives and bonuses, to achieving job flexibility and satisfaction.

Another definition attached a more personal meaning to it, referring to career development as an entire process spanning over an individual’s lifetime that inevitably molds his work identity. It is a lifelong process, starting as early as that point in their childhood when, for example, a child saw a firefighter save someone from a burning building and, in complete awe, declares, “I want to be a firefighter when I grow up”.

The definition provided by Angelo J. Rivera ran along the same vein, but breaking it down further. He described career development as the evolution or development of a career, informed by the following:

  1. Experience within a specific field of interest
  2. Success at each stage of development
  3. Educational attainment commensurate with each increment stage
  4. Communications (the capacity to analytically reflect one’s suitability for a job through the cover letter, resume, and/or the interview process)
  5. Understanding of career development as a navigable process.

All that being said, career development can be described simply as the ongoing or continuous process of managing one’s life, learning, and work (as a whole, not just work within an organization) in order to advance forward, toward a desired future.



Career development is fast becoming a catchphrase, not only among individuals and employees, but in organizations. Many of these organizations even go so far as establish career development programs for their workforce.

That is because they are now fully aware of the fact that career development is not something that benefits the individual alone, but also the organization.

Why is career development necessary?

  • Career development aids in the adaptation to the changing nature of work and types of jobs
  • Career development aids in the management of manpower requirements

Organizations are becoming more serious about implementing career development programs, because they want something that can address the various human resource problems and personnel issues that they encounter. Specifically, career development helps in:

The identification and forecasting of manpower needs.

Through career development, the organization can plan its structure more effectively and efficiently. Organizational audits are often conducted to see whether the current structure is working, or if there is a need to restructure and reorganize staffing.

The company will also be able to see whether they lack workers or need some skills for their operations.

Ensuring a steady and continuous supply of qualified and talented workers.

The best and most talented jobseekers prioritize applying to companies that are known to have solid career development programs.

Therefore, these companies will not have much difficulty attracting applicants when they have an open position, because they will be lining up.

Ensuring a good fit between the job and the jobholder.

This is one of the fundamental reasons why there is career development. In order to advance in his career, the jobholder has to make sure that he is able to perform the job very well, and one way to guarantee that is to actively pursue career development efforts aimed at improving oneself.

Boosting employee motivation and job satisfaction.

Employees who work in a company with a strong and positive stance on career development will feel more motivated to work. They will stay with the company, since it holds promise that there is a clear career path for them to follow.

Otherwise, they will simply look elsewhere for other, better, career opportunities. Their job satisfaction will be high, and this will have a domino effect on his individual productivity, and the overall organizational productivity.

Career development promotes equity in the workforce.

Thanks to career development programs, the playing field at the workplace may be leveled a bit. It promotes equity, where employees can have equal opportunities to improve themselves and advance their careers.

A similar situation is that of a multi-cultural workforce in an American company. The assumption would be that the American workers will have more opportunities to be promoted and rise up the ranks. But with a career development program firmly in place, even non-Americans can compete.

Career development increases individual worker productivity.

We mentioned this already: satisfied and motivated employees are likely to improve the quality of their work. Also, if they gain more knowledge and acquire more skills through career development, they will be able to increase their productivity and contribute more to the organization.



There are several factors that are play when it comes to career development. We will try to look at each of them.

Personal traits and characteristics of the individual

People have varying personalities, and it is these differences that make others more responsive to career development than others. It is possible that someone who is too shy will end up advancing slower in his career in the field of marketing, as compared to someone who is outgoing and a go-getter.

Knowing your quirks and personality traits early on will give you a head start in your career planning and development. Today, self-assessment tests for purposes of career planning are being conducted for high school students so that, early on, they will have an idea what workplaces they are interested in, and what line of work would be a good fit for them.

Skills and knowledge

People who are skilled and knowledgeable about a job are the ones who are most likely to be hired by a company, while those who don’t may not even make it past the second round of screening.

This means that, for those who made it, their mental abilities aided their advancement in their career. For those who did not, their lack of skills and know-how served as a barrier to their career development.

Physical abilities

Physical limitations may also be hindrances to getting further up the career ladder. There are jobs that have specific requirements with respect to the physical abilities of the person who will perform the involved tasks.

Those who are able will have great chances for advancement; those who are not should look for other career paths that will match their physical abilities and accommodate their limitations.

Social and economic factors

An individual may have grown up wanting to become a physician. However, financial constraints and other socio-economic issues may have kept him from going to med school and getting the career that he originally wanted. Family situations and other similar circumstances are also factors that may impact an individual’s development in his desired career.


Donald E. Super introduced a career development theory that utilizes a “life-span view”. This developmental model is also sometimes called the “Life-Span, Life-Space Theory”, and it puts emphasis on an individual’s personal experiences, and how they combine with occupational preferences in coming up with what is known as “self-concept”.

This approach by Super was definitely a step away from the usual view, which traditionally held that personality and occupation need only match for career development to happen. This traditional matching model requires only that the person’s career is one that is well-matched to his abilities, skills, personality traits and interests.

Super’s comprehensive theory on career and career development states that:

  1. Career development is a lifelong process, unfolding in a series of five development stages that the person cycles through. We will go through those stages later on in the discussion.
  2. Career selection is the result of a series of decisions. It is not a one-shot decision. Take, for example, the child who passionately declared that he, too, will become a firefighter when he grows up. That declaration is bound to be different once he steps into high school and meets his football coaches and mentors. Maybe he now wants to become a professional football. However, his parents want him to finish any business course that will provide a more stable job in the future. Then, during a game, he busted his knee and the doctors declared that he can no longer play football. Soon, his interest shifted to law, and he entered law school later on. The dream of being a firefighter is already gone and forgotten. His final decision of becoming a lawyer was the result of several situations where he had to make a decision on each one.

A very nice overview of different career development theories.

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The Concept of Self-Concept

Super emphasized that an individual must first develop a self-concept before he can take the next steps in the development of his career.

Self-concept, in psychology, is a collection of ideas and beliefs about oneself, forming his identity. It is what and how a person thinks of himself, including his attributes, aptitude, abilities and desires. Basically, it is a picture of the person of his imagined or ideal himself.

Super described self-concept as the “product of the interaction of a person’s inherited characteristics, neural and endocrine makeup, opportunity to play various roles, and resulting outcomes of role-playing success”. In short, it is at the core of our attempt to understand the behavior of an individual.

Now how does self-concept figure into the career equation?

Growing up, people have a subjective image of their ideal self, taking into consideration their personality traits, abilities, attitudes and values. They will then make a comparison of that subjective concept of themselves with the reality that they came to know about occupations. The result of that comparison and integration is their occupational self-concept, which will eventually become a vocational or career preference, guiding them towards the job or career that they want.

Super points out that a person’s self-concept is bound to change over time. This makes sense, considering that situations will also change throughout one’s life. Along with that, his thoughts, opinions, preferences, competencies and capabilities will also change and evolve. As a person experiences more, his self-concept will also develop. That is why career development is said to be ongoing process, and will take place over the course of the person’s lifetime.

The Five Stages of Career Development

Super’s Career Development Theory posits that there are five life stages in career development. He specified a duration or age bracket for each stage, but these are not fixed, at least not in the sense that people within that age group are undergoing only the corresponding stage.

The biological age of the person does not necessarily have to correspond to the development stage. Individuals may be experiencing (and re-experiencing) some stages even when they do not belong in the specified age range.

For example, career transitions may cause a 35-year-old to go back to the Exploration Stage. Someone who grew up too quickly and started working at a young age — putting himself through school and university — may already reach the Establishment stage when he is still 22 years old.

Now let us take a look the 5 career stages and the corresponding developmental tasks in each stage.

Stage 1: GROWTH

Coverage: 0 to 14 years old             

This is when the development of one’s self-concept begins. The child will start developing attitudes, recognizing his needs and preferences, and gain a general understanding of the world of work.

This is where the person starts learning how to relate to other people. Along with developing a realistic self-concept, or an identity that they deem to represent his true self, he will also be faced with his limitations, and will start accepting them.

We have often heard it said that acknowledging your faults, flaws and limitations is a sign of growth. This stage in the theory reinforces that idea.


Coverage: 15 to 24 years old           

The first steps are taken towards career development. The teenager or young adult finds his hobbies and interests. He starts to approach skills acquisition activities tentatively, trying out classes and coursework. This is also the point where he will be testing the waters and gain work experience.

He will take an active role in seeking and learning about opportunities. He is eager, although apprehensive. Later on, he may find the opportunity that appeals to him, and will grab it with both hands. This also involves the search and identification of new tasks to work on once they are done with what a previous task.


Coverage: 25 to 44 years old           

Things start to get more serious, and so is the individual. He will be more determined and focused in honing his work chops, so to speak, and actively seek out entry-level skill building opportunities. He will also be looking for more work experience, one that is stable and offers fewer uncertainties.

It is at this point that he makes a decision on which field or career path to take, and he will get started on it. Once he finds that position that he wants, and that matches him, he will settle into it. Along the way, he will actively pursue new learning and development of new skills, practically anything that will make him improve.


Coverage: 45 to 64 years old

At this point, the main concern of the individual is to keep his position and improve it. Mostly, what he will be doing is to learn continuously and make adjustments whenever and wherever necessary.

At some point in one’s life, he may start questioning his past choices and decisions. Did he choose the right path? Is he following the career path that he really wants? In this stage, he will re-evaluate his occupational choices and perform verification and confirmation. If he realizes that it is not the right occupation for him, he may have to go back to the Exploration stage.

If, however, he ascertains that he is on the right track, he will make efforts to make his position even more secure. After all, as he goes up the career ladder, there will be more challenges and, along with them, more competition. He will have to take steps to ensure that he can hold his own against the competition and remain firmly in his spot.

During this time some people will live through a mid-life crisis. Here is how you get through it.


Stage 5: DECLINE

Coverage: 65 years old and above

Output is visibly reduced, and productivity is lower. At this point, the person is getting ready for retirement, and to completely leave the workplace.

He will most likely be decreasing his participation in activities that demand a lot of him. His focus will be on the essentials, or what he deems important, instead of the trivial matters such as competing for a position, accomplishing a task that he knows is beyond his stamina or capability. This stage will show some reduction in work hours, a clear sign that he is ready to throw in the towel in the near future.


1. Self-Assessment

In Super’s development stages, this would be the exploration stage. You already have your self-concept. You know your personality type, interests, career values, skills, abilities and work style.

By assessing these, you will be able to realize what occupations will match your skills and your interests and preferences.

2. Career Awareness

This is where you start looking for job opportunities and learning more about career paths. The individual will study or gain knowledge about the jobs. What are the skills required? What qualifications must the jobholder have? What are the opportunities for growth of that job in this organization? What about in another organization?

As the phrase implies, career awareness means you have to be knowledgeable about the career or job you are going to aim for.

3. Goal Setting

It’s time to have a clear career goal — one that reflects what you really want in a career. In goal setting, you will take these two into consideration:

  • the results of your self-assessment
  • the information obtained about the career

Combining the two will help you identify possible career directions that you will take. By setting career goals, you are giving your career development some direction. You are setting a target, or a point that you must arrive at in the future.

In this step, you should develop the following:

  • A career development action plan, where you will outline in detail the steps that you will take in order to achieve your short- and long-term career goals.
  • A career vision statement, which encapsulates or reflects what you want to achieve in your career. This statement is an articulation of what you aspired to be in your work life.

4. Skill development

So you are already employed in the company. You are doing your work, and you are doing it well. However, good performance is not the only factor that is considered when you are up for a promotion. The company will want to hire someone who will continue to add value to the organization.

This means that you, the employee, should continuously develop yourself. You could try broadening your knowledge, or honing and improving your skill sets. Employers are more appreciative to employees who take the initiative to improve themselves, because this means that they are dedicated to their own career development.

UC Berkeley suggested the 70-20-10 rule when it comes to developing your skills:

  • 70% should come from on-the-job activities and action learning. Hands-on and firsthand work experiences are still considered to be the best teachers or sources of instruction. You can do this by taking more active roles in the organization, such as project management, collaboration with other teams or departments, awareness of the jobs of other employees, job shadowing, and more.
  • 20% should come from interactions with other people, through mentoring, coaching, community service, and more. You will be surprised at how much you will learn from other people, even from outside the organization.
  • 10% should come from trainings, classes, coursework, seminars, conferences, and similar learning activities. This takes up only 10% because it is mostly theoretical in nature.

5. Career Management

In managing your career, you will focus on the following:

  • Building relationships. Never discount the importance of relationships in your career. In fact, most career development efforts fail due to lack of attention paid to relationship-building. The minute you enter an organization to work, you are already in the company of various people: your bosses and supervisors, your co-workers, the customers, and other third parties and word partners and collaborators. Networking is a very important business skill, and one that will definitely be very useful when you are trying to bring your career forward (or upward).
  • Continuous career planning. Remember the career development plan you wrote earlier? That can change, depending on changing situations and circumstances. It goes without saying that your career plan may also need some changing or updating. What this means is that career planning is a continuous process, and may consist of a series of updating of the career development plan.
  • Setting new goals. At several points in your career, you may find your priorities changing, which calls for setting new goals, getting rid of some, or tweaking others. Career needs may also change, and goals will have to be changed or updated.

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We are sharing with you several tips that will aid you in your career development.

  • Write down your goals and plans. This is one way of crystallizing your career goals. For many people, it does not seem real unless it is spelled out and can be read aloud. By writing it down, we are giving ourselves a written reminder, especially during those times that our priorities become confused and we forget why we are working in the first place. This is why it is recommended that you write a career development plan.
  • Re-evaluate your goals and objectives regularly. Every three months, every six months, or even every year, whichever you deem to be more practicable, you should revisit your objectives and goals, and re-evaluate them. This way, you will be able to measure your progress objectively, and you will be able to assess whether a change in your goals is called for.
  • Undergo career development coaching. There is nothing wrong with admitting that you need help in your career development. You have a career development plan all worked out, but you are aware that you are going to have difficulty carrying it out. Then get the services of a career development coach who will guide you along. If you are not keen on the idea of hiring a professional career development consultant, you can look for a mentor. He could be someone in your organization, or someone whom you respect and can talk to about your work. It is preferable to choose a mentor who knows exactly about the work you do, someone who has already “been there, and done that”. You are sure to get valuable insights and input from him, and he will be in a better position to answer your questions and provide encouragement at the same time.
  • Accept your weaknesses. The problem with some people during self-assessment is that they tend to focus on their strengths alone. They refuse to look at their weaknesses, thinking that it would hurt their chances of landing their dream jobs. However, it is very important to recognize these weaknesses, so you will know which areas to work on. Know where you suck at, so you know what to correct. Of course, this does not mean that you will completely ignore your strengths. Your objective would be to keep doing them better.
  • Develop a timeline for your career goals. If you simply have a career goal that does not have a specific date within which you want to achieve it, there is a tendency that you will be lax about it. By making your goal bound by time, you will feel a sense of urgency in working toward your goal. You will be more motivated to reach that target. For example, some professionals create career development plans with a five-year window. In that plan, they will indicate all the steps they will take, and the milestones that they will have to complete along the way.
  • Look for skills development opportunities in all places. Some employees are content obtaining their skills development within the company. You should take the initiative to look outside the organization. Try stepping out of your comfort zone. This will definitely make the learning process more memorable and, often, more effective. A key point here is to never stop learning.

Career development is one of the integral aspects of overall human development. Many people will not be able to find fulfillment and consider to have good human development if their careers are not given the attention they deserve. In fact, for them, their personal lives and careers go hand in hand. They cannot move forward with the one unless they also work on the other.

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