August 13

What is Career Development? How To Take Control and Make Good Lasting Decisions

Common Questions


nisha moores

Article 1 in our Common Questions Series of articles

Nisha Moores B.A. RYT
Client Happiness Manager
Careers by Design
8 MIN Read

What is career development?

Career development is a process we engage in throughout our lifetime to find meaningful work that balances learning and growth, career transitions, work tasks, use of skills and talents, career advancement, and self-discovery.

It is a multidimensional process that takes into consideration our strengths, skills, passions, and life priorities. Career development uses our skills in decision-making, exploration, and self-reflection. Through this process of self-discovery, we can gain a greater awareness of ourselves and find work that is aligned with our values and priorities.

Career development allows us to continually learn and evolve in our career across our lifetime.

Why does career development matter?

Career development matters because careers are a big part of our lives. Many of us spend a good portion of our time working. How we feel about our career can impact our emotional and physical well-being. Our chosen careers affect what type of contribution we are able to make within society and who we interact with. Our careers do not only impact us financially, but also in all other aspects of our life.

Through continual career development, we can evolve our skills, interests, and strengths. Career development means finding pleasure in our work, feeling we are able to contribute and make a difference, and finding meaning in what we do. As we put energy into our career development, we will reap the rewards of this throughout our life time in finding work that aligns with our values and dreams, that offers challenges and opportunities for growth, and that offers us the income and security we may desire.

With career development, we ensure that we are working towards our career goals and not remaining stagnant. We can easily become bored or dissatisfied with our work if our skills and abilities begin to surpass the challenges of our role. We may even start to feel anxious or stressed in this case. However, if we are evolving our career to match our skills and interests so that we remain challenged and engaged in our work, we are able to experience a more positive attitude about our career. When we are truly engaged with our work, we experience flow.

How do you take control of your own career development?

The world of work is changing rapidly. In past generations, employees would often spend their entire career lifespan at one company, slowly progressing up the career ladder. In these types of scenarios, it made sense for a company to formally invest in their employees’ career development, as these employees would remain within the company for many years and the benefits of engaged employees would be reaped by the company. As the work environment has shifted more recently, employees are less likely to stay at a company for the duration of their career. It is much more common now in the gig economy to have employees have short stints at companies - usually staying for a few years before leveraging their experience to find a better role in a new company. As the work environment shifts, companies are spending less on investing into formal training and professional development plans, particularly with the influx of contract work.

We are now entering a new era where individuals are largely responsible for their own career development. This can be an exciting opportunity for us to shape our own path and envision a future that aligns with our goals and values. There are many ways to optimize your career development: regularly setting and revising career goals, exploring your career options using your transferable skills, asking colleagues for feedback on how you can improve, networking to increase your visibility in your industry, finding a professional mentor, take classes and training initiatives to broaden your skill set, and working with a professional career coach who can help you develop a long-term career plan and strategy that works for you.

Why is it so hard and what are the pitfalls to watch for?

In this era of gig work, many managers are no longer placing a priority on career development with their employees. Managers may themselves feel overwhelmed and more concerned with their jobs to have the energy required for the in-depth thinking required for effective career planning. This leaves the bulk of the work to individuals to figure out how they are going to develop their careers.

When we are feeling stressed from being in a career that isn’t the right fit for us or feeling anxious about landing a new job, it can make it harder for us to move forward effectively. Many of us might feel “stuck” or like we are riding an emotional rollercoaster. This feeling “stuck” occurs because our cognition and our ability to learn is affected under stress. Stress triggers our amygdala in our brain, responsible for our fight-or-flight response - helpful when we are faced with a tiger in the jungle, not so helpful when we are trying to figure out our career plan. The hippocampus in our brain has its activity inhibited when we are under stress. This part of the brain is responsible for learning, thinking about our experiences to give us perspective, and forming memories.

Stress can impact not just our physical health, but many areas relating to our career - our decision-making ability, our productivity, our relationships with colleagues, and our sense of meaning can all be negatively impacted when we are feeling stressed or anxious. One great way to combat this phenomenon and calm the amygdala is to incorporate mindfulness practices into your daily routine.

How can you be successful? Choose a process that is proven and takes into account the stress of modern life.

At Careers By Design, we use a method that incorporates head-and-heart. We provide a customized but structured approach to career development, to address whatever career challenge you are experiencing, whether it is career transition, exploring to find the right career fit, or help landing a new job.

Alongside the traditional aspects of career coaching, such as exploration, career research, strategy and planning, and professional branding, we incorporate HeartMath, an evidence-based mindfulness technique to help you build emotional resilience. Our career coaches will work one-on-one with you to create a tailored plan so you can move forward faster and find happiness in your career.

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