10 Tips for Career Development

By Roberta Neault, PhD and Deirdre Pickerell, MEd

Whether your organization is struggling with recruiting the right employees at the right time, sustaining employee engagement, or facilitating gracious exits, a systematic career development process may be helpful. Employee career development is a responsibility shared between individuals and the organizations they work for; intentional career development interventions can result in optimal career engagement (i.e., an appropriate match between challenges and individual/organizational capacity). Disengaged employees may feel underutilized (i.e., they have more to offer the organization than they’re invited to contribute) or completely overwhelmed (i.e., challenges are far beyond their individual capacity, or the resources available, to get their job done).

The following 10 tips will help you get started in building an in-house career development process to keep employees at all levels of your organization engaged.

1. Clarify the concept.
Ensure all stakeholders (i.e., board members, leadership team, supervisors, and employees) have a shared understanding of “career development” and what your proposed process will entail.

2. Metrics matter.
Whether to build a business case to launch a new career development initiative or to sustain funding so that it doesn’t become simply the “flavour of the month,” it’s important to collect relevant data, measure return on investment, and document relevant change.

3. Convince key players.
Research supports that employees are attracted to organizations that support career development and are more likely to stay if they continue to grow and develop. Adjust your message according to who you need to convince, focussing on “What’s in it for them?”

4. Culture shifts slowly.
A process is not simply a program. To make a significant difference, career management needs to become embedded into organizational culture. This is a responsibility shared by everyone in the organization, not just the human resource management (HR) team.

5. Choose a champion.
An effective organization-wide career development process needs dedicated time, resources, and accountability for measurable outcomes. By identifying a champion, you will ensure that employee career development stays on the radar screen as a core business priority – not a “pet project” managed off the side of someone’s desk.

6. Communicate constantly.
To ensure that career development stays top of mind for all stakeholders, constant communication is crucial. Embed your message within all available internal and external media (i.e., newsletters, intranet, website, corporate TV, screensavers, recruiting brochures, employee orientation handouts, social media), as well as offering topical workshops, seminars, webinars, or courses.

7. Dream big . . . start small.
Begin with a comprehensive vision of what you’d like your career development process to become, but don’t hesitate to start small. As you’re making a case and convincing key stakeholders, consider setting up a section on your corporate intranet, bookmarking relevant websites, displaying posters about career services within your community, or partnering with a community-based career resource centre to support recruitment of new employees and help them continue to manage their careers while employed.

8. Bridge the silos.
Typically, career counsellors and coaches study and work within very different worlds than HR professionals or organizational development consultants. However, especially in regards to employee career development, both groups have much to learn from each other.

9. Career coaches are made . . . not born.
Although HR professionals, managers, and supervisors may have extensive training in their own fields of expertise, they may have no training specific to career development. To support your career development process, consider hiring a career development specialist, supporting your champion to access relevant professional development, and training your managers and supervisors to have effective career conversations.

10. Clarify responsibilities.
As previously discussed, employee career development is a process, with contributions required from the organization, managers, and employees themselves.

Being intentional about building and sustaining your process has the potential to reap great rewards – at all stages of employment from recruitment through to gracious exits.

Roberta Neault, CCC, RRP, Ph.D., President, Life Strategies Ltd. and editor of the Journal of Employment Counseling. As a counselor-educator, corporate trainer, consultant, author, and international speaker, Roberta inspires individuals and organizations to imagine…achieve…and excel! Her pragmatic approach to wellness, balance, and sustainable people solutions has been embraced on four continents; her work was recognized with the Stu Conger Award for Leadership in Career Counselling and Career Development in Canada and NECA’s 2010 Professional Development award.

Deirdre Pickerell, CHRP, MEd, CHRP, GCDF Senior Consultant, Life Strategies Ltd. and Chair, BC Career Information Partnership. Deirdre has 17+ yrs experience in the field of career development and HR management. She has made significant human resource management contributions – locally, nationally, and internationally – through innovative program design, leading-edge education for HR professionals and career practitioners. In recognition of her work, Deirdre was honoured with a 2006 BC HRMA Award of Excellence. A significant portion of her current work is supporting organizations with their HR strategies including recruitment, retention, engagement, and development. She is completing her PhD in Human and Organizational Development where her research interest is the impact of career management on employee engagement.www.lifestrategies.ca

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  1. Roxanna says:

    All of these articles have saved me a lot of haaedches.

  2. I would offer that self-assessment provides a bedrock foundation for career development. An individual needs to know their strengths and weaknesses, and how to build the skills needed to overcome the weaknesses. They also need to understand the strengths and weaknesses of their team – some team members might be able to coach them through their weaknesses, and vice versa. I prefer a brain science based approach to this.

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