Career development planning (strategies & tips)

January 08, 2023  •  Reading Time: 7 min.

Are you a student in the process of career exploration? Or are you an employee looking for career development opportunities?

In either case, identifying your 💪 strengths and 🎯 long-term goals is important for starting or developing a career. By creating a career plan, you can gather all of your personal resources, skills, and goals in one place (e.g., on a whiteboard). This will help you identify the best strategy for your own career path.

In this article, we focus on why career development is incredibly important for everyone, no matter what position or industry they are in, and give you important tips that you can use in your own professional life.

What is career development?

Career development refers to the ongoing process of self-improvement as you establish your career path.

It offers a framework for developing in your profession, which ultimately leads to job success. As you learn about your career options and plan your course of study, you can start laying the groundwork for a successful career as early as your freshman year.

💡 Tip: As you progress in your studies, the career development office at your university can also be a valuable resource for internships and networking!

Job seeker types into laptop looking for career development information

Why is career development important?

By focusing on your career growth, you can ensure that you will be successful and happy in your job over the long term.

Career development is therefore very important for employees as it leads to a sense of purpose, growth and contentment. Employers who encourage professional development and offer good career opportunities keep their employees engaged, reduce turnover and increase productivity.

💡 Tip: Want to get started right away? Then begin by establishing SMART career goals and making a plan to achieve them.

What is essential for career development?

Make sure you invest in plenty of learning opportunities.

Learning new skills and absorbing new knowledge on a regular basis is one of the best methods to advance professionally. To expand your skill-set, conduct research, enroll in courses, tune in to podcasts, or read books on career development.

💡 Tip: You can obtain digital badges for specific programs, allowing hiring managers to quickly assess an applicant’s abilities and level of commitment outside their formal education.

Employee discussing professional development in the office with her mentor

What are good strategies and examples for career development?

Career development is as important for students as it is for professionals.

📝 Note: As a college student focused on career development, you will be able to make some truly informed decisions about your choice of major, the courses you take, and the internships you complete.

✨ Although career development planning often takes time and effort, it will definitely save you time in the long run!

Check out our career development examples to get an idea of what you could focus on:

Career development example for students

  • Do a self-assessment.

In doing so, think about your values, your passions, your past experiences and skills. Identify your strengths and consider how you can apply them to your career along with your passions.

  • Conduct research.

Now explore what industries might be the best fit for you. Do your research first, then take relevant courses and start building your network.

💡 Tip: One of the best ways to find out if an industry is right for you is to get hands-on experience. Volunteering, part-time jobs, or internships are good opportunities to find out if the career you are pursuing matches your values and skills.

  • Set an (initial) goal.

There are many different goals you can establish for your career development. Let’s say your long-term goal is to start your own business, but you don’t know how to go about it yet.

Here’s an example of a realistic goal to accomplish something like this:

  • Long-term goal: Start a business in area X.
  • Short-term goal: Get your first job as a professional in area X.
College students brainstorming career development ideas in front of laptop computer
  • Assign yourself tasks.

Finally, write down the specific steps needed to achieve your goal. For example, create a well-developed resume and a suitable cover letter. Prepare and practice for job interviews afterward.

💡 Tip: Take additional courses to improve your skills.

Career development example for employees

The roadmap above also applies to individuals who are already working professionals. Your goals and tasks, however, may be different. 

📝 Note: We will go into more detail about smart goal setting for a successful career at the end of this article!

A good option to take advantage of (if you are already working at a company) is to “job shadow”. This is especially useful in case you would like to move to a different department within your organization. Simply start by shadowing other employees in your company to learn more about various roles. This can also help expand your skills at your current job and boost your ability to add value.

Young manager in home office looking for new career growth opportunities

Career development planning: 6 tips for your own career path

Whether you’re a seasoned professional looking for growth opportunities at your current company, or a student still learning about different careers, these tips will help you find the right path for you:

1. Contact the career development office at your school or organization.

Self-reflection and research are a good place to start, but you should also seek quality guidance and counseling when it comes to your career development.

If you are a college student, you can contact your school’s career counseling office to find out what you excel at and to help you find a career path that is right for you. If you are an employee, you can seek out a mentor at work, perhaps from a different department you would like to explore. Job seekers can contact a professional career coach!

2. Design a career development plan.

Where do you want to go from your current position?

Whether it’s within the company where you’re currently employed, or perhaps you want to acquire new skills for a completely different career: Make career planning your priority now and create a career development plan for yourself.

4. Set clever goals.

During the planning phase, it is extremely important that you focus on your goals.

In order to actually have achievable goals, it is vital to set a number of short-term goals that will propel you closer to your long-term goals. By breaking down your professional career goals in this way, you can set yourself on a clear, less mind-boggling path to career success.

📝 Note: There are many types of goal setting techniques that can help you succeed in your professional life. The way you set your goals and the technique you employ are often the key to your future success.

💡 Tip: Your mentor can also help you develop realistic career goals.

5. Close your skill gaps.

As we mentioned earlier, training and continuous learning are also a key to your career success.

To address your skill gaps, you can, for example, take on new projects that will expand your abilities and provide you with important new knowledge. You can also try to build your skills in your spare time to gain the experience you need for a new job.

📝 Note: As long as you are willing to be open to new ideas and experiences, you will always have the opportunity to learn, grow and develop professionally.

💡 Tip: Get feedback on your progress by asking your mentor, manager or career coach.

6. Look for challenges.

Throughout the process, it’s important to step out of your comfort zone and seek challenges.

For example, you can ask for new responsibilities or even a completely different role! Often, the possibilities are literally endless as long as you practice some key skills for any industry (like integrityempathy, and critical thinking).

📝 Note: Always remember that a good work-life balance is important! Even the most exciting career goals or other opportunities are not worth compromising your well-being.

Illustration of office workers on paper planes working towards their career goals

Career development planning – FAQ

What are the different stages of a career path?

Career paths tend to vary by industry, but there are generally five stages that every employee goes through in their working life: Exploration is followed by establishment, mid-career, late-career, and retirement.

What is good career development?

Career development helps you become better at your job. It is important that you prioritize career growth, because that is the “big picture” and the overall progress of your professional life.

How can I improve my career development?

As a job seeker, you can improve your career development by practicing effective career planning. Set goals, educate yourself, talk to your network, challenge yourself and always ask for feedback.

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