What is career development?

Career development is the lifelong process of managing progression in learning and work. The quality of this process significantly determines the nature and quality of individuals’ lives: the kind of people they become, the sense of purpose they have, the income at their disposal. It also determines the social and economic contribution they make to the communities and societies of which they are part.

Why is career development becoming more important?

The traditional concept of ‘career’ was progression up an ordered hierarchy within an organisation or profession. The notion was that people ‘chose’ a career, which then unfolded in an orderly way. It was an elitist concept: some had a career; many only had a job; some did not even have that. For some time now, however, this traditional concept has been fragmenting. The pace of change, driven by technology and globalisation, means that organisations are constantly exposed to change. They are therefore less willing to make long-term commitments to individuals; where they do, it is in exchange for flexibility about the roles and tasks the individuals will perform. Increasingly, therefore, security lies not in employment but in employability. Individuals who want to maintain their employability have to be willing to regularly learn new skills. So careers are now increasingly seen not as being ‘chosen’ but as being constructed, through the series of choices about learning and work that people make throughout their lives. Career development in this sense need not be confined to the few: it can, and must, be made accessible to all.

  • Career development matters, both for individuals and for the country as a whole.
  • Career development needs to be at the heart of lifelong learning.
  • Individuals need help to develop their career management skills.
  • Schools have an important role to play in this respect.
  • High-quality information is essential for effective career development, and needs to be supplemented by personal support.
  • This personal support needs to include access to individual advice and guidance from qualified practitioners.

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