Why Career Development

reprinted from the January 2006 LASER

article written by Alice Sikorski

The term “career development” often conjures up images of ambitious people climbing up the corporate ladder. That’s an old paradigm and presents a very narrow view of career development in the modern world. The reality of our workplace can be summed up with two words: Continuous Change. Changes in technologies, regulations, markets, economies, and governments within the external environment affect the internal environment of organizations of all types and sizes. Such changes can be amazingly rapid. Take a moment and think back over just the past five years. Can you identify all the ways your job has changed?

Why career development? Organizations are constantly looking to re-invent themselves at both the institutional and the departmental level. Sometimes re-invention is in anticipation of, or a response to, changes in the external environment; sometimes it is part of an organizational change initiative to support a new/revised mission and strategic plan. Career development means advance preparation to take on different roles and accountabilities to meet the changing needs and goals of your department or functional area.

Why career development? Expect the nature of the work you perform to evolve and change over time. Also expect that you will need to develop additional knowledge and expertise just to keep up with these changes and sustain your current level competency. Career development means identifying and then developing the skills and abilities needed to stay ahead of the changes that will alter the way you perform your current job.

Why career development? Organizations have flattened out. Through re-structuring and re-engineering, organizations have evolved in their on-going quest for greater efficiency and responsiveness. Gone are the multiple layers of middle management that used to be characteristic of large organizations. Career development means looking for new challenges and opportunities at all levels of the organization … sometimes up, increasingly lateral, and even occasionally down.

Why career development? The distinction between “staff” and “management” has become blurred. Staff members are encouraged to take on more “managerial” responsibilities while managers are encouraged to take on more “staff” responsibilities. Additionally, the boundaries between jobs have become blurred. While specialties still exist, talented individuals with a broad range of capabilities have become highly desirable in today’s workplace. Career development means developing the success factors necessary to take on a broader scope of responsibility and authority.

Why career development? The baby boomers are getting ready to retire. This will require organizations to review and revise their staffing strategies. To attract and retain talent, organizations have expanded their work options (e.g., flex time, part-time positions, compacted work weeks, etc.) and enhanced their benefit plans (e.g., generous leave policies with greater attention to work/life balance). Organizations need to develop a pool of transferable/promotable talent to handle temporary leaves, fill vacancies, and plan for successions. Career development means more opportunity for staff members and greater flexibility for the organization.

Why career development? It’s rare in today’s workplace to find lifetime employment. Although estimates vary, the average person can expect to change careers – not just jobs – at least five times over his/her lifetime. It’s important to recognize that the reality of the current job market is most people will need to move around in order to advance in their careers. Career development means taking control and managing your own career.

©2007 Human Resources, Lehigh University, 428 Brodhead Ave., Bethlehem, PA 18015
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