The Six Stages of Career Development
Career development, like most things in life, is not linear. There are, however, six distinct stages of the career development journey. Below, not only have we outlined these stages, we have also provided some self-reflective, placing questions to help understand what stage you may be in, as well as some resources to help guide you as you make your way through that stage. (Note: These resources have some region-specific content from Alberta and Manitoba, however the general skills still apply.)
The Six Stages:
The first stage in career development is job readiness. Job readiness is all about identifying any obstacles or barriers to employment, connecting with the relevant resources, and preparing yourself for successful employment. Job readiness is the foundation of your career. These skills will be relevant in any career you choose to pursue.
An acronym we often use while talking about job readiness is MRD. M stands for motivation; do you feel that you want to do your job? R stands for reliability; is your employer able to rely on you? D stands for dependability; can your employer depend on your skills and ability to do your job well?
You may be in the job readiness stage of your career development journey if:
- You are having trouble getting work
- You would like to develop skills to help you get a job
- You feel ready to work on the possible barriers that may be keeping you from getting a job
- You feel that employment supports would benefit you
- You would like to work on any of the MRD skills
If you feel that you are in this stage of your career development, we welcome you to read our full article about this stage.
Career Decision Making
Career decision making is the second stage in career development. Career decision making is exactly what it sounds like - making decisions about your career. The main decision that comes to mind when we thinks about career decision making is what career you choose. That decision, however is made up of many smaller decisions, each one guiding you closer to a career that suits your aptitudes and needs.
Generally, making a decision about your career looks at an intersection of 3 elements: what interests you, what you are good at, and what will support you.
The MOST IMPORTANT thing to remember about career decision making is that your career choice is NOT permanent! In fact, most people will pursue more than one career in their lifetime.
You may be in the career decision making stage of your career development journey if:
- You do not have a job or have a job that you do not feel suits you
- You are finishing or have just finished your education and are moving into the work force
- You are unsure about what career(s) interest you
- You are unsure of what careers you may be good at
- You are unsure of what careers are practical
If you feel that you are in this stage of career development, you can find a Career Decision-making Workbook to help you work through it.
Skills enhancement is a very important step in career development. This is the stage wherein you will develop the skills you need to pursue the career you want. Before you start the work of developing these skills, however, there are many things you must think about.
It is important to choose skill trainings that fit your career goals, fit your learning style, fit your schedule, and are accessible to you. This may seem like a lot of work and a lot to consider, but here is a good analogy to keep you from getting overwhelmed:
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
This big and potentially daunting project of skills enhancement can be broken down into steps that you can do one at a time. Start with figuring out what skills you need to develop, then look into where and how you can develop those. For more instruction on eating the elephant one bite at a time, see the workbook linked below.
You may be in the skills enhancement stage of your career development journey if:
- You feel that you would like to gain some new skills to equip yourself for your chosen career path
- You are unsure of what skills you may need to in order to pursue the career you want
- You feel that you may need help removing barriers to skill enhancement avenues
- You are unsure of where to seek training or certification to develop your skills
- You are unsure of how to develop your skills. If you feel that you are in this stage of your career development journey, see our article on career skills and search.
Work search is the stage most people think of when they think about career development. Work search, like all of the other stages of career development, comes with many considerations to be made before you go out and start handing out resumes. Two key aspects people in the work search stage should be focusing on are Labour Market Information (LMI) and networking.
Doing research into LMI simply means looking at things like whether or not there is a high demand for jobs in your chosen profession, in what industries the jobs for your profession are most prevalent, etc. This simple research can help you know how to target your job applications and help you to get a job.
Networking is the other key. The vast majority of jobs go unadvertised to the general public. By getting out and meeting people, showing off your skills, and forming relationships with people, you are able to add your name to the list of people they will think about when a relevant job opening comes up.
You may be in the work search stage of your career development journey if:
- You are unemployed or underemployed
- You are looking for a job in a new field
- You are unsure of how to get the job you want
- You have tried to get the job you want but it didn't go the way you wanted it to
- You feel you could benefit from more knowledge about the work search experience
Job maintenance is a stage of career development that is often forgotten. We often make the mistake of thinking that finding a job is the final stage of career development. That is not true at all! Job maintenance is the stage of career development that comes after you have gone through the interviews, signed the contracts and have started your new job. Job maintenance is all about ensuring that you are able to keep your job and are able to feel good in your job.
The major aspect of job maintenance can be summarized by the phrase "use it or lose it." You need to be engaged in your job and use the skills that got you there in order to maintain a level of performance that keeps you feeling comfortable in your job. As well, it is also important to assess and possible barriers to success you might be facing.
You may be in the job maintenance stage of your career development journey if:
- You are facing barriers to success in your job
- You are unsure of how to tackle potential barriers to success in your job
- You feel that you are not reaching your full potential in your job
- You are unsure of your role in your workplace
- You are struggling to find clarity in the purpose of your work
If you feel that you are in this stage of career development, read an article on the career development stage.
Career growth is the stage of career development that focuses on making sure you are getting the most out of your career. This stage is all about ensuring that you do not feel like you are stagnating and emphasizes the importance of challenging yourself and constantly learning new things.
Ultimately this stage aims to have you feeling fulfilled in your career. A big part of this is learning the skill of setting SMART goals. SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. These are the kinds of goals that will ensure that you are constantly moving forward in your career.
You may be in the career growth stage of your career development journey if:
- You feel that you are stagnating in your job
- You feel that going to work is just going through the motions
- You would like to challenge yourself in your career
- You want to move forward in your career
- You feel that you can be more effective in your job
If you feel that you are in this stage of career development, be sure to check out our article on this stage.