Career development comprises those personal improvements one undertakes to achieve a career plan. The personnel department may sponsor these actions or they may be activities that employees undertake independent of the department. That is career development may be organizational and individual. From an organizational career standpoint, career development involves tracking career paths. In contrast, individual career development focuses on assisting individuals to identify their major career goals and to determine what they need to do to attain these goals. Each person must accept responsibility for his own career; assess his own interests, skills and values and take the step required to ensure a happy and fulfilling career. It is unwise to leave these jobs to others. In the case of individual career development, the focus is entirely on the individual and includes his career outside the organization as well as inside. So while organizational career development looks at individuals filling the needs of the organization, individual career development addresses each individual’s personal work career irrespective of whether this work is performed.
Career development begins with the individual. Each person must accept his responsibility for career development, or career progress is likely to suffer. The primary responsibility for career planning and development rests with the individual employee. The responsibility for career development ultimately belongs to each individual. Once the personal commitment is made, several career development actions may prove useful. These actions involve:
- Job performance: Career progress rests largely upon performance. The most important action an individual can undertake to further his career is good job performance. When performance is substandard, regardless of other career development efforts, even modest career goals are usually unattainable. Individuals who perform poorly are disregarded quickly by the personnel department and by management decision- makers.
- Exposure: Career progress is furthered by exposure. Exposure means becoming known by those who decide on promotions, transfers, and other career opportunities. Without exposure, good performers may not get a chance at the opportunities needed to achieve their career goals. Managers gain exposure primarily through their performance, written reports, oral presentations, committee work, community service, and even the hours they work.
- Resignation: When an individual sees greater career opportunities elsewhere, a resignation may be the only way to meet his career goals. Some employees change employers as part of a conscious career strategy. Resigning in order to further one’s career with another employer has been called leveraging.
- Organizational loyalty: In many organizations, people put loyalty to their career above loyalty to their organization. Sometimes, employers try to buy this loyalty with high pay or benefits; other organizations try to build employee loyalty through good management treatment and effective human resource practices, including career planning and development. By offering careers, not just jobs, many organizations nurture a pool of talent that consistently allows them to staff senior management positions from among life-long employees. And many employees use their dedication and loyalty to the company as a career tactic. In Japan, employees tend to be very loyal to their employer because many firms will hire only entry-level workers.
- Mentors and sponsors: Mentoring has become a very popular concept. The idea is simple: an older, more experienced person helps a young person grow and advance by providing advice, support, and encouragement. Good teachers, coaches, parents and bosses- all take on some mentoring functions. A mentor is a teacher, an advisor, a sponsor, and a confidant. A mentor is someone who offers informal career advice. If the mentor can nominate the employee for career development activities- such as training programs, transfers or promotions- then the mentor becomes a sponsor. A sponsor is someone in the organization who can create career development opportunities for others. Often the employee’s sponsor is the immediate supervisor, although others may serve as nominators.
- Key subordinate: Successful managers rely on subordinates who aid the manager’s development and performance. The subordinates may possess highly specialized knowledge and skills that the manager may learn from them. Or the employee may perform a crucial role in helping a manager achieve good performance. In either case, employees of this type are key subordinates. They exhibit loyalty and dedication to their bosses. They gather and interpret information, offer skills that supplement those of their managers, and work unselfishly to further their manager’s careers. They benefit by also moving up the career ladder when the manager is promoted and by receiving important delegations that serve to develop their careers. These people complement personnel department objectives through their teamwork, motivation, and dedication.
- Growth opportunities: When employees expand their abilities, they complement the organization’s objectives. For example, enrolling in a training program, taking noncredit courses, pursuing an additional degree can contribute to employee growth. These growth opportunities aid both the personnel department’s objectives of developing internal replacements and the individual’s personal career plan. Membership in the private clubs and professional associations may also afford growth opportunities. Community service activities provide opportunities for growth and recognition.