What Is Career Development and How Can You Drive Your Career?

Great careers don’t happen on a whim—just like your dream job probably won’t fall into your lap. Career development means taking an active role in continuously shaping, growing, and driving your career to achieve personally defined aspirations. 

One of the most common misconceptions about career development is that you have to climb the corporate ladder to grow. That just isn’t true. There are several different directions you can take in your career development based on your unique strengths, interests, and values. These include:

  • Moving laterally. You can develop new or cross-functional skills, deepen or advance your current skills, or take on a new role at the same level of responsibility.
  • Moving vertically. You might pursue a promotion, expand your job responsibilities, or take on a higher level of control or authority.
  • Taking a step back. Or, you may even decide to take a step back from your career to change fields or invest time in educational opportunities that will allow you to advance at a later date.

Talk to a manager or mentor. While you should be the one driving your career, it can also be helpful to get another person’s perspective or have someone to help hold you accountable. Talk to your manager or a mentor about your professional goals and interests. Ask for a second opinion on what they see as your strengths. And get their input on opportunities to develop the skills or gain the experience you need to move forward. 

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