The career development process represents a series of life stages and events during which a person identifies, selects, prepares for, enters and progresses through an occupation or career. The process runs parallel with other aspects of human growth and development (physical/biological, cognitive and socioemotional, etc.) and represents a body of information or understanding that staffing professionals should possess if they are to effectively serve individuals in transition.
It is important to recognize that most individuals pass through these stages in a “seamless” way, a factor that can be viewed both positively and negatively. The good aspect is that career development for most is orderly, sequential and without trauma. The negative side pops up when we fail to progress properly, hit a bump in our path or face difficult to manage circumstances like job loss or failure to realize our full potential.
Staffing professionals work with individuals during a number of these life stages. Others will have occurred earlier in life, but helping candidate grasp an understanding of the process---from beginning to now---can be a very profitable learning experience for your candidates.
Stages of the Career Development Process
This initial stage represents the time when the individuals, usually during their youth, begin to get a “sense of self” by examining their aptitudes, achievements, interests, personality traits, lifestyle preference and values. During awareness, the individual is first able to answer “Who am I” in a realistic fashion and for the first time relate that understanding of self to the world around them. As individuals move into adulthood, they continue in this self-learning and new and more mature aspects of awareness come into view.
During this stage people begin to create questions and search for answers that broaden their career or work understanding. It is also a time when people relate what they have learned about themselves to their investigation of the educational and occupational choices they are considering. It is also a time when individuals set goals and recognize they are evolving, maturing individuals and that the exploration stage is going to continue for some time.
Rather than a stage of the career development process, decision-making represents an event or multiple events that occur over time---situations when individuals must choose from among options they have identified. Individual decisions may vary from determining what to study to selecting a specific position to deciding anything that points them in the direction of achieving their educational and career potential. Decisions beget decisions and not knowing that they exist is tantamount to giving up personal control of the career development process.
Knowledge/Skill Acquisition and Competence Attainment
Following each education and career decision, individuals must take deliberate steps to acquire occupational knowledge and skill and to achieve a level of competence that make them a marketable candidate for employment. This stage includes the initial schooling experiences (high school, career/technical and college), as well as the continuing education experiences over one’s careers that keep them current with respect to techniques, tools and trends. Staffing professionals often find candidates caught in the dilemma of antiquated knowledge and skill and in need of knowledge/skills education to find new or improved employment.
This stage represents the “bridging” time, a period of transition when individuals relate where they are to where they want to be. It is a time of renewed awareness of one’s abilities, interests and personal characteristics, but now this knowledge of self is being applied to the environments or settings where the person would like to work. It is also a time when job finding and acquisition strategies (resume creation, acquiring interview skills, etc.) must be learned and performed.
Many prospective job changers are people not dissatisfied with their career, but rather uncomfortable in the place where they are working. This discomfort can be with the mission of the employer, potential for growth, salary, workforce compatibility or related issues. Working with a staffing professional is like building a bridge to a better career future. Staffing professionals can give the novice job seeker and the emerging career changer the experiences and tools that will help them through their full working lives.
The longer one works in their chosen career and achieves a measure of success---the more likely it will be that they will receive added responsibilities and rewards. (promotions, salary adjustments, etc.) During this part of the career development process, a significant number of individuals learn that they have outgrown their particular circumstance and look elsewhere to realize their full career potential. Some individuals simply outgrow the work situation originally presented to them and turn to the staffing professional to help exit one career setting and reenter another, one affording the person new opportunities and greater challenges.
It is also during the growth/mobility/maintenance stage that individuals often face the difficult situations of termination often due to downsizing, inadequate job performance or preparedness concerns. These situations require that the individual revisit portions of the career development process to relearn and regain in order to reestablish oneself again in the working world. Unlike the orientation/entry/adjustment stage, these situations can result in personal chaos and stress for individuals who have found themselves suddenly unemployed or drastically underemployed for the first time.
How can staffing professionals assist candidates realize their full career potential? It goes beyond just making a quality placement at a competitive salary. Watch for “Helping Candidates Understand Their Personal Career Development: A Primer for Staffing Professionals” Part 2 in the next edition of EMInfo.