Career Development

What is It and What Factors Influence It?

Career Development
Career development includes choosing your path. Andrew Baker / Ikon Images / Getty Images

Career development is the process that forms a person's work identity. It is a significant part of human development and spans over the individual's entire lifetime, beginning when the individual first becomes aware of how people make a living. For example, when a child notices that some people are doctors, others are firefighters, and some are carpenters, it signals the start of this process. It continues as that person begins to explore occupations and ultimately decides what career to pursue him- or herself.

Career development doesn't end there. After you choose a profession, you must then get the required education and training, apply for and find employment, and ultimately advance in your career. For most people, it will also include changing careers and jobs at least once during their work lives, but probably more often than that.

It is important to note that, for most individuals, career development occurs without any intervention from other people. There also isn't a set age for when it will begin—some people will start to think about occupational choices very early in life, while others won't give this subject much thought until they are relatively close to having to decide how they will earn money.

While many individuals go through this process independently, almost everyone can benefit greatly from getting expert career guidance. Advice from a career counselor or other similarly trained specialist, or taking a class in school that helps with career development, allows you forge a more satisfying and successful career path.

This type of intervention can begin as early as elementary school, and it should continue throughout adulthood. Many people find themselves in need of professional advice as they encounter problems or must make decisions about their careers, for instance when they are thinking of looking for a new job or changing occupations.

Factors and Barriers That Influence Career Development

Several factors and the interactions between them influence career development. Others may be barriers to it. Let's look at several of them:

  • Personal Characteristics: Personality type, interests, aptitudes, and work-related values make all of us who we are. These personal characteristics play a significant role in career development since they influence which occupations we find satisfying, as well as the types of work environments in which we will succeed. That is why, when you are in the process of choosing a career, it is so important to do a self assessment that will help you learn all about yourself.
  • Financial Resources: Pursuing certain career options can be costly. If you choose an occupation, for example, that requires you to attend college, you may be limited by your ability to pay for it. You could end up altering your plans.  Fortunately, there are ways of overcoming barriers such as limited financial resources, namely student loans, financial aid, and scholarships. When you are seeking employment, financial limitations can also hinder you. For example, you may not have the money to purchase interview attire. Several organizations collect donations of professional clothing and distribute it to job seekers in need.
  • Financial Obligations: You may find yourself working in a job or occupation just for the paycheck. It lets you keep up with your bills but doesn't satisfy you in any other way. You would like to go after other opportunities but feel inhibited by your financial obligations such as a mortgage, rent, student loans, or even your children's college tuition. You can try to put away money for a future career change or even change your way of life by downsizing to a smaller home.
  • Physical, Mental, and Emotional Impairments: Some of us are better suited to some careers than we are to others due to our physical and mental abilities, and limitations. For example, you may want to become a doctor but don't have the intellectual ability to get into medical school. You should, if possible, find a related occupation that makes the best use your strengths while accommodating your limitations.
  • Lack of Support From Family: Going after a hard-to-achieve goal is even more difficult if your loved ones aren't behind you. You have a greater chance of succeeding if you can convince them to become your cheerleaders but if that is unlikely to happen, you may have to find motivation from other people in your life.
  • Age: Our age, or our perception of it, can hinder us in our career development. During a large part of our lives, we may worry about being too young to pursue a particular path, advance in our careers, or make a career change, and for another lengthy stretch, we fret about being too old to do those things. Instead of focusing on your age, concentrate on your abilities and how motivated you are. 
  • Family Obligations: An individual's career development may stall if he or she takes time off from work to take care of children or elderly parents. He or she has several options including getting outside help to provide childcare or eldercare if the individual desires it.