Career Development 101: What You Need to Know

by Julie Winkle Giulioni | Posted | Career Management

Career Development 101: What You Need to Know

In Bersin by Deloitte's annual research report, Predictions for 2015: Redesigning the Organization for a Rapidly Changing World, Josh Bersin forecasts that talent mobility, career management and the leadership pipeline will become a top priority this year. And it makes sense:

  • As baby boomers prepare to retire, significant skill and institutional knowledge gaps may threaten business continuity.
  • Younger entrants to the workplace have expectations that work will provide ongoing learning, challenges, and a portfolio of experiences.
  • Turnover is expensive - on a lot of different levels.

As a result, organizations are beginning to view career development as an employment differentiator and competitive advantage. Yet too many are mistakenly assuming that processes and management attention are the key to making it happen. They are forgetting about the vital and most central piece of the career development puzzle: the employee.

Employees taking charge of their own career development

In today's environment, where organizations are struggling to remain relevant and managers are overloaded with day-to-day responsibilities, employees must be prepared to own their careers more than ever before. They must set the lead, set the pace for their development, and co-create the conditions and opportunities that will move them in the direction they desire.

But people don't enter the workplace automatically knowing how to navigate their careers. In fact, many tenured employees struggle with setting and achieving meaningful professional goals. As a result, organizations that are serious about making career management a priority are actively helping staff members expand their understanding of how development works and learn more about the 3Cs:

  • Context
  • Congruence
  • Competencies


Context refers to how career development and career progression work within an organization. People need to know the rules of the game... and these rules aren't always published or clear-cut. What's required to get ahead? Who makes the decision? What are they looking for? These are all questions that too many employees can't find answers to. Transparency is vital to creating a culture where employees can own their development; and organizations that are making career management a priority are finding ways to make this information accessible and available.

Additionally, many organizations are becoming flatter and trading in the old career ladder for less hierarchical models. This means fewer opportunities for promotions - but still plenty of ways to grow laterally and also in place. Whatever the situation, this is the context within which career development operates and employees need to understand it so they can focus their efforts in ways that produce results.


Congruence refers to the required relationship between the goals of the individual and the goals of the organization. Let's be honest, managers are going to be far better able to support employees whose career goals support the organization than those whose goals don't. As a result, employees must be made aware of the bigger picture, the competitive landscape, and the short- and long-term needs of the organization. That way they are in a position to create win-win solutions by aligning their career goals with where the organization is going.


Understanding the context for career development and the need for congruent goals creates a powerful platform; but it's not enough. Employees must also possess a set of high-impact career development competencies with include:

  • Identifying their own strengths, talents, preferences, interests, and values.
  • Seeking out, processing and leveraging feedback from others.
  • Evaluating skill gaps and development opportunities.
  • Collaborating with other on goals and development plans.
  • Sustaining momentum over the long haul and executing action plans.
  • Extracting and extrapolating learning from experiences.

If Josh Bersin's predictions are right and career management becomes a top priority this year, then I predict that the organizations that'll use it to make a significant difference will do so by supporting their employees with the 3Cs: context, congruence, and competencies.

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