Roles in Career Development

The employee, the manager, and the employer all play roles in planning, guiding, and developing the employee’s career. However, the employee must always accept full responsibility for his or her own career development and career success. This is one task that no employee should ever leave to a manager or employer. For the individual employee, the career planning process means matching individual strengths and weaknesses with occupational opportunities and threats. The person wants to pursue occupations, jobs, and a career that capitalize on his or her interests, aptitudes, values, and skills. He or she wants to choose occupations, jobs, and a career, and a career that make sense in terms of projected future demand for various types of occupations.

Of course, career planning only gets one so far. Many people who had previously worked hard to train as computer systems analysts were devastated to find that the dot-com collapse had dramatically reduced the need for systems analysts. However, uncertainties like these only underscore the need for keeping one’s finger on the pulse of the job market, so as to be better positioned to move when a career change is required.

Many people make the mistake of changing occupations or of remaining unhappily in their present jobs when they could be happier without making a big career change. For some people, a little fine-tuning will often suffice. The employee, if dissatisfied at work, has to figure out where the problem lies. Some people may like their occupation and the employers for whom they work, but not how their specific jobs are structured. Others may find their employers’ ways of doing things are the problem. In any case, it’s not always the occupation that’s the problem. Why decide to switch from being a lawyer to a teacher, when it’s not the profession but that law firm’s 80-hour week that’s the problem?

The Employee’s Role:

Making decisions like these is the employee’s responsibility. For example, an employee can do several things short of changing occupations. An employee must know what he is looking for in a job and to what extent his current position is fulfilling his needs. Get rid of energy-draining, low impact responsibilities. Employee can enhance his networks, for instance, by joining a cross-functional team at work, discussing career goals with role models, conducting informational interviews with people whose jobs are of interest and becoming a board member for a nonprofit organization so that the employee can interact with new people. If an employee is satisfied with his occupation and where he works, but not with his job as it is currently organized, the employee must reconfigure his job. For example, consider alternative work arrangements such as part time work, flexible hours, or telecommuting; delegate or eliminate the job function least preferred and seek out a “stretch assignment” that will let him work on something that the employee finds challenging.

Studies also suggest that having a mentor – a senior person who can be a sounding board for career questions and concerns, and provide career-related guidance and assistance can significantly enhance career satisfaction and success. Here again the employer can play an important role, for instance, by encouraging and rewarding senior managers to serve as mentors. But again, it is ultimately the employee’s responsibility to find a mentor and to maintain a productive relationship.

The employer’s role:

The researchers surveyed 524 organizations in the United Kingdom to determine how often they used 17 career management practices. Posting job openings was the most popular practice. The other top career practices, in descending order, were: formal education; career-oriented performance appraisals; counseling by managers; lateral, developmental moves; counseling by HR; retirement preparations; and succession planning. Sun Microsystems has a relatively formal and well thought out program. ,It maintains a career development center staffed by certified counselors to help employees fill development gaps and choose career opportunities at Sun. The firm believes its program helps explain why its average employee tenure of four years is more than twice that estimated at other Silicon Valley firms.

The employer’s career development responsibilities depend somewhat on how long the employee has been with the firm. Before hiring,, realistic job previews can help prospective employees more accurately gauge whether the job is indeed for them, and particularly whether a job’s demand are a good fit with a candidate’s skills and interests. Especially for recent college graduates, the first job can be crucial for building confidence and a more realistic picture of what he or she can and cannot do: Providing challenging first jobs and having an experienced mentor who can help the person the ropes, are important. Some refer to this as preventing reality shock a phenomenon that occurs when a new employee’s high expectations and enthusiasm confront the reality of a boring, unchallenging job.

After the person has been on the job for a while, an employer can take steps to contribute in a positive way to the employee’s career. Career-oriented appraisals in which the manager is trained not just to appraise the employee but also to match the person’s strengths and weaknesses with a feasible career path and required development work is one important step. Similarly, providing periodic planned job rotation can help the person develop a more realistic picture of what he or she is good at, and thus the sort of future career moves that might be best.