Unit 7: Career Exploration

Chapter 27: Career Development

Lumen Learning and Linda Bruce Hill

Career Development

See if you can remember a time in your childhood when you noticed people doing work that interested you. Maybe in your own family. Maybe in your neighborhood. Maybe in your city. Each day in your life you could have seen a hundred people in various jobs and roles (parent, scientist, caregiver, etc.). Surely some of the experiences drew your interest and appealed to your imagination.

If you can recall any such times, those are moments from the beginning stage of your career development.

What exactly is career development? It’s a lifelong process in which we become aware of, interested in, knowledgeable about, and skilled in a career. It’s a key part of human development as our identity forms, self-awareness of our skills, and our life unfolds.

Stages of Career Development

There is a five-stage model of career development called the self-concept theory developed by Donald Super in the 1950s. It is one of the foundational theories in the career counseling profession. The model was based on self-concept and reflected the changes in career adaptability which may or may not correspond with age. Each stage correlates with abilities, interests, and values we all cycle through during career transitions. As we progress through each stage and reach the milestones identified, we prepare to move on to the next one.

Think about each stage. Which stage of career development do you feel you are in currently? What challenges are you facing now? What situational factors influence your decisions?

Table 27.1. Stages of career development

1 GROWING This is a time in early years (4–13 years old) when you begin to have a sense about the future. You begin to realize that your participation in the world is related to being able to do certain tasks and accomplish certain goals.
2 EXPLORING This period begins when you are a teenager, extends into your mid-twenties, and may extend later. In this stage you find that you have specific interests and aptitudes. You are aware of your inclinations to perform and learn about some subjects more than others. You may try out jobs in your community or at your school. You may begin to explore a specific career. At this stage, you have some detailed “data points” about careers, which will guide you in certain directions.
3 ESTABLISHING This period covers your mid-twenties through mid-forties. By now you are selecting or entering a field you consider suitable, and you are exploring job opportunities that will be stable. You are also looking for upward growth, so you may be thinking about an advanced degree.
4 MAINTAINING This stage is typical for people in their mid-forties to mid-sixties. You may be in an upward pattern of learning new skills and staying engaged. But you might also be merely “coasting and cruising” or even  feeling stagnant. You may be taking stock of what you’ve accomplished and where you still want to go.
5 REINVENTING In your mid-sixties, you are likely transitioning into retirement. But retirement in our technologically advanced world can be just the beginning of a new career or pursuit—a time when you can reinvent yourself. There are many new interests to pursue, including teaching others what you’ve learned, volunteering, starting online businesses, consulting, etc.

Keep in mind that your career pathway is personal to you and you may not fit neatly into the categories described above. People can cycle through each of these stages as they go through career transitions. The reality is that there are generational differences. Perhaps your work values change. Perhaps your socioeconomic background changes how you fit into the schema. Perhaps your physical and mental abilities challenge the idea of a “successful career.” Race and gender expectations are different. And, there are opportunities that aren’t available to everyone. You are unique and your career path can only be developed by you.

Career Development Resources in Your College, Community, and Beyond

Career experts say that people will change careers (not to mention jobs) five to seven times in a lifetime. So your career will likely not be a straight and narrow path. Be sure to set goals and assess your interests, skills and values often. Seek opportunities for career growth and enrichment. And take advantage of the rich set of resources available to you. Below are just a few resources.

Career Center on Campus

Whether you are a student, a graduate, or even an employer, you can obtain invaluable and freely available career development assistance at your college or university. Campus career centers can support, guide, and empower you in every step of the career development process, from initial planning to achieving lifelong career satisfaction.

Information on Career Development

Going to college is one of the best steps you can take to prepare for a career. But soon-to-be or recently graduated students are not necessarily guaranteed jobs. Staying informed about strategies for developing your career and finding new jobs will help you manage ongoing transitions. The following video provides some useful tips for finding work after college. The video is in Spanish. To watch with English subtitles, choose English in the auto-generated translation feature in the video settings.

The book The Memo: What Women of Color Need to Know to Secure a Seat at the Table by Minda Harts includes topics such as networking, self-advocacy, and navigating barriers. The following video provides career advice on the unique challenges that women of color face.

Video: Minda Harts – Working Together, LinkedIn News

Career Roadmap

You can use the Career Roadmap, from DePaul University, to evaluate where you are and where you want to be in your career. It can help you decide if you want to change career paths and can guide you in searching for a new job. The road map identifies the following four cyclical steps:

  1. Know yourself
  2. Explore and choose options
  3. Gain knowledge and experience
  4. Put it all together: the job search process

Plan, Do, Check, Act

PDCA (plan–do–check–act) is a four-step strategy for carrying out change. You can use it to evaluate where you are in the career development process and to identify your next steps. The strategy is typically used in the business arena as a framework for improving processes and services. But you can think of your career as a personal product you are offering or selling.

  1. PLAN: What are your goals and objectives? What process will you use to get to your targets? You might want to plan smaller to begin with and test out possible effects. For instance, if you are thinking of getting into a certain career, you might plan to try it out first as an intern or volunteer or on a part-time basis. When you start on a small scale, you can test possible outcomes.
  2. DO: Implement your plan. Sell your product—which is YOU and your skills, talents, energy, and enthusiasm. Collect data as you go along; you will need it for charting and analyzing in the Check and Act steps ahead.
  3. CHECK: Look at your results so far. Are you happy with your job or wherever you are in the career development process? How is your actual accomplishment measuring up next to your intentions and wishes? Look for where you may have deviated in your intended steps. For example, did you take a job in another city when your initial plans were for working closer to friends and family? What are the pros and cons? If you like, create a chart that shows you all the factors. With a chart, it will be easier to see trends over several PDCA cycles.
  4. ACT: How should you act going forward? What changes in planning, doing, and checking do you want to take? The PDCA framework is an ongoing process. Keep planning, doing, checking, and acting. The goal is continuous improvement.

Internet Sites for Career Planning

Visit the Internet Sites for Career Planning Web site at the National Career Development Association’s site. You will find extensive, definitive, and frequently updated information on the following topics:

  • Online Employment
  • Self-Assessment
  • Career Development Process
  • Occupational Information
  • Employment Trends
  • Salary Information
  • Educational Information
  • Financial Aid Information
  • Apprenticeships and Other Alternative Training Opportunities
  • Job Search Instruction and Advice
  • Job Banks
  • Career Search Engines
  • Resources for Diverse Audiences
  • Resources and Services for Ex-Offenders
  • Resources and Services for Youth, Teen and Young Adults
  • Resources and Services the Older Client
  • Industry and Occupation Specific Information
  • Researching Employers
  • Social Networking Sites
  • Disabilities
  • Military

Activity: Campus to Career


  • Examine two critical questions about developing your career while still in college: How do I prepare myself for a career while I’m in college? How do I position myself to get ahead?


  • Review the Campus to Career Web site called “Top College Career Tips from Freshman to Senior Year.”
  • Visit the section for each year of college: Freshman Year, Sophomore Year, Junior Year, and Senior Year. You may need to return to the main page of the site to access the sophomore, junior, and senior year pages of content.

Licenses and Attributions:

CC licensed content, Original:

CC licensed content, Shared previously

  • Campus to Career Quiz. Authored by: Ronda Dorsey Neugebauer. Provided by: Chadron State College. Project: Kaleidoscope Open Course Initiative. License: CC BY: Attribution.

All rights reserved content:

  • ¿Cómo consegir el mejor trabajo? –Según los expertos. Authored by: CuriosaMente. Located at:  https://youtu.be/-c4UuYOwIPI?si=f6s0calbaiJBpAJ8. License: All Rights Reserved. License Terms: Standard YouTube License.
  • The Memo: What Women of Color Need to Know to Secure a Seat at the Table. Authored by: Minda Harts. Located at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=itvVil3h07M&t=3s. License: All Rights Reserved. License Terms: Standard YouTube License.

Adaptions: slight formatting changes, removed image of people in lab, removed image of plan-do-check-act, removed quote. Relocated Learning Objectives.


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Blueprint for Success in College and Career Copyright © 2019 by Lumen Learning and Linda Bruce Hill is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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