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When a new employee joins an organization, they have an underlying expectation that the organization will contribute in some major aspect to their career development. Organizations may have an influential effect on employees’ careers through their efforts of human resource management as well as professional development. Some of these human resource activities that may make such an impact will consist of recruitment, selection, training, development and appraising; along with retaining an employee’s career in one way or another. According to Rowley and Jackson (2010), “traditional programs may target managerial personnel, whereas in the contemporary business context; the career development programs target every employee”. A career refers to a person’s progress through a string of jobs throughout his or her work life. Career development, on the other hand, refers to an organized and planned effort that is made up of structured activities that will result in a joint planning effort between an employee and the organization in which he or she may work for. Career development involves various concepts, theories and programs that defines the career path that an employee should appropriately take.

Concepts of Career Development

Job management literature from various disciplines has underscored the importance of internal processes such as the concept of promotion to motivate employees. Sanfey and Hollands (2012) examines this theory of career development from the perspective of promotional efforts consisting of associate college professors. They argue that job promotions are usually the first step towards the motivation of employees’ and enhancing their career development. When employees are promoted, they perceive it as an opportunity and believe that they have a chance to enhance their career within the organization and most likely would look for other developmental opportunities within the organization.

The second concept of career development is succession planning. This is a process which is mostly designated for top management positions. It requires managers to recognize those specific workers who should be professionally developed and trained adequately enough to take their places once the existing manager decide to retire from the organization. A majority of contemporary organizations have succession planning systems in place where the members of management identifies and nominates particular employees for succession training. The employees who are selected are evaluated. But, it is through the evaluation system when the organization will determine the employees’ readiness to succeed (Rowley & Jackson, 2010).

Career Development Theories and Their Traits

Trait and Factor Theory

Frank Parson conceptualized the traits and factors theory in 1909. The theory stresses the need to match individual characteristics with their occupations. Parson emphasized the need for an employee to understand themselves regarding their skills, interests as well as the limitations. Moreover, the theory explains the need for a person to have the knowledge as well as requirements that meet their line of work (Patton & McMahon, 2014). This theory is consistent with the contemporary practice of career development. In contemporary practice, employees seek to find more about how their personal traits match their occupations. If these characteristics match the occupations, the employees have higher chances to develop their careers through the occupation. However, critics of the theory argue that Parson relied upon the self-study of his clients due to the lack of appropriate assessment instruments. Furthermore, this approach to career development may be viewed as superficial because it relays more contextual factors such as social influences and work adjustments (Sharf, 2013) which makes the theory more static rather than developmental.

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Theory of Vocational Personalities in Work Environment

John Holland coined this theory, and it evolved out of Parson’s earlier work on trait-factor theory. The theory emphasizes the significance of person-environment fit in career choice and development. Holland, categorized individuals into six personalities where he argued that these personalities determines a person’s career choices. Moreover, Holland was of the view that the difference in career choices can be attributed to personality. Like Parson, Holland argued that individuals seek out those work environments that match their personalities (Patton & McMahon 2014). This theory supports the view that employees strive to develop their careers in work environments that are satisfying and match their personalities. While Holland’s contribution to career development cannot be questioned, his theory can be viewed as a partial account of the concept of career development. The theory has been criticized due to its lack of attention to other life roles and relationships between people. The interactions that people have at the workplace are a major contributor toward the development of their careers, but Holland had ignored this aspect.

Theory of Work Adjustment

Developed by Dawis and Lofquist in 1984, the theory of work adjustment is considered to be perhaps the most carefully crafted theories of career choice and development. According to the theory, an “individual has requirement of a work environment, and a work environment, in turn, has needs” (Dahling & Librizzi, 2015). Job retention is one of the key goals of the career development process and this is taken into account in the theory. Employees will tend to work in an organization where they are likely to be retained because this enhances their chances of career development. According to Patton and McMahon (2014), “the application of the theory can facilitate a better understanding of work trends, career stages as well as career adaptability for diverse cultural groups”. This means that at times, the process of career development may not involve one job but several as a person seeks to develop their careers through various jobs they may deem as fit.

Social Learning Theory

The social learning theory is concerned with how a person acquires social values and roles. The theory hypothesizes that individual personalities are shaped by their unique learning experiences. The theory developed through the work of Bandura posits that a person’s personality develops from interactions with the environment. Bandura held the view that a person can determine symbolically possible outcomes while avoiding actual performance. This approach is useful when promoting career decision-making to find out why people enter into a specific education and occupational field Patton and McMahon (2014).

The theories discussed present the fact that self-awareness is important in the process of career development. However, Parson and Holland makes the most significant contribution in terms of how the work environment affects the entire process of career development. Additionally, the theories underlying assumption about the person-environment fit has been criticized since people are capable of change, and they change to fit the work environment.

Career Development Programs

Career development consists of career planning and career management. Career management involves human resource development activities to recognize career stages and help employees become aware of their personal skills, interest, knowledge, motivation and acquire information about opportunities and choices. Additionally, career planning also involves helping employees establish action plans to attain specific goals. Career management, on the other hand, is the process through which organizations select, assess, assign, and develop employee to provide a pool of qualified people to meet future needs (Rowley & Jackson, 2010)

Career planning, as well as career management, reinforces each other; from the organization’s perspective, the concept of career development has three key objectives.

The first objective of career development is to meet the future human resources needs of the organization on a timely basis. The second objective consist of the career development which aims to help improve the organization and the possible career paths in the organization. The third objective of career development is to integrate and utilize human resource programs to the fullest.

Career development programs should be built to meet the clearly identified needs of the employees. Nevertheless, it is of merit to note that not all career programs generate positive outcomes for organizations and the employees. If the career programs raise people’s aspirations to impractical levels or corroborate that their persona career plans do not match those of their organization, knowledge of organizational career opportunities may force them away from an organization rather than bind them to it (Keith & Jackson, 2010).

Responsibilities in Career Development of Employees

Role of Employees

Employees play a critical role in their career development through career planning and management activities. The career development program is focused on employees and it is the role of employees to corporate with the managers and the organization to facilitate the employee development activities. Regarding career planning, the employee should assess their abilities, interests as well as values. This role of self-assessment is underscored in the theories of career development. The employee should also communicate career development preferences to their superior managers. Moreover, the employee should also map out mutually agreeable action plans with these same managers as well. The “other role of the employee is to pursue agreed action plans with the managers and the organizations” (Rowley & Jackson, 2010).

Apart from career planning, employees also may contribute to the career management aspect of career development. The employee must provide accurate information to members of management as needed regarding their skills, work experience, interests and career aspirations. In addition, the employee should forge their career path by providing the organization with the most updated information to help in supporting their continuous career path.

Role of Managers

According to Inn, Tan, and Beverly (2015), “managers should encourage employees to take responsibility for their careers”. This should be done by providing the employees with constant feedback about their performance and provide them with the necessary self-assessment tools, or information about the organization for other opportunities within the organization. The manager should act as a catalyst and sensitize the employee in their career developmental process. The other role of managers is to assess the realism of employees expressed objectives and perceived development needs.

Counseling employees and developing mutually agreeable plans in their career development process is the primary role of the manager. The manager also plays the role of providing information to employees about vacant positions in the organization. Additionally, managers should identify qualified candidates for the vacant job and make a selection based on experience level. The other critical role of the managers is to identify career development opportunities for employees and place them accordingly. According to Dahling and Librizzi (2015), “managers should develop strategies that help employees to create a secure attachment within the organization”.

Role of the Organization

Organizations also play a critical role in career development such as the provision, of career planning models. Moreover, organizations will provide resources, counseling and essential information needed for individualized planning. The organization also provides training that is aimed at career development of the employees. Additionally, the organization will provide on-the-job development opportunities for its employees to enhance their career development. The organization provides information systems and processes to accommodate decision-making needs. The other role of the organization is to organize and update all information on the career development of the employees. Furthermore, the organization should collect, analyze, interpret, in addition, to evaluate the effectiveness of career programs.

Furthermore, line managers and HR department managers are responsible for designing career development programs. It is important that the career developmental program reflect the goals, culture and human resource philosophy. The human resource philosophy provides employees with a set of directions for their overall career development. According to Bohlander and Snell (2010), “a career development program can only be effective if managerial personnel at all levels are adequately trained in the fundamentals of career development”.

In addition, mentoring is one of the most important components of managerial support in the career development process. Organizations should ensure that their career developmental programs take into account the aspect of mentoring. Mentoring is important because uncertainty is one of the biggest challenges one faces in his or her career and it is critical to receive advice or guidance from someone who has gone through similar experiences.

Line of Business Paths

“Traditional career paths define a point-to-point progression that targets a number of employees for specific managerial positions and leadership positions in their career paths” (Rowley & Jackson, 2010). Traditional career paths can only work in static environments where the career programs focus on loyal employees. In the contemporary job setting however, these conditions are less common as people are changing careers due to volatile industries and shifting work environments. “The traditional career path involves the adjustment of a person to a certain career, but this does not happen often in the current job setting” (Kanten, Kanten & Yesiltas, 2015).

Movements characterize boundary less career paths across the boundaries of several employees and the use of supportive external networks and information. Moreover, this career path does not distinguish any single career form but rather a range of possible forms that defy traditional employment assumptions (Kanten, Kanten, & Yesiltas, 2015). This career path does not rely on traditional career arrangements and breaks hierarchical reporting and advancement principles. The notable features of this career path are portable knowledge, skills as well as abilities across multiple organizations and personal identification within meaningful work. Additionally, this career path is also dominated by on-the-job training. According to McElroy and Weng (2015), “this new career era transcends the existence of an organization”. This career path is also referred to as the Protean model which was driven by the employee rather than the organization. Moreover, unlike the traditional career path, “this career path is characterized by continuous learning and psychological success” (Sargent & Domberger, 2007). It is through lifelong learning that employees develop their careers and enhance their chances of succeeding in various careers. The contemporary job context requires employees that are experienced in different skills because they can perform activities other than those related to their jobs.

Managing Global Careers

The new career path coupled with the increase in globalization means that opportunities for career development have become global. Multinational organizations are taking approaches that are more global to the process of career development. Global career development requires a repeated feedback procedure that can make variation achievable across different countries and cultures. Therefore, global careers development should be an ongoing part of the planning and management process. There are two schools of thought when it comes to managing global careers. One approach asserts that the world and the workplace are becoming increasingly diverse, and organizations must hire and develop talent from different backgrounds. The other approach underscores the importance of diversity in organizations; while the same approach holds that organizations must bring in employees from various cultures to enhance their effectiveness (Rowley & Jackson, 2010). These approaches reveal the importance of diversity in managing global careers.


In conclusion, the chapter gives a comprehensive review of the aspect of career development by documenting relevant concepts as well as theories that relate to the area. The theories documented in this chapter are the trait factor theory by Frank Parson and the theory of vocational personalities by John Holland. The other theories which were examined are the theory of work adjustment and the social learning theory. The other section of the paper looks at career development programs implemented by organizations. Furthermore, the paper also discusses the role of the employee, manager and organization in overall career development. The other section examines the aspect of career paths in career development while the last section examines the aspects of managing global careers.

Essentially, career development is a lifetime process that involves the employee, manager as well as the organization. It is an important process in a person’s work life as it requires promotion and succession planning. In addition, various researchers have focused on the process of career development and formulated theories that emphasized the subject of career development. It is important to take into consideration that the employee, manager and the organization all play equally important roles in the career development process, and it is up to each individual in the process to identify these roles effectively. Furthermore, traditional career paths differ from modern career paths in that the latter focuses on the individual, rather than the organization which underscores the importance of the employee in the career development process. In general, career development is an important concept for contemporary organizations and organizations should always strive to develop their employees continuously to enhance the company chances of employee retention. Therefore, it is a win-win situation which is mutually beneficial for both the organization and employee.


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5 September, 2023

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