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Career Growth vs Career Development: What’s the Difference?

Career growth and career development go hand-in-hand in our professional life. In today’s competitive job market, it is a priority for human resources, management, and anyone else that cares about employee retention.

Lack of opportunities for advancement is one of the top reasons people quit their jobs. Let us take a look at what it looks like when our careers are not growing:

  • We detest the tasks we have to perform at work.

  • Our skills are too standard.

  • We are not networking actively or sufficiently.

  • We have not learned anything new lately.

  • We are stagnant at work and being passed over for promotions.

  • Our salary can’t compensate for our unhappiness at work.

  • We feel chronically exhausted at work.

As career practitioners, our core practice is to help our clients, employees, and even ourselves grow professionally and move forward in our career path. Let’s explore what is career growth.

4 Types of Career Growth

Career growth is the path of advancing in your professional life. It is the journey toward our big-picture career vision. There are 4 different types of career growth. The most common is the traditional process of climbing the career ladder (linear growth). This is common in professions where you have to build on your expertise and experience. Examples are business managers, financial analysts, architects, and healthcare professionals like medical doctors and nurses.

You can also grow your career by specializing in a certain area and becoming an expert in your chosen field. They often elevate in their careers as researchers, scientists, or professors with PhDs. They are heavily invested in that topic and usually don’t change careers very much because of the time and commitment involved in becoming an expert in their field.

Some professionals have a broad area of expertise. They grow their career by expanding in different areas within their field. People with this expanding career style are usually curious and have often worked in many different areas within the same field. An example would be someone who works with different HR-related tasks or a computer programmer who works in different types of companies but doesn’t necessarily move very high up the ladder into upper-level management positions.

Another way to grow your career is the episodic career style where one may have many interests and change between completely non-related jobs. Professionals who grow their careers this way tend to be very adaptable to change, curious and flexible. To help them with their career growth, look for common themes in their different roles, or transferrable skills.

Benefits of Career Growth

If you are in a good position at work, why should you push yourself out of your comfort zone? Here are some benefits to grow in your career:

  • Growing your career will eventually increase your salary, helping you to achieve financial satisfaction.

  • Pushing yourself further will help you to reach your full potential and achieve professional gratification.

  • Advancing in your career will give you additional motivation at work.

  • Career growth opportunities at your job will encourage you to stay with your company and build deeper relationships.

  • Having a growth mindset at work will invite more opportunities to grow professionally and personally.

Difference Between Career Growth & Career Development

While career growth is influenced by opportunities and advancement within a particular organizational context such as promotions, expanded job responsibilities, leadership positions, or becoming subject matter experts, career development is often driven by the individual's own aspirations, interests, and long-term career goals. Here are some examples of career development steps:

  1. Continuous learning and professional development

  2. Skill diversification

  3. Mentoring and coaching

  4. Networking and relationship building

  5. Job rotations and secondments

  6. Cross-training and cross-functional projects:

  7. Seeking feedback and performance evaluations

  8. Personal development initiatives

Career development is a lifelong process, and individuals should proactively seek opportunities for growth, tailor development activities to their goals and interests, and regularly assess and refine their development plans. Whether you're mapping out your own career or looking ahead for your team or client, progressing along a career path requires patience and resilience.

Tell us what type of career growth you follow and share with us ONE tip to follow your growth path.


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