By Deirdre Pickerell

A reflection on 10 of the past and future trends of career development in Canada

For the important milestone of CERIC’s 10th anniversary, it seems timely to reflect on how the career development sector has evolved over the last several years and what the future might bring. We first identified the 10 trends in career development outlined below as my Life Strategies colleague Roberta Neault and I were heading to Winnipeg recently to work with some local career practitioners. These trends are presented in no particular order, leaving it up to each reader to decide which might be most relevant.

1. Certification/professionalization

Over the last 10-15 years, there has been a focused effort to raise the level of professionalism of career development practitioners (CDPs). In many regions this has been through the establishment of various certifications. There are many general certifications/credentials (e.g., Certified Career Development Practitioner in BC and Alberta, Certified Employment Strategist, Certified Career Strategist, Global Career Development Facilitator-Canada, and Educational and Vocational Guidance Practitioner). There are also specialized certifications for job developers, resume and interview strategists, and various assessment specialties (e.g., Personality Dimensions, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, Strong Interest Inventory), with some of these latter certifications being some of the first CDPs may have accessed. With many of these certifications, there is an expectation of ongoing education, helping to ensure CDPs don’t neglect their own professional development in the midst of helping clients.

2. Training and continuing education

CDPs have access to a huge range of training/professional development opportunities. With effective use of various technologies, CDPs can learn anytime and from anywhere through regular live webinars, facilitated e-learning programs, and even narrated PowerPoint presentations that can be viewed over and over again. Recognizing that many in our field continue to prefer in-person sessions, many educational institutions still offer face-to-face learning, some educators are travelling to regional service providers to offer customized training, and professional associations are offering conferences, training days and symposia. Never before have CDPs had access to such a breadth of professional development opportunities.

3. Technology

Advances in technology continue to have an incredible impact on the work of CDPs. Current and reliable information is available at the click of a button and tech-savvy clients come armed with more and more information, hoping CDPs can help them wade through it all. e-Counselling and e-coaching services are emerging as powerful alternatives to the more traditional service delivery models many CDPs have come to rely on. Perhaps the most significant technological advance has come with social media; Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest are just a few of the social media tools impacting the way CDPs work and raising many ethical questions with no easy answers.

4. Skills disconnects

As new skills emerge and jobs shift, some CDPs are experiencing a disconnect between the skills they have and the skills needed to do their jobs. This was very evident in a 2013 study of CDPs throughout British Columbia, demonstrating that CDPs were concurrently overwhelmed as they struggled to adjust to the new service delivery framework, and underutilized as they felt their best skills were no longer valued.

5. Emerging theories and models

Despite the ongoing value of many of the traditional career theories (e.g., Super’s Lifespace/Lifespan, Holland’s RIASEC), there are many emerging theories CDPs need to learn more about and integrate into their practice. These would include Bright and Pryor’s Chaos Theory of Careers, Krumboltz’s Happenstance Learning Theory, Hansen’s Integrated Life Planning, and Patton and McMahon’s Systems Theory Framework. There are also several career-related models that many CDPs would find useful, including Arthur and Collins’ Culture-Infused Career Counselling, Niles and Amundson’s Career Flow and Neault and Pickerell’s Career Engagement. Many of these were highlighted in the December 2011 Journal of Employment Counseling’s “Special Thoughts on Theories” issue. With 13 articles from some of the world’s leading career development researchers, this issue is a must read.

6. Breadth of diversity

For many years, CDPs tended to specialize in working with a specific client group including youth, older workers, immigrants or persons with disabilities. The trend in some regions, however, is towards a one-stop shop model requiring CDPs to work with diverse client groups. Therefore, CDPs need to have a basic understanding of the most typical career concerns the widest range of clients might bring, and how to effectively address those concerns. A related trend is with how we currently conceptualize diversity. Today CDPs recognize the breadth of differences clients may bring, looking beyond race or ethnicity to include such factors as religion, physical characteristics, sexual orientation, geographic location, educational background and socioeconomic status.

7. International/global careers

Some CDPs are grappling with the notion of a globally mobile workforce. They view all newcomers to Canada as immigrants (i.e., those who are here to establish roots, make Canada their long-term home and raise their families) and, as such, design services to meet the needs of that particular group. However, the trend is towards work in a global economy. Many newcomers are more likely to be international workers or global careerists; they go where the work is and, if Canada can’t, or won’t, value their professional skills and education, other countries will.

8. Career development in the workplace

It is only within the past five to seven years that career development seems to have emerged as a key component of any organization’s people strategy. This is likely due, in part, to recent studies demonstrating that employer-supported career development is a key driver of employee engagement.(2) Although the trend is for employers to offer career development services to all workers, most of these services are being provided by human resources professionals and organizational development consultants, not traditional CDPs. Although CDPs have the required career-specific knowledge, many lack an understanding of the language of business and, therefore, aren’t fully equipped to navigate the corporate world.

9. Evidence-based practice

Thanks, at least in part, to the Canadian Research Working Group on Evidence-Based Practice in Career Development (CRWG), now, more than ever, CDPs are being exposed to the importance of demonstrating the value of the services they provide. Most importantly, the framework developed by the CRWG provides a structure for demonstrating the impact of services provided beyond the data a funder might require (e.g., how many clients became employed).

10. Assessment

Recent studies have demonstrated that CDPs consistently identify an interest in, and a need for, training in assessment. Yet there also seems to be a lack of clarity around what assessment means. For some it is test or tool (e.g., the Strong Interest Inventory, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) but for others it is a process used to determine client need. Looking ahead, CDPs need to understand both (i.e., the assessment tools that are available and how to effectively select, administer, and interpret them, and the process of assessment to quickly discern a client’s needs).

There are likely other trends relevant to the important work being done throughout all facets of the career development sector. Further, there is an incredible amount of information relating to each of the trends I’ve included here. I hope readers will be inspired to learn more. It is an exciting time to be part of Canada’s career development community.


Deirdre Pickerell, PhD, CHRP, GCDF-i has over 20 years’ experience in the fields of career development, adult education, and human resource management. She has made significant differences within the career development sector – locally, nationally, and internationally – through innovative program design and selfless leadership, consulting and mentoring throughout the sector. She is the 2014 recipient of the Stu Conger Award for Leadership in Career Development and Career Counselling.

Trends in Career Development: What You Say

Laura Dutton, Toronto: A major trend/issue today is youth UNDERemployment. There is a lot in the media about youth unemployment, but underemployment is even more of an issue in my opinion.

Kelly Boucher, Kitchener: Social media has had a profound impact (and will continue to) on the career development field, along with many activities and services being offered virtually.

Cathy Keates, Kingston: One significant trend is the growing conversation about mental health and its impacts/relationship with career development. This has multiple components – some of those we see with our students include a high level of anxiety about future/career, and mental health issues making job search and career exploration difficult.