Welcome to our Career Development Matters discussion. Here leaders share their thoughts on the value of career development and how career development professionals are making a difference to Canadians.

From youth to newcomers and from special needs populations to older adults, career development impacts the economic and social well-being of the country and its citizens. It shapes individuals, families and communities. It drives education, work and life. It enhances Canada’s productivity and innovation. What’s your perspective? Watch this YouTube video to see what people in the field have to say!

Contribute to and follow the discussion on Twitter with the hashtag #cdmatters.

Career development matters because career means so much more than the salary, security, and benefits we get from a job. A career affects what we can become and contribute, and who we impact in the pursuit of our work. To speak about career development is to speak about what your career means over your lifetime. Your career is a process that continues indefinitely; purpose, meaning, gratification, and passion are found not only in the result but are present in the pursuit of work itself.

Co-ordinator, Career Counselling Services, Dalhousie University, NS
Career Development Matters!
I have career-counselled clients since 1975 in the various stages of their careers: adolescents, adult career-changers and golden-handshakers (retirees). In all these cases, I have initiated these interactions with a career-history (career-paths of parents, siblings as well as their own). A number of patterns are evident:
>Familial career-paths have impact on one’s own career (either because of modeling, job-exposure or overt negative reaction to familial input).
>The Serendipity Effect. Some external event impacts on one’s decision.
A classic example was a chiropractor client. When asked how we became a chiropractor, he said that he and his buddy were walking down the hall in the Science building at university, and saw a sign stating “Chiropractic College Entrance Exams”. We bet each other ten dollars that we could pass without any prep. “I barely passed the test (won the bet), went to Chiropractic College and I have been a chiropractor for the past ten years…..BUT I am now not feeling fulfilled with this career.”
Another example was a woman who was a hair stylist. She said that, when she was in her last year of high school (with straight A’s), her parents told her that they could not afford to send her to university because of finances (Ironically, her father was an educator, elementary school principal). Her fallback was hairstyling school. Now…twenty years later (with her own children in secondary school), she wanted to move on, and access her shortchanged career path.
>Adolescents make decisions about their career paths with insufficient data. The average adolescent has a faint knowledge of 50 occupations (usually from the media), good knowledge of a dozen occupations (based on relatives, neighbours, parents’ friends), and an excellent knowledge of about 5-6 occupations. Depending on the data-source, there are over 10,000 occupational titles out there!
>There is no magic pill (“Careerinol”) that one can take that will ensure the “perfect career path” that will take one through to a fulfilled retirement. As we move through our life stages, our needs and demands evolve, and our career path will follow this circuitous route.

After over 38 years as a career practitioner, it is evident to me that there is a real need for:
• A more structured career-educational protocol for adolescents provided by trained career professionals.
• Access by adults to career practitioners who can effectively provide “career-checkups” and “career-tune-ups” to service the career-detours in one’s life…..and to proactively provide career-planning tools and support.
• More open discussion in the media about the evolutionary nature of one’s career path throughout one’s life.
• There is more to one’s identity that one’s job.

Proactive Career Development doesn’t just matter…It is essential!

Careerpathing Consultant, ON
Some time ago I participated in a great exercise where participants were given the stem of a sentence and for 5 minutes you had to just write everything that came to your mind. When you got stuck you returned to the stem and just kept writing. I thought I would try that with the statement Why Career Development Matters and see what my brain spit out here goes…..
Career development matters because it is such a core component of our lives, it helps us become the person we are meant to become, continually changing and evolving as we mature and learn. It is part of the foundation of who we are, positively impacting families, communities, provinces and our country. It helps you know who you are and contribute back to society on many levels, economically, emotionally, spiritually. Career development makes me happy. It makes others happy. It gives me hope and helps me dream. Career Development matters because it gives people a sense of who they are, a sense of pride, a role to play and contribute. It helps us figure out our gifts, our talents and then how to apply them in our work and lives. It empowers people. It encourages reflection on who you are, what you want to become and how to do that. It helps create plans and pathways to achieve goals. Career development alleviates confusion and uncertainty. It provides focus yet remains open to the opportunities life presents sometimes. Career Development is my passion! I am blessed work in it every day and introduce it to other people’s lives.

Manager, Career Development, Memorial University of Newfoundland, NL
Opportunity for informed career seekers is greater than ever, but so is danger for the unprepared. Despite high unemployment and underemployment employers can’t find the qualified talent they need for “mission-critical” positions. Career seekers can’t find employers willing to take a chance on them. With an aging population and increasing dependency ratios, society needs its citizens, especially our young, in viable careers and fully engaged as citizens. Too many post-secondary graduates, not to mention those less qualified, are deep in student loan debt with no idea what careers might suit them, let alone what employers might want them and how to locate them.
The economic consequences of the Perfect Storm in today’s workforce are staggering. Lost productivity and reduced competitiveness impact employers and their communities. Lost tax revenues, social assistance, corrections, stress-induced health costs alone run into $billions annually for all levels of government. The human consequences are even higher. Helping citizens connect with fulfilling, family-sustaining 21st century careers has become an economic imperative. The most effective way for governments to reduce deficits and debt, and for companies to increase productivity and grow, is by getting the right people in the right jobs, fully engaged in creating economic prosperity for their companies, their families, and their communities. This is the work of career practitioners, the most import career of all.

Career Cruising (careercruising.com) is committed to providing the best career resources to help career practitioners help their clients. We salute CERIC for creating this meeting place so career practitioners can support each other like never before.

Director, Global Partnerships, Career Crusing, NB
Some great thoughts in this thread already!

I’m going to take a slightly different perspective, and use a metaphor to illustrate my answer to the question “Why does career development matter?”

Careers are dynamic – we know this, that’s why we use the word ‘development’ when we talk about careers. They are something that is always growing, just like the hair on our heads. We don’t need to seek the help of a professional for our careers to grow – they will do so on our own. Nonetheless, we often find ourselves in situations where we’d benefit from the help of a professional in order to shape or influence the direction of that growth. One of my favourite “faux-titles” for the work I do is therefore “Career Stylist.” Like an actual stylist, who can expertly help you to create a desired look or style, or to simply make appropriate decisions about your look and style, a career development professional can work with you towards the same ends from a career perspective. I’ve written lots more about this metaphor, but for brevity’s sake here I’ll leave it at this: career development matters because it helps us deal with a construct as universally human as the very hair on our heads.

Registered Clinical Counsellor, Simon Fraser University, BC
As I join the group and read the other posts I find myself in full agreement and marvel how much we are of similar minds. So here are a few of my thoughts: Our career is constantly in development—it is a moment by moment life journey. Every decision we make and implement drives our career life. I have heard the saying, “Every decision is a career decision”. There is a lot of truth to that. If I choose to get up at 6 a.m. instead of 8 a.m., that makes a difference. And we are constantly thinking about choices as we interact with our environment. And as I look back on my life and career, I can discern the choices and actions that got me here. What also stands out is how much my career development has benefited from the help of others both in direct conversations, workshops, books and example. I am both humble and proud of where I am at. Career development matters for me and clearly for all of us in this group.
Career Life Energy Consulting, Career Counsellor, Chair, Association of Career Educators, ON
Similar to David, I approached this by looking at “development” – so, before considering “why career development matters” I thought perhaps we could back up a step and focus on why “development” (of any sort) matters. We consider development the norm in so many life arenas other than career, using terms like “developmentally delayed” to describe an individual not progressing as expected or hoped for. “Arrested development” (i.e., when children stop developing as expected, after what seemed to be a normal beginning) is considered a psychological disorder. Why, then, would we expect a career to be static? People develop – it makes sense that their careers would similarly develop to keep up with individuals’ developmental changes.

In our Career Engagement model, we illustrate how an individual can outgrow a specific job when his or her increased capacity begins to outweigh the challenge of the position. Similarly, Csikszentmihalyi, in his work on Flow, spoke to the importance of matching skills to challenge. Career development is inherently important to achieving and maintaining Career Engagement and/or Flow. Without career development, work can become boring and meaningless. With career development, adjustments can be made to continue to achieve an optimal fit between workplace expectations and individual/organizational capacity to get the work done.

President, Life Strategies Ltd., BC
Henry David Thoreau wrote that “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” This malleable observation offers a poignant perspective on the struggles people experience after choosing their vocation and being made to live within that choice. It is the truly blessed who get it right, and they are few. How those lucky few came to find their career “sweet spot” is art more than science, and like art, difficult to reproduce. Inevitably they learned from someone who showed them the way, or at least helped them see the next step. And if these few needed a guide, then how much must the ”mass of men” need one? This is where career development matters.

Higher Education Practitioner, ON
What great comments! Roberta’s reference to Flow makes me think of all the research related to positive psychology and how it can help people in their work and career paths. Career development matters because it creates a positive, proactive approach to the real life concerns of work and lifelong education. Career development, and the professionals that help people embrace it, has a big influence on social relationships, financial security, and an individual’s ability to weather life’s ups and downs – especially in the work world. When you are prepared and self-aware, with a good support system, you are likely to succeed in lifelong career change and adaptation.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Career Key, Inc., WA
Jobs and employment are among the most important current issues facing governments and societies around the world, but the question of how to align individuals and their strengths with opportunities in the world of work remains without a widely accepted, evidence-based approach.

Most career centres and government-funded employment agencies measure program results with job placement rates and program attendance figures, but these measures fail to indicate sustainable changes in individuals’ careers. Tracking whether someone ‘got the job’ says nothing about the alignment between the job and the individual’s strengths, interests and life situation, nor does it say anything about that individual’s ability to manage their career for the future when and if he or she leaves that first job.

Career development matters because it, and we as Career Professionals, can have a positive impact on individuals’ personal attributes including hope, confidence, resilience, optimism, personal growth, and curiosity and exploration — when we listen to clients’ stories in new ways. Using our narrative framework, we’ve found significant increases in these key personal attributes, which correlate with important career measures including career clarity, job satisfaction, job fit, and alignment between job and career expectations.

Career development — or perhaps a better term, ‘Career Management Skill,’ — matters because it helps people manage their careers for the future leading to sustainable and positive employment and career outcomes that benefit the individual and society.

Practice Leader and President, CareerCycles
Did you know that human beings are the only species on earth without full employment? It’s true. Just ask Paul Hawken.
Humanity – which includes Canada – has never been able to make accurate and sustainable connections between the skills and expertise that people develop and how the application of such skills and expertise meet labour market demands. We’ve tried numerous economic and political systems to bridge this gap, but have never really gotten the formula right.

Whatever the case, the idea of “career” is one of the biggest, most complex problems on Earth today.

As if this wasn’t complicated enough, check out what Wade Davis has to say about how to find or develop a career: “A career is not something that you put on like a coat. It is something that grows organically around you, step-by-step, choice-by-choice, and experience-by-experience. Everything adds up. No work is beneath you. Nothing is a waste of time unless you make it so.”

Wow. Compelling, thoughtful and nuanced stuff! Everything that a person does has meaning when s/he approaches it with intention. And, while accurate, this explanation is still very theoretical, and certainly won’t lead to your next job (which is another conversation for another time).

So, where a “career” fits within the complex and disconnected world of work and global labour market demand is a very complex challenge. And the ideas about how to find or build or develop or grow or evolve a “career” are also very complex.

Needless to say, the professional field of career development matters because it finds itself at the intersection of one of the world’s most complex problems (matching peoples’ work with global needs) and one of the most elusive and difficult things to develop (a meaningful career).

So, here we are. Doing important work that matters a whole lot.

On behalf of all the folks in the field of career development who are working hard to address these challenges I say this: you’re welcome.

Manager, Learning and Development, Vancity, BC
It is fascinating to see how everyone is approaching this topic. I’d agree with all the comments so far; the energy and passion around this topic is clear . . . as is some of the frustration that we likely all feel as we struggle to communicate why career development matters to those outside of the field. As a profession, we “get it” but many, too many, don’t. Recent studies are demonstrating that career development has a positive impact on employee engagement; as such organizations are beginning to recognize the importance of supporting employees’ career development goals. Unfortunately many of those supporting career development initiatives, within organizations, aren’t attached to the career development field, don’t know about our rich history, and don’t have specific training in career. Those of us attending CANNEXUS know that career development matters, and why it matters; perhaps the question should actually be if we are, as John says, “Doing important work that matters a whole lot” . . . why do we seem unable to have the career development matters messages “stick”?

Vice President, Life Strategies Ltd., BC
Great question and great discussion…but it begs a few other questions. I (and I imagine pretty much everyone in our field) can readily agree with everything that has been said so far. But, like Deirdre, I think our real question has to be how we ensure those OUTSIDE of our field also agree. How do we move from being seen as a budget drain by policy makers and funders to being seen as a strategic investment? How do we build a profession that is widely recognized as leading edge and vital to our nation’s socio-economic health? How do we move from being largely off the public’s radar to being seen as an essential service for all. How do we help EVERY Canadian to see that they have a career, that they can manage that career and the massive life benefits of doing so? As Deirdre suggests, how do we ensure that career development really matters to people outside our field?
Executive Director, Canadian Career Development Foundation, ON
I think we’d probably all agree that career development matters because it supports the development, growth and resilience of individuals. It also matters because providing information and options facilitates more deliberate decisions among individuals, schools and businesses. Like Sareena, I think our greatest challenge is communicating the impact of career development services in a way that is meaningful. Most Canadians have not experienced career development services, and they don’t know what it is or what it could be. Canada has a great opportunity to demonstrate the impact of career development by focusing on our young people, particularly among youth populations that have historically had limited success in the labour market.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Ministry of the Economy, Government of Saskatchewan, SK
We are not born with career development skills. They are learned and best learned from career development professionals. Regardless whether one is exploring career directions, looking for work, or assessing skills, career and employment counsellors are invaluable – to the little boy in Newfoundland who dreams of being a firefighter, to the teenager in Quebec who is having trouble deciding whether to go into a career or pre-university program in CEGEP, to the university student who is graduating in New Brunswick and wants help determining which career direction to follow, to the visually impaired unemployed man in Ontario wanting to get back into the labour market, to the recent immigrant in Manitoba who is looking for help adjusting to Canada and looking for work, to the pipe fitter in Alberta who would like to know where else in the world his skills are needed, to the recently retired woman in British Columbia who wants to work part-time but isn”t sure how to go about finding a job – career professionals are there to help. Career Development Matters!

National Co-ordinator, Outreach & Innovation, CERIC, ON
Career development matters because people get bored of doing the same thing day in and day out. Career development allows a person to expand their options within their current field or to complete jump tracks and take a different career path.
Career development matters because it is the future of our Country. Without career development people would stop stimulating their minds with valuable knowledge and skills after hihg-school and post-secondary education. The world would become a stagnant and possibly boring place if we did not want to continually expand on our competencies. Career development, whether from further education/courses or coaching assistance, empowers people to want to gain more knowledge and to improve on the skills they already have. Career development provides a welcoming challenge to people from all walks of life!

Founder and Principal Resumer Writer, Skye is The Limit Resume & Career Solutions, ON
Career development matters because it (the process) allows individuals to:
1) Learn about themselves
2) Learn about their career options
3) Make knowledgeable career decisions

Career Specialist, Greer Middle IB School, SC, USA
Career Development Matters as part of high school curriculum by allowing students to see the relevance of what they are learning vs. what they hope to do in the future.
They also learn about career and education planning and work search skills. The hope is that they do not join the ranks of young people who have a university degree but do not understand that it is their skills that they need to market and not that piece of paper. We encourage students to start building their network early by talking to people and conducting informational interviews. If they can get into a program that offers an internship, CO-OP placement directed fleld studies or practicums, better still.

Career Practitioner, Lester B. Pearson High School CBE, AB
I believe Career Development Matters because in the 15 years I have been involved in this field, it has been evident time and time again that we need help making decisions about focusing our talents and choosing work.
For most of us a career is not a lone sport but a community endeavor supported and sponsored by family, business, experience and education.

Creator and Presenter of Workplace Training, ON
Career Development Matters!
Being new to the industry, my eyes have been opened to why it matters! One of our activities we did in class was to take the words job, occupation, and career and define each. After coming together and working on a definition in which the entire class was happy with, the career definition was the most intriguing one. We had concluded that your entire education, occupations, and jobs all fit into your career. Your career is your life! This is not to say people only live to work, but when it’s all said and done and you look back at all your professional endeavors, you’re looking at your career.

Our life is always developing, which then makes sense that our careers are too! We look to friends, family, spirituality, horoscopes, fortune cookies, and magic 8-balls to help us with answers in our life. This is because there are no life experts!! But we are blessed to have career experts who can help guide and listen to our needs.
A Polaroid picture takes only a few minutes to develop, we take a lifetime.

Construction Recruitment Advisor, The Harbinger Network, ON
I believe that career development matters (both our own careers and those of our clients) because there are times when others see something in us that we can not see for ourselves. As career professionals we can shift peoples personal perspectives and open up new opportunity.

So an at-risk-youth is sitting across from you. As you dialogue the only topic that gets any traction is gaming. While on the surface this may seem like a trivial topic, a journey into the world of gaming will reveal an industry rich in imagination, creativity, skilled work, and highly intricate details. It takes skill and persistence to excel in some of these games. So now you have an at-risk-youth who has great hand eye coordination, ability to concentrate, interest in computers, able to persist in problem solving…what career possibilities are you thinking of for this youth? I have no doubt that it is more than s/he is thinking of for themselves. This is just one example of how our work matters.

The other side is why our own career development matters. As we grow, we role model growth for those around us and those we serve. It keeps us fresh, relevant and valuable. Key qualities for a sustainable career in our modern age.

Manager of Special Projects & Employment Counsellor, Employment and Education Centre, ON
Career Development has a special place in my life – I never even knew it existed until a few short years ago. I never knew it existed, let alone it mattered. Since becoming involved in this sector, I am simply overwhelmed at the options and choices that are available.

Everyone that is unaware of what career development is are at risk – they are at risk of an unfulfilled career, an unbalanced life, they are at risk of never realizing they can lead themselves into their own future. This is a process that is organic and dynamic, a process that impacts every level of a community and country as a whole. It just takes longer to see the larger implications of a population left adrift without a rudder in their work directions.

The balance of our lives, our work, and our learning – it is a perfect balance of this trinity of activities, borne from unique and individual values that are created from goals, beliefs and views. My own perception of what career development is can be defined simply – the intentional construction of a defined balance between your learning, your life and your work. job seeking never stops when you are employed, it only changes.
“The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago – the next best time is today.” This ancient Chinese proverb is thousands of years old, yet it still is relevant today. Many times, we shy away from making a statement or a decision for fear of being judged. Let me say – FEEL FREE TO LEAVE A COMMENT! …(yes, I shouted that.) Every single statement here will only serve to further increase the discussion, make us all richer and better, and increase the conversations of career development. Thanks for reading.

Career Counsellor, London Employment Help Centre, ON