Career Development vs. Career Growth: How to Achieve Both

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Whilst starting out in a professional field, many people think about their long-term career plans, aiming for high-level roles or high salaries. This career growth mindset can be motivating for many people who have big professional goals, but oftentimes, what can be done in the short-term to achieve this is overlooked. Whilst career growth is at the forefront of many workers’ aspirations, the short term skill building, networking and experience required to reach career goals is known as career development, and is equally as important. We will discuss what the key differences between career growth vs career development are, as well as how you can work on both to achieve your professional goals.

What Is Career Growth?

Career growth involves advancing in your job position or company, to reach the highest level of seniority for your department or industry. This is what is commonly referred to as “climbing the corporate ladder”, where you aim to progress through the ranks of your company. Career growth involves receiving promotions to job roles which involve more responsibility; these promotions are highly sought after since they come with increases in salary. 

Although this might seem like the main reason for striving for career growth, many opportunities to lead, develop or make changes in your industry come with the many years of experience that comes from career growth. If you have a big goal for a project, product or idea you want to develop, this is also considered a goal in career growth. Career growth occurs from all levels in a company, and even small steps are positives in achieving long-term career growth ambitions. Examples of career growth include moving from an intern position to a junior full-time staff, or from mid-level managerial positions to senior positions such as head of a department.

What Is Career Development?

Career development is related to improving skills, knowledge and capabilities which can help you with broadening your job scope in the short-term. Building these skills can allow for personal and professional development beyond your current role, leading to career growth in the long-term. By building unique skills and expertise, you become an invaluable employee to your current company, and also allows for job mobility if you want to make lateral shifts in your industry. 

Career development can involve upskilling in both hard and soft skills, depending on the type of role you want to achieve in the long-term. Career development skills can be self-taught, or a skill which needs to be accredited by an organization. Examples of career development include a manager taking a short course in leadership, or a software developer learning a new in-demand programming language.

Career Development vs. Career Growth

To put it simply, career development involves expanding your skills and expertise which can allow you to flourish in your current role, whereas career growth involves climbing the corporate hierarchy to be promoted into a high-level role. Career development is necessary for career growth, but can be worked on continuously either through actively learning new skills or passively from experience. You can potentially fast-track the career growth process by actively working on your career development, gaining experiences and qualifications which are needed for senior positions. An example of career development for a graphic designer can include learning a new software to improve their design skills at a faster rate, whilst career growth would involve a promotion to become head of design for a company.

Why Career Growth and Career Development Are Important?

Career growth is often what employees strive for, to achieve promotions and salary increases. Career growth can also involve more job satisfaction for employees who want to expand their responsibilities and stay at their company. This ambition is favorable, as employees have job satisfaction and employers can retain employees

In order to achieve the promotion you desire, it is important to understand that career development is necessary. Having ambition alone is not enough to fulfill a job’s requirements, and sometimes career development involves learning skills which are difficult or unfamiliar. Although career development involves short-term skill building which can help in the long term for career growth, your career development plan requires time and effort. The good thing about having career development goals and working towards them is that you are showing that you want to advance professionally, which will help you work towards career growth. Encouraging both career growth and development means that employers can foster a skilled and adaptable workforce which encourages participation and innovation.

Tips for Achieving Career Growth and Development

In order to foster both career growth and development, personal reflection of your ambitions and goals is necessary. Although they are linked, career growth and development require different planning on your part to achieve goals both now and in the long-term. We’ve gathered the best tips for achieving both career growth and development, and how you can apply them: 

1. Set clear goals

Think about what you want to achieve professionally in your industry, both now and in the future. Try to think about goals related to your career development, such as a project you want to handle, responsibilities you’d like to have, or a skill or software you want to learn, rather than rewards such as a pay rise or bonus. Developing your career first can allow for career growth in the future, where promotions and raises will follow. Once you gather some goals, prioritize them and think of clear pathways to achieve them.

Some example goals you could use for career development include: 

  • Learn 2 more programming languages by the end of this year
  • Learn from the design how to use graphic design tools more efficiently
  • Complete a management certificate

As for career growth, goals include: 

  • Receive a raise which is a 15% increase of my current salary 
  • Manage a team of more than 12 people
  • Become a Team Lead for the finance department

2. Continuously learn 

Career development is about constant learning, whether it be actively taking on a course, or learning from others in your team. Search for in-demand skills online or ask your managers what skills you should be learning or other ways you can develop your career. You don’t have to go back to university or take any expensive formal classes; there are many online communities where you can learn digital skills. Be open to feedback and actively seek out opportunities to learn; don’t be afraid to take on offers to learn which seem a bit out of your comfort zone, either.

Hard skills you could learn include:

  • New, in-demand programming languages
  • Analytical or statistical software 
  • SEO, google analytics
  • Graphic design or editing skills
  • Budgeting and time scheduling

Soft skills for career development include: 

These skills, no matter how easy they seem, need more than just taking a certificate or course to develop. Career development isn't about checking off a bunch of skills and then asking for a promotion. The skills you learn for career development need to be put into practice, such as through a new project which wasn’t available to you before. Gaining more opportunity and responsibility is a key to career development, as it is the valuable experience which allows for career growth. Aside from gaining new skills, being able to handle the responsibility of important projects is essential to achieving career growth as well, as promotions will only be offered to employees who can confidently take on the role.

3. Seek mentorship

The skills mentioned above to assist in career development can’t always be learnt online or through a course; this is where mentorship can come in. If there is a skill you want to learn, think of who in your workplace can provide any advice regarding learning this skill for career development. They might be able to point you towards a program or course you can use to learn hard skills. As for soft skills, you can ask people in HR or managerial positions in your department if there are any resources they used, or experiences they had which helped them to develop these skills. 

Think of who you look up to in your workplace, and ask if they would be interested in or able to provide you with feedback or guidance as you upskill. Mention you are looking to develop in your professional career, and believe that their expertise would be valuable to them. Some workplaces offer to subsidize your career development; so talking to managers first and mentioning that you have clear career development goals is worthwhile.

Seeking mentorship can help you with career development as you can gain industry insights from experienced people. If there isn’t anyone in your workplace who can mentor you, consider talking to a careers counselor in the industry you are in. Using mentorship for career development isn’t about copying everything your mentor does and expecting to achieve the same things; it's about learning from their experiences and applying that to your work. Try to maintain an organized, professional relationship with scheduled check-ins, and be mindful of their time; you not only want to develop the hard skills you need, but also to develop as a professional also.

4. Network and build connections

You might have heard the saying ‘Your network is your net worth’ – which just shows that networking can help you with career growth! By building a network of like minded people, you gain access to opportunities, ideas or industry events which are not readily available in your workplace, which can help you with career growth and development. Although you might want to network with the top leaders of companies across your industry, they are likely too busy to offer one-on-one career development advice. Try to make a network of people who are around the same level as you professionally, or also want to develop their career. 

Don’t expect everyone will want to connect or network with you – some people are busy or simply uninterested in assisting in your career development. Maintaining strong and genuine connections in your network is much more worthwhile than having a lot of connections or contacts with people you don’t know very well. Fostering strong relationships will allow you to achieve career growth, as they will be more inclined to think of you first if they come across an opportunity that suits you. 

Avoid coming across as entitled to know someone's career development story and asking intrusive questions; you can gain insights into other’s career growth, or ideas for your own career development passively through career sites too. Connecting with people in your industry, and staying updated with the latest industry trends can help you when coming up with career development goals. Sharing your career development journey on career social networking sites will also allow you to document your upskilling and get suggestions from your peers. Try sites like Cake or LinkedIn, or a chamber of commerce in your city to build connections online and in person.

5. Take initiative

Although the support of others through mentorship or networking can help you in your career growth and development, the onus is on you to take the lead. Your peers and mentors can provide insight and advice, but ultimately, you have to study, upskill, network and reach your career development goals yourself. Opportunities come to those who seek them; so take initiative in your career development journey to maintain a mindset of growth and learning, which will pay off in the long-term. Taking initiative is valued by employers also, as it shows you are ambitious, capable and hard-working.

🔑 Key Takeaways:

Career growth and development are two different, yet very important aspects of your professional career. Having a growth and development mindset allows you to maintain job satisfaction in the short term, whilst achieving goals in the long term. Investing in yourself through constant learning, taking feedback earnestly, building connections and having goals can allow you to achieve both career growth and development in your industry. With a bit of planning, initiative, and utilizing tools like Cake to build knowledge and make connections, you can have a fulfilling and interesting career.

With Cake, we provide you with the best free resume builder, hundreds of free resume templates, and great resume examples that help showcase the best you. Landing your dream job will be a piece of cake!

--- Originally written by Bronte McNamara ---

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