Self Directed Career Development

By May Bleeker-Phelan, 26 Aug 2022

Craft Your Career

Changes in technology, working patterns and organisational structures mean career paths are increasingly less linear and predictable than they used to be.

To thrive at work individuals have to adapt, grow and shape their own careers in very uncertain conditions. This is where self directed career development comes in.

Research shows that career adaptability and career self-management are becoming increasingly important for people to stay abreast of changes in the workplace. (Haenggli, M., & Hirschi, A., 2020).

Knowing how to design and customise your own career path can give you a professional edge. Not only by offering a buffer against constant change, but also by allowing you to find creative ways to keep moving forward, even when things around you are unclear or unstable.

Career Adaptability: the readiness to prepare for and participate in a work role and cope with unpredictable changes - Savickas (1997)

Agency Thinking

Self directed career development involves you being proactive about your career and how it evolves. At its base is the belief that you are someone who has the power to make decisions and take actions that can move you closer to your life goals (agency thinking).

Agency thinking requires a certain level of optimism, self-belief and confidence. These are among the key psychological resources that are found to have a direct influence on career success. (Haenggli, M. & Hirschi, A. 2020)

Crafting your own career requires the conviction that you are capable of creating a meaningful career path for yourself, even when there are obstacles. It requires you to see yourself as someone who is able to influence your own wellbeing. And it requires the ability to innovate with yourself as the raw material.

Let your career creativity spark!

STORYBOARD your self directed career development

To help you along your way I’ve listed some of the things you can do to shape and direct your own career.

To make them easier to think about and remember I've organised them into the acronym STORYBOARD.

Self directed career development behaviours:

Sight - This is about gaining insight and a vision for yourself. Gather information about your values, interests, strengths and development. Use this insight to build a vision for yourself that speaks to the future.

Target: Identify your career goals and prioritise those what are meaningful and valuable to you.

Organise: Make plans to help you craft your career pathway, to solve career problems or make decisions

Resources: Map out the various resources available to you. Identify those you would like to develop. There are 10 resources proven to be critical for career success and each one is necessary.

Yield: be flexible and willing to try new things and new ways of getting to your goals.

Be proactive: Choose a pathway for action that increases the likelihood of achieving your goals. Develop your professional skills to stay in line with where you want to go in your career. Strengthen your job market knowledge and identify what soft skills you may need to progress into future roles (e.g. decision-making, problem-solving, communication, interpersonal skills)

Openness: Ask for and listen to feedback from trusted others. We all have blind spots. Seek out objective information to build a more accurate picture of yourself.

Affiliation: Connect with others. Build mutually supportive relationships. Consult with people who can assist you with defining and working towards your career goals. Seek ways to increase your influence or position yourself well in the career market. Increase your visibility through networking.

Review: Regularly check your progress. Ask yourself ‘what am I missing?’ Periodically re-evaluate your goals to check they are still important and valuable to you.

Determination: Ups and downs are part of life. Be prepared to stay on your chosen path despite difficulties encountered along the way.

What is a career path?

Still to come:
10 Resources Critical for Career Success

The listed career self-management behaviours are evidence-based and drawn from the following career development research sources:

Haenggli, M., & Hirschi, A. (2020). Career Adaptability and Career Success in the Context of a Broader Career Resources Framework. Journal of Vocational Behavior.

Ingrid L. Potgieter, Nadia Ferreira and Melinda Coetzee (Eds). Theory, Research and Dynamics of Career Wellbeing: Becoming Fit for the Future. Ebook. Springer. 2019.