The Career Development (R)Evolution

When I received an invitation to write an article for ATD’s July issue of TD Magazine about how career development has changed (or not!) I jumped at the chance to pour through some of the articles I’d written since the 1980’s to see what I said back then… and what is still true today.  I found answers to both in my old files and in the more recent thinking I’d done.  I invited my longtime colleague (and one of the co-authors of the recent Up is Not the Only Way) Lindy Williams to take the journey back in time with me.

Lindy and I met in the early 80’s when she became the Director of Worldwide Career Development for AMEX Travel Related Services and was challenged to build a training program that could be delivered to first line individual contributors and managers, a group of about 12,000.  The program was later opened up to other divisions in the organization and ended up lasting for several years. Later, Lindy joined me as a consultant at Career Systems International (now Talent Dimensions) and we continued our joint work and love for the subject. That experience taught us many lessons that we both hold to this day.

One of those lessons we learned was the importance and commitment required of three key stakeholders;  to this day they continue to remain crucial to building a development culture.  The individual is still the central player in the employee-organization-manager partnership and the idea that individuals own their own careers has never been truer than today.  At one time we spoke those words but there was not enough information given to individuals to manage that responsibility for themselves.  Today organizations are offering more career information than ever before and distributing that information in enough diverse ways that individuals can take advantage of that information according to their own learning style. They are targeting all employees not just high potentials and they are building accountability systems that hold managers responsible for growth of their direct reports.  Managers matter more than ever before and are provided with guidance as to how to hold those effective conversations.

The article we authored starts with a description of those roles and outlines four shifts that we’ve observed have become more embedded over the years.  Career development will continue to play a pivotal role in the engagement and retention of talent.  The change and disruption that is now a permanent part of the workplace will demand this continuous learning and growth. Read the full article at

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