There used to be a typical career path that people would follow, with people joining a company and ‘working their way up’ the organisation over the years, now people are changing careers more frequently, not always from choice, and more than ever people need to understand how to manage their own career.

It’s important, when making any career decision to take account of a broad perspective, all of which form the career development cycle.

The career development cycle consists of 8 elements:

1. Background and family

This will have shaped the sort of person you are today and your attitude to work. Some parents tell us that work is to be endured not enjoyed.  Other parents may have run their own business and so we may be more likely to be entrepreneurial.  If our parents are ultra cautious we may avoid risks.

Taking some time to talk to family members will help understand how they made decisions and also their attitudes to work, such as ‘we work because we have to and we shouldn’t expect to enjoy our job’.

We may continue to be influenced by these messages and we need to decide if these are helpful, or not.  We can create our own messages.

As we get older we also have other family influencers, the person we love, our children, and the impact of elderly parents. Considering the impact makes stronger decisions.

2. Interests

What do you like to do, both at work and in your non work life?

When we follow our interests we lose track of time. Not everyone wants a career using passions and interests (I keep my DJaying as a hobby!) but they may help in making a career choice. For example if you are interested in finance and the natural environment you could use your financial skills for the National Trust.

You may like to collect details on things that interest you so this could be incorporated into your work. It can also be a reminder of the things that are enjoyable for you so that you spend time each week on interests, not just work.

A useful way of identifying interests is to choose the Strong Interest Inventory.

3. Motivators, Career Drivers and Values

Values give meaning to our work and life and drive decision making.  Knowing your work values is important to career satisfaction. Some people seek responsibility, respect and recognition. Another person may be driven by being able to make a difference, flexibility and excitement, not everyone is driven by a high salary.  Lack of congruence between our values and our work can be one of the most important causes of career stress, particularly among people aged 38-45.

You can take an assessment of career drivers.  You can also purchase a pack of values cards and guidance notes.

4. Abilities and strengths

The intensive 3 hour Highlands Ability Battery will allow us to identify what comes easy to you so you can focus on jobs which match your innate abilities.  You may also like to take the Strengths Finder Exercise.

5. Skills

Skills are what you have learned how to do. They can be generic and transferable or can be very specific to a job. You can consider the skills you have gained from each job, and thinking of an example of how you put this skill into practice will help in career decision making and later as you review your CV and also at interview. I have a comprehensive skills exercise I use with my clients.

6. Personality

Understanding the sort of person you are can help identify how you work best – to what extent do you want a people focused job, how you prefer to deal with work stresses and challenges, do you like to be creative and solve problems or concentrate on working on things you already can do.

Our personal style has a major impact on career satisfaction. Learn how you best relate to other people, how you are energised, your preference for acquiring information.  The best way of finding this out is through a personality assessment such as the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, Team Dynamic Indicator or the 15FQ.

You can consider the words others use to describe you?  Are they how you describe yourself? If not, why? We need to be true to who we are, otherwise we are playing a role.  The more we have to act to do well in the job, the more energy is taken up just trying to be good in the job.


7. Career Development Cycle

We all reach critical stages in our development, both personal and in our career.  You may be at a point of transition (Quarter life or Midlife crisis) or influenced by external factors (redundancy, birth of a child …).  As individuals we go through different life stages – childhood, early adulthood etc. and our time in education has a strong influence on the person we are.   Our understanding of this helps us to make effective career development decisions.


8. Goals

We have goals to complete on a daily and short term basis and over the much longer term. Take the intensive 3 hour Highlands Ability Battery and understand your time frame, the length of time you are comfortable in considering the future. No one time frame is optimum but understanding you have a short time frame means you feel more comfortable planning for less than a year ahead, and a long time frame helps with the distant goal but perhaps less helpful with short term objectives.

Understanding personal goals will enable career decisions to be made which work with this. For example to have a portable career if you want to travel, or one which can be done as a freelancer if you would prefer a portfolio or flexible career.


All of these can be included in your career coaching programme.


A great first step is to work through the 10 Steps to a Job you Love eBook, just £10.