What is the fundamental difference between a job and a career? Many will tell you that a “job” is simply a way of making a living, whilst a “career” is one of the reasons for living. A job gives you a salary. A career, on the other hand, gives you immense self-fulfilment and the opportunity to grow. If you have a career, the money you receive every payday is just a bonus.

However, some people seem to forget that it’s important to be grounded in reality when choosing which career to pursue. Many have unrealistic career goals and when their expectations are not met, they are so disappointed and discouraged they switch to another line of work or leave the workforce altogether

This is why good career management is more important than ever. Not only will it help you manage your career expectations, but it will also provide you with a clear path to reaching your goals.

What is Career Management?

The University of California Merced defines career management as a life-long process of investing resources to accomplish your future career goals. It encourages you to plan your professional activities and choices throughout your life to obtain better career fulfilment and growth, goal achievement, financial stability, and work/life balance.

The career management process usually begins with an individual identifying his or her career goals and objectives. Remember, it doesn’t just end when these career goals are achieved; evaluation is still required to ensure that the individual can maintain his or her success and level of satisfaction.

Three Types of Career Management

There are three basic types of career management. They are:

  • Goal Planning

As the name suggests, goal planning helps you identify what you want your career end-goals to be. It encourages you to take a good look at yourself so you can choose a career that matches your interests and abilities, as well as your values and personality.

Goal planning can be extremely useful if you are a new graduate as it will help you avoid getting stuck in a job you don’t fancy. Alternatively, if you have been with a particular company for quite some time and you are unhappy in the job, this type of career management can help you rethink your purpose and direction.

  • Career Planning

Career planning involves creating a concrete plan so you can achieve your goals. Unlike goal planning, the goals you set with a career plan are mostly short-term and can be achieved quickly.

  • Career Development

In career development, you implement your career plan by taking actions that will help you grow as a person and as a professional. This may include improving your habits, social skills, time management and work performance.

For example, let’s say you have landed a job at one of the top finance companies in the country. If you are gunning for promotion and are already well-versed in financial matters, you should still consider improving other areas of your work where you may have weaknesses. If you are not very good at talking to people, perhaps you should improve your customer relation skills, especially if part of your job involves personally handling your clients’ requirements. Or, if you always find yourself swamped with work, you should learn how to manage your time more efficiently.

If you are still not satisfied with your current work status despite your self-improvement efforts, career development can also enable you switch to a more amenable workplace. It can even help you initiate a complete career change so you can achieve your long-term goals.

Benefits of Career Management

Career management is essential in today’s society. Not only does it help individuals, but it can also contribute to the organisation and the overall growth of the economy. Here’s how career management benefits both the individual and the organisation he or she works for.

Benefits to the Individual

  • It promotes better use of an individual’s skills

Companies and organisations will be better able to utilize the skills and expertise of their employees because career management helps the latter understand what they are capable of. This will improve business productivity and efficiency because workplaces will now be able to identify who is better suited to a particular role.

  • It improves employees’ involvement

Employees are generally happier and more involved with their work when their job satisfies their personal and professional goals. Therefore, in order to develop future leaders and specialists, organisations should support the career goals of their employees and implement programs that will empower them.

  • It helps companies attract and retain talented employees

Studies have shown that exceptional workers are more likely to stay or join an organisation if they are offered challenges. They are also more likely to be loyal if they are given the opportunities to develop and grow, both as individuals and as professionals.

Steps to Effective Career Management

If implemented correctly, career management can go a long way towards improving your personal and professional life. To ensure optimum success, here are the steps you should take.

  • Self-assessment

Whether you are at the beginning or halfway through your career journey, it is good practice to conduct a self-assessment. Also known as “mapping”, a self-assessment will enable you to better understand your strengths and weaknesses. It will also reveal your true potential as well as your current options and resources. Remember, it will be easier to identify what you want if you have an in-depth understanding of your own capabilities.

  • Planning and goal setting

It is at this stage that you need to decide what you want to do career-wise. A good plan always starts with a definition of goals. This will help you identify the steps you should take to realise both your long-term and short-term objectives.

  • Taking action

After identifying your goals and the steps you should take to achieve them, the next stage involves following through on this process. You can start by completing a short-term goal. For instance, if you want to become a finance expert, actively searching for employment opportunities in the finance sector will help you accomplish this ambition. Check out job boards and look for financial institutions that are looking for people with your skills and qualifications, and then submit your application.

  • Maintenance

Now that you have fulfilled a short-term objective, the next step is to take action that will lead you closer to your goals. Display competence at your new workplace and build networks. More importantly, always find ways to further improve yourself because familiarity can breed complacency.

  • Evaluation

Career management is a continuous process. As mentioned earlier, it doesn’t end once you have landed your desired career or obtained the promotion you were seeking. You need to evaluate your current situation to ensure that the path you are following can lead you to achieving your goals.


Whether you are in the finance, medical or hospitality sectors, career management can be a huge help to both employees and organisations. When implemented properly, it can help you achieve not only your short-term objectives but also your life-long goals. Because career management is a continuous process, you should always conduct a self-assessment and find opportunities for growth.

Author’s bio

Lauren Walker is the marketing administrator for Stellar Select, a financial services recruitment agency.