Career Pathways is an often used workforce planning strategy utilized in the United States for support workers transitioning from formal education to and through formal employment. It is an important tool for helping unemployed or under-employed individuals identify appropriate career moves that match their skills, talents, interests, and skill sets. In some cases, Career Pathways assists with establishing self-employment and small-business operations. In other cases, it provides training and counseling on finding gainful employment in nontraditional markets. The overall objective, according to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), is “to equip workers with the information, education and tools to lead economically, productively and socially.”
A career path is defined as a series of steps or developments that can lead to a particular objective. A series of steps is a change or a progression from one stage to another. For example, if an individual has been working in a job that is not moving toward his or her career goals, but rather staying in place in the same job, a “step back” in his or her career path could be the next step. Likewise, mapping out a plan of action for a job search would be considered a career path.
A career path is usually broken down into several stages. Each stage is an attempt at achieving a particular goal, such as: Obtaining a promotion. Identifying new skills. Acquiring new qualifications. Mapping out a plan of action to achieve future career goals is essential for a successful career path development.
When mapping out a career path, career builders (skills, knowledge, and capabilities) are identified as key factors to consider. These are then compared to a dream job description that is identified by an individual’s occupational goals. When comparing, skills, knowledge, and capabilities must be compared to the current position or jobs a person is interviewing for, and current or future roles that are not yet identified. A person’s career path may also include steps from one position to another, depending on the opportunity presented.
The third step in the career path development is identified by looking at career path within a company or organization. Sometimes companies/organizations change their own rules, so the employee has to follow these rules or be placed in an unacceptable role. For example, if a company formerly wanted employees with technical expertise, they might now want those individuals who have general technical knowledge. To map out a career path within a company or organization, career path diagrams can be created.
A career path diagram will show where there are gaps or missing opportunities for potential advancement. There may be specific skills required, but career paths may still exist within the organization. Using a career path diagram, someone in an administrative role within a company can become a trainer, yet still be involved with product development or customer relations. A high school or college student may also be involved in an administrative role yet have skills that are relevant to a number of different careers.
After creating a career path, it is important to consider how it fits with employees’ professional growth plans. Some people may have a career path that is already developed and defined, while others are starting from scratch. Some people change their career goals throughout their life, while other people have constant changes. A professional growth plan should consider how employees fit into the new structure and identify any gaps in understanding or skills.
The creation of a career path or development plan should be considered in light of employees’ progress. An effective plan will lead to positive results, but sometimes employees get off track and fail to reach their goals. A good plan will be flexible and allow for small deviations from previously determined goals. When properly implemented, a career development plan can lead to long-term professional growth, even for those employees who have not previously thought of themselves as being “well-trained”.