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Career Development Hub

What does Career Development mean?

What does Career Development mean?

Career development means different things to different people. For some people it’s about upward steps to promotion (Linear Approach), for others who are happy remaining in their current role, it is about them strengthening their own specialism and deepening knowledge/experience (Expert Approach). For some, it’s about moving around in similar roles (Spiral Approach) and for others still, it’s about developing wide skills and experience to enable them to move from role to role, often in different areas (Transitory Approach). You need to decide what’s right for you at what time, taking other life factors and personal responsibilities into account. Over the span of your career, you might stick to one approach or consider trying a different approach.

Check out our career approaches below.

(Brousseau, Driver, Eneroth, and Larsson 1996)
  • LINEAR

    The Linear Approach to career development describes step by step upward movement to a more senior position, i.e. promotion up the ladder, usually one level up.

    Works for you when:

    You can make your best contribution by working towards a position of more senior authority and responsibility. You enjoy the sense of achievement that comes from managing others.

    What to bear in mind:

    Be realistic about your expectations. In some areas, unless positions are created or a colleague leaves, sometimes it might be difficult to move “up” as you have to wait for a position to become free.

    For Balance:

    In preparation, it’s useful to build your management and leadership skills.

    What does this look like:

    • Acting up to a more senior position (a temporary promotion)
    • Applying for a more senior position within your current department/area
    • Applying for a more senior position within the University
    • Applying for a more senior position outside the University
  • EXPERT

    The Expert Approach to career development describes deepening knowledge/expertise in a chosen area.

    Works for you when:

    You can make your best contribution by working towards becoming more proficient in your speciality. You enjoy the sense of stability and your growth comes from widening knowledge and skills to a deep level in your subject area.

    What to bear in mind:

    Being rooted in one area (albeit as a specialist) may narrow your view.

    For Balance:

    You may be happy to stay at your current grade and area, but remember that you can still develop and add value within that. Work towards seeing your work as contributing to the Strategic Priorities of the University – keep yourself up to date with the bigger picture and actively look for opportunities to develop your skills – check our resources section for further help.

    What does this look like:

    • Leading on a new initiative within your area
    • Being the ‘internal point of contact’ for a specialist area
    • Developing others to share your knowledge and expertise, presenting at a conference
    • Representing the University externally in your specialist area
  • SPIRAL

    The Spiral Approach to career development describes making career moves across occupational areas, specialities or disciplines, usually to a related area.

    Works for you when:

    You can make your best contribution by working towards developing competence across your main area, in several related disciplines, over a period of time. You enjoy the creativity and personal growth that moving around brings. You may not become an “expert” but the sufficient knowledge and skills built up allows you to move sideways into related positions.

    What to bear in mind:

    The “spiral” approach is great for developing your skills across your area of expertise but be realistic about the length of time it may take to build up your skills.

    For Balance:

    A good option if “upwards” moves are limited. Work towards building skills and gaining experience in a few key areas to help prepare you when a move opens up.

    What does this look like:

    • Temporary moves; e.g. secondments to other teams/departments at the same level
    • Applying for a new position/role in a different team or department (e.g. from a Directorate team to a Faculty team)
    • Applying for a new position in a similar specialist role, but a different focus (e.g. staff facing, student facing, external engagement)
  • TRANSITORY

    The Transitory Approach describes making moves to new areas or departments and is more far reaching that the Spiral Approach.

    Works for you when:

    You are adaptable and are open to new experiences, and working with different groups of people. You are happy to move around the organisation, building on your skills and experience.

    What to bear in mind:

    You might be so busy moving around that it may be perceived as having a lot of knowledge about a few things.

    For Balance:

    You might want to start by exploring opportunities such as “mini secondments” as this can be a good way to try out different areas, and build experiences while maintaining a base.

    What does this look like:

    • Using your transferable skills to apply for a completely new role
    • Consider a temporary position, or secondment, which has the potential to become permanent
    • Consider part-time opportunities to take on a ‘portfolio’ career (if new full time opportunities are not available and it suits your lifestyle)