Are You Working Towards Career Growth Or Career Development

| 4 min read

When you think about your career, what plan do you have, and how do you intend to attain it? Do you plan your career progression from promotion to promotion till you get to the top? What is the priority for you, and what do you do when someone is at “your top?”. How you plan your career growth around your skills, talent, ambitions and the structure of your organisation determines the difference between career growth and career development

Career Growth

Career growth refers to a vertical career advancement that involves moving up the career rung and filling the next high position till a candidate gets to the top. This is the conventional corporate dream – start from the bottom and get to the top. Career growth typically involves a candidate graduating from say, Account Clerk to Account Manager to Accountant to Senior Accountant to Chief Financial Officer. The issue with career growth is that the higher a person rises, the fewer spaces the person has to move up to. This also indicates that it is all a matter of time before the candidate hits a ceiling he cannot rise above. For instance, if our candidate rises to the position of Chief Financial Officer, what else is up there? Also, if the position a candidate aspires to fill up is already occupied by someone else what does he do, especially if the occupant is not fired or does not intend to resign?


Career Development

Career development refers to a horizontal career advancement that involves moving up the career rung in a lateral manner. Career development involves widening your base as an employee, taking on extra roles and increasing your value in an organisation. It may not necessarily be an upward move but it creates value for the employee; it allows him to improve his skills and talent and makes him more flexible in his field. So how does career development work? For instance, a clerk is hired at a company that has no higher clerical position. Should the clerk become content with his annual salary raise alone, clearly there is no development in sight for him in his career as a clerk. Career development means that he would want to play to his strengths and expand his usefulness to the organisation. This for a clerk will mean adding management skills to his already existing bookkeeping and data entry skill, add a bit of financial knowledge and he can present himself as a candidate for an Administrator position. Clearly, this is not a direct move up because the candidate had to widen his base and add on extra skills to earn his new place. Career Development prevent stagnation because even if there is no open space at the top, there is space around it.

Career growth vs career development

Career growth and career development are not mutually exclusive, you do not have to pick one or the other. A blend of both is great because it will make you better in your career while securing you accelerated growth in your career. So how does career growth differ from career development And how can you make both work for you?


Height vs breadth

Career growth emphasizes on moving up the ladder, getting a higher title and eventually making more money. Career development involves learning more skills widening the scope of your current role, taking on more responsibility and becoming a more qualified professional in the current role

Where vs How

Career growth is about getting to a particular level based on the organisational structure and a perceived order of ascendancy. Career development, however, acknowledges that there may not necessarily be a direct route to the top which means that an employee will have to do better and be better with a wider skill set and new knowledge in order to rise to the top

Goals vs change

Career growth is goals oriented, it focuses on the end, not the person. Career development is person oriented, it focuses on building the individual more than attaining a higher job position. Both are intertwined because building yourself as a professional will definitely land you a better position in your organisation


Nathan Jeffery