Career Development Trends in the 21st Century – Opportunities to succeed

Today’s workplace is much different than it was few years ago – this is a correct statement, but it is not sufficient to understand how current changes are affecting employees and what career development requirements are.

The days of one career for life and one workplace for 30+ years are gone and making a career through the hierarchical sequence of positions is also less common. Career progression is driven by skills, ongoing learning, and ability to adopt changes.

The new generation of employees is equipped with modern skills not found in experienced hires, and it leads to the situation that older employees are working under the supervision of young managers.

Career development trends in the 21st century depend on the situation in the job market. The modern job market has some specific characteristics:

  • The lists of top jobs are changing rapidly reflecting current developments and trends in the different sectors of economy;
  • Many people prefer to work part-time;
  • Increasing number of employees who prefer to work from home;
  • Companies expect that employees will stay with them less than 10 years;
  • Fresh graduated will have several jobs changed during their first few years of employment;
  • Staff training and development departments can’t cope with the pace of changes and offer no essential help to employees – old methods do not work and new approaches to career development are not mature enough.

Analysis of career development trends

Different approaches are used to analyze career development trends in the 21st century but most of the analytical review highlight the following:

  • Importance of learning;
  • Global connectivity;
  • Employability skills;
  • Rapid changes in the workplace and constant requirements for new skills.

Importance of learning means that employees should be prepared for lifelong learning:

  • attending formal training sessions,
  • participation in informal learning activities,
  • establishing personal learning networks
  • taking online courses

If an employee ignores the necessity for lifelong learning, the management might question his/her readiness to do the work.

Global connectivity is seen as an employees’ ability to communicate with colleagues any time and from any place:

  • discuss the issues related to work;
  • solve problems;
  • share best practices.

Communication and collaboration helps to improve the quality of work, implement innovative solutions, and enhances creativity within teams.

Employability skills define employer’s choice of new hires. Field-specific knowledge and expertise are important, but it does not guarantee your success in the job market. Employers are looking to hire new employees who have qualities of creating and maintaining an efficient, professional and productive workplace. Some of these qualities are: communication and collaboration skills, time management and accuracy, work ethics and responsibility.

Rapid changes in the workplace and constant requirements for new skills is caused by the rapid pace of technology and it makes many jobs and skills actual and needed during few years only. This means that employees must be aware which skills are in demand to find employment and remain employable. In the modern workplace, basic degrees and diplomas are not considered as a sufficient evidence of the ability to do the work. The evidence of training sessions attended, and certifications attempted are compulsory when considering candidates for the employment.

How does modern job market look like?

One thing is clear – it is very unstable, rapidly changing  – reflecting the pace of development. Today, we might see several jobs in high demand with attractive financial rewards. As an example, jobs in such area as Big Data and Data Science. Tomorrow, there will be more people with required skills and expertise in these fields, the reward will not be so attractive anymore, and vacancies will be filled up. And each person is free to decide what actions to take:

  • to accept the new situation and stay in the same job;
  • to move forward: get trained and certified and look for a job in another “hot” area.

Another interesting trend of the modern job market – soft jobs are back, and more companies are opening positions for professionals in social skills, communication, counseling, mentoring, and leadership. Companies need skilled people who can conduct research, produce professional reports, support teamwork and problem-solving.

I’d like to mention one more trend – job market is looking for professionals with skills from different areas of expertise: business and IT, management and data science, cybersecurity, media and technology, health and technology – these are just few examples. Since we are expecting more strong technology intervention in different sectors, new “mixed” skills jobs will appear on a larger scale.

Lifelong learning – ongoing support to career development

In the 21st century we experienced different forms of online learning:

  • online courses and tutorials developed on different learning management system platforms with ability to access from any device and any place;
  • microlearning solutions which deliver the content in small chunks of information – suitable for professional development when learners are having busy schedules and can access learning content during short time period.

Now, we are expecting next generation of online learning solution which will support lifelong learning – intelligent learning systems – personalized, adaptive, and machine-driven learning.

How can companies support professional development?

First, companies need to redesign their training and development models to meet the requirements of the 21st century job market.

Secondary, companies must offer diverse and continuous opportunities for professional development and encourage people to change their job roles, develop new skills, expand their expertise horizontally.

Third, companies need to redesign job models, create mixed skills jobs – it will help to manage career development in the future.

Providing and supporting learning is a key factor which defines the success of the organization and it requires:

  • Creating libraries of learning content and opening the content for all employees;
  • Creating individual career path for every employee;
  • Providing self-assessment tools to help employees to find the most suitable career in the company;
  • Developing learning culture in the organization;
  • Encouraging employees to develop skills from different areas – expanding options to career changes within organization.

Career development does not stop when you get a job

Just to highlight one more time: career development starts when you get an employment. Employees don’t stop learning; they have to utilize any opportunity to upgrade their skillset, expand expertise, or learn new skills.

Don’t wait till tomorrow, start your development just now and become an asset for your company.


6 thoughts on “Career Development Trends in the 21st Century – Opportunities to succeed”

  1. Thank you very much for a great article. My niece is getting ready to start college and already considering careers that will only get her in debt without the possibility for a bright future. Kids are mislead into believing that any degree they pursue will land them a high paying job. I sent my niece a link to this article. I hope she takes your advice!


    1. Thank you for stopping by my post. Thank you for the comments. Well, it looks like Millennial generation will have certain challenges during their professional lives. Business processes and manufacturing processes are under transformation. Number of jobs in different sectors will be gone. New careers will appear. Our kids need to be smart to get the right careers and develop  the right attitude for lifelong learning. It will be needed very much.

      Wishing you all the best,


  2. Thank you for a very insightful article. Career development has indeed changed and I agree with you that the old days are gone. Managing change is the keyword, because no business today can anticipate what would be the business environment and technology 5 years from now. To succeed today we need people who can adapt to change quickly and create opportunity. Thanks for a lot of tips and value in your post.

    1. Thank you very much for stopping by my post and  the constructive comments.  We hear so many strange things about the technology impact or intervention and many people are making very unreasonable predictions about this. But in general, the only thind which is required – learning and skill development. The success is in our own hands.

  3. An excellent post! The changes in today’s workplace are very evident. I feel like my younger generation don’t want to work hard or work long hours, we feel entitled to have anything we want. I think technology has also made us lazy, in a materialistic world everyone wants to be famous…


    1. Thank you Jeremy for the encouraging comments. On the same topic, I was having a discussion with my Masters’ students regarding laziness of the modern society. Technology is offering a lot… but it requires a lot too. It requires constant or rather lifelong learning and ability to adjust yourself, your skills and lifestyle to the job market requirements. We have to become responsible for our successes in the future- no jobs for lifetime, no permanent appointments – contracts and projects – this is what we should expect when approaching 2020-2030.
      Thank you again for stopping by.

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