Career Development

What influences the way our career develops?

Most likely you want your children to be healthy and happy. You strive to make it possible for your son or daughter to lead a fulfilling life with a rewarding career and you are conscious of your key position as good role model, creating and fostering the conditions where your child can build up the skills, experiences and resources necessary to help them navigate the career journey successfully – to work towards making a livelihood out of doing something well and enjoying it.

It can be a challenge to strike a balance between inspiring your child to find what they truly love so they can build a career around that, while also championing a career that offers financial and personal security. Young people are often advised to find what they love and follow their dream. But the reality is that dreams don’t always deliver and parents know this better than most.

Good career decision-making involves learning how to strike a balance.  People sometimes choose careers and courses for practical reasons. This is why CAO points (the scoring measure used by Higher Education colleges to determine who gets a place) plummet for certain courses and soar for others according to trends and developments in employment and the economy.

In reality, most young people make decisions based on a number of factors when embarking on their careers. They tend to strive towards something that is interesting and engages them and that sits well in line with their particular talents, a career direction that offers current and future opportunities for growth and fulfilment. 


If you had to choose, would you rather your son or daughter became

1. A happy and successful penniless artist
2. An unhappy and rich financier?
3. Happy, successful, healthy, fulfilled and reasonably secure doing something enjoyable – whether it’s Art or Finance?

Clearly it’s a loaded question and no one answer is correct, but many parents will opt for answer C.

What is Career Development?

Career development is the process of managing life, learning and work throughout our lives.

What influences the way our career develops?

One way of understanding what makes us pick certain careers is to look at some of the influential factors at play set out in the chart below. Which of these factors have played an influential role in your Career path to date?

Individual - Social – Environmental - Other





Gender & Age


Educational institutions


Time Perspective

Beliefs & Values




Luck & Chance

Aptitudes & Skills

Wider Community


Educational Policy

Life Experience


Other significant social networks



Life Changing Events

 Physical Attributes



Labour Market Trends


Careers & Occupational Knowledge and Experience




Historical Factors





Globalisation Trends



As you can see when looking at career choice, a particular aptitude for a subject or skill is only one part of the process.  It’s not just about matching a person to an occupation or career. There are many other influences at work. We are drawn to stories of people that have overcome significant personal, social or environmental odds to build successful lives and careers. We encourage our children to achieve their goals in spite of stumbling blocks and setbacks. We foster their self-esteem and we instil in them a sense of perspective about life’s priorities.

Your child has the opportunity to pick a course he/she really likes, in a college that suits them, with global career opportunities if they so wish. To make good choices he/she will need to:

  • Maintain good self-esteem.
  • Exercise good judgement.
  • Do thorough research – e.g. courses, qualification frameworks, modes of assessment, progression links, graduate recruitment policies, market trends. 
  • Learn to know and understand him/herself.

Some current career trends

1. Career v Rewarding pastime

Sometimes people find happiness and fulfilment through balancing a career they quite enjoy with a pastime they are passionate about and find rewarding. They often think of a career in these terms:

  • Can I do the job and can I find satisfaction in the work? I don’t want the work to be too hard or too easy.
  • Will I be working with like-minded people that are kind and easy to get on with.
  • Will I feel like I’m making a positive contribution to society?
  • Will the job pay well?
  • Does it have good career and personal opportunities?
  • Will my employers respect me, recognise my working contribution, provide proper benefits and not exploit me?
  • Will I be able to have a reasonable work / life balance?

2. Combination Careers

There is a growing global trend towards combination careers – farmer / IT specialist, Scientist / TV presenter, Teacher / Actor, Doctor / TV presenter. The advantage of a combination career is that it can offer flexibility and fulfilment, additional sources of income and opportunities to pursue multiple career ambitions and goals. Though perhaps not something to focus on until further down the line, it’s useful to bear combination career options in mind – especially if a young person is torn between two distinctive career paths. 

(See: One Person / Multiple Careers: The Original Guide to The Slash Career: by Marci Alboher)

Another major change in career development is that, nowadays, people often make significant career changes throughout their lives for a variety of reasons. If you feel you are stressing out about what might turn out to be a wrong turn for your child, it’s useful to remember that a career or educational choice is rarely for life anymore.