Career Growth vs. Career Development: What's the Difference?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 15 November 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Career growth and development are both important for professional advancement, but they're different concepts. They differ in focus, timeframe, purpose and measurement. If you want to advance your career, learning more about career growth and development can be beneficial. In this article, we discuss the differences between career growth and development, describe how to improve your career growth, detail how to improve your career development and provide helpful tips for advancing your career.

Related: Career Goals: Definition, How-To and Examples

Career growth vs. career development

Understanding career growth vs. career development can help you create strategies and plans for advancing your professional life. These are some areas in which career growth and development differ:

Focus

Career growth and development have different focuses. Career growth focuses on your long-term improvement and eventual promotion through positions in your chosen field. It includes your salary, title and reputation. Career development focuses more on short-term growth, including skills, abilities and credentials. Career development is often a method you can use to improve and plan for your career growth.

Time frame

Career growth and career development have different time frames within your professional lifetime. Career growth refers to the long-term changes from the beginning of your career, or current situation, to your retirement. Whereas, career development usually includes a shorter time frame and includes tasks you can complete in a smaller amount of time. For example, your plans for career growth may span five to ten years, while your plans for career development may not be longer than one year.

Measurement

Professional development and growth can use different methods of measurement. It's usually simpler to measure career growth, as it's more quantifiable. For example, your goals for career growth may include earning a position of leadership or increasing your salary by a certain amount. Career development usually concerns variables you can't easily measure, like skills or professional relationships. Finding methods for measuring these variables can make it simpler to improve your career strategies.

Related: How to Answer "What Are Your Long-Term Career Goals?"

How to improve career growth

These are some steps you can follow to improve your career growth:

1. Assess your current situation

The first step to improving and planning for your career growth is considering your current situation. Assess your professional life and consider your position, earnings, qualifications, education and satisfaction. Determine which factors of your professional life you enjoy and which you may want to improve or change. For example, if you work as an editor and your career goal is to become editor-in-chief, consider how the title change may affect your earnings and career satisfaction. Visualise the goal and how it can affect both your professional success and personal satisfaction.

2. Determine your growth goals

After assessing your professional situation, determine what your goals for growth may be. If you want to earn more money, for example, determine exactly how much you want to earn per year. Otherwise, consider the title you want or the responsibilities you want to manage in your position. As an editor wanting to become editor-in-chief, your exact goals may be an increase in salary of $40,000 per year, to earn your own office space and to have more creative license over the pieces that the team publishes. Consider creating visual representations of your goals and your current position.

3. Create a career strategy

Once you create your goals, you can focus on career development to reach them. Consider which skills or qualifications can help you increase your salary or become eligible for a new position. Creating a career strategy can make it simpler to advance your career and quantify your professional results. Editors who want to eventually become editor-in-chief may consider their editing and creative skills. They may also assess their educational qualifications and determine if advancing their education can help them improve their skills and credentials. This may allow them to use career development to improve career growth.

4. Develop your timeframe

Part of your career strategy is the time frame in which you want to reach your goals. Including the date by which you want to complete a goal can motivate you to work towards reaching it. It may also allow you to adjust your goals as you need and plan other aspects of your professional life accordingly. Considering your personal goals can help you create a time frame for your professional goals. For example, if you want to buy a house or adopt a pet by a certain time, you can use those events to establish when your earnings increase.

5. Check-in on your goals frequently

After creating your career strategy and goals, make a schedule you can follow to check on them. Consider scheduling a meeting with yourself once a month or once a quarter to review your professional goals and consider if you're on track to meet them. Make adjustments as you need or find methods to support your goals so you can reach them. To develop accountability, consider making a meeting with a friend or colleague to review your goals together. This can help you brainstorm ways to improve together and ensure you don't miss goal meetings.

Related: 15 Effective Pieces of Advice for Career Development

How to improve career development

These are some steps you can follow to improve your career development:

1. Assess your current professional situation

As with career growth, the first step to improving your career development is assessing your current professional situation. When considering these components for career development, you may think of smaller aspects than career growth. You can also focus more on skills and abilities than quantifiable components like salary or title. For example, if you're an actor and you want to star in an important film, you may assess your current professional abilities in terms of your acting skills and professional network.

Related: Career Development Plan: Definition, Guide and Example

2. Identify important skills to improve

After assessing your situation, you can consider skills and abilities you may improve. For example, as an actor, meeting an established director may be an important step in earning a film role. To do this, you may focus on improving your communication skills and charisma. You may also commit to improving your acting skills for the audition so you can secure the role. To do this, you may attend industry networking events or enrol in a local acting workshop.

3. Consider pursuing relevant certifications

Depending on your career, earning certifications may be a short-term action that can improve your skills and qualifications. Though this may not apply to all professions, it can be a good way to refresh or build your skills. For example, a software engineer or computer scientist may earn certifications in a new coding language. This allows them to develop their skills by learning to code in the new language. They also expand their credentials by adding a new certification to their professional materials.

4. Determine if furthering your education is best

Certifications are a great way to improve skills and qualifications, but depending on your goals, furthering your education may be best. For example, if you're an accountant and you want to become an accounting department manager, you may pursue a master's degree in accounting. Some employers prefer candidates with advanced degrees for leadership roles. Furthering your education helps you improve your skills and credentials like certifications, but may be more substantial for employment opportunities. It's also a short-term goal that takes longer than others.

5. Create short-term goals for development

Like with long-term goals for career growth, it's important to set short-term goals for career development. Though it may be more difficult to quantify aspects of career development, you can implement methods for doing so. You may aim to increase your professional network by so many contacts or improve your language proficiency levels in a foreign language. Try reducing errors in a work function like processing paperwork to measure your attention to detail skills. You can include these goals in your planner as well and take a few minutes each day or week to check on them.

Related: How to Create an Individual Development Plan (With Template)

Tips for advancing your career

These are some helpful tips you can use to advance your career:

  • Plan meetings with your leader: Your supervisor or manager may give you more specific information about what you can do to advance your career and earn promotions. Meeting with them can make it easier to set professional goals for career development.

  • Conduct informational interviews: Consider meeting with successful professionals in your industry to learn more about what they did to find success, as it can help you create your own goals and plans.

  • Adjust your plans as necessary: When your professional or personal plans change, it's important to revisit your goals and adjust them as necessary. It allows you to maintain motivation and be realistic about career advancement.

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