Basics of Career Theory explained

When defining a framework for career building, the first question to answer is of course, “what is a career?” and after that “how do I plan one?” The following set of definitions, while wordy, gives a good overview in my opinion:

career path is comprised of the combined actions, decisions and achievements accumulated across a person’s professional life.

career is the chronological ordering of those actions, decisions and achievements as they came to pass. As such, it looks much like a resume (Curriculum Vitae) or Linkedin Profile.

A career is composed of occupations which are essentially what your job is, who you work for and what you receive as compensation.

Additionally, the time spent in each occupation is of influence on the career as a whole. As you are considered more experienced in your role, you will receive higher status, known as Seniority.

Seniority implies a higher level of experience and skill with each passing point, with common titles listed below:

  • Junior (someone new in the role)
  • Medior (an averagely skilled member of this occupation)
  • Senior (a highly skilled and knowledgeable member)
  • Principal (someone who not only has skill and experience, but often is influential in their sector, industry or professional group).

Progress in a career path can be made in various ways, the simplest of which is receiving a higher status in the occupation your currently have (increasing your seniority).
Other options are accepting a higher-level occupation (Promotion), a lower-level occupation (Demotion), or through a change in department, company, country or industry (Lateral Promotion).
It is also possible to apply to a completely different occupation altogether, potentially unrelated to any job you had before – this is called a Career Switch.

Preparing what you need to move from one occupation to another is known as Career Development.

This can be either to make up a gap between the entry requirements for the occupation you want and the skills you currently possess (Capability), learning what companies, jobs and opportunities are available to you (Market Analysis), as well as making connections with people in your sector and occupational group or potential employers (Social Networking).

These definitions will give you a basic overview of the structure of careers, jobs and the ability you have to move between them.

To give you a visual reference of this, see below a series of jobs in different companies and levels of seniority you could have. Those jobs that someone actually performed will be colored blue. The black line shows the Career Path that this person took during their professional life.

This leads to the following Career, the actual chronological order of jobs this person performed:

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