A simple framework for Career Development

Several years ago I had an informal discussion with a fellow HR professional, Michelle.  She is an expert in Org Development, etc. who shared her expertise with me as we sat at a meeting room table.  (PS – shout out to Michelle, who I have lost contact with, and with whom I’m not connected with on social media).

I was asking Michelle about her thoughts on career development, and what model(s) she used to effectively teach these principles.  She excitedly scribbled the following venn diagram on a blank sheet of paper for me, and it forever changed my perspective on the topic:



Here’s the gist: every “thing” we have to do at work – every task, every assignment, etc. – will fall somewhere in this diagram.  Is it something the company asks you to do, but you’re not good at it, nor do you like it?  Blue circle.  Is there something that you are passionate about but aren’t yet good at it, nor does the company need it?  Green circle.

At times there’s an overlap – for example, something you’re good at that the company needs you to do is the area where yellow overlaps with blue.

The BEST area is the small triangle in the middle where all three overlap – this means it is something you’re good at (skill), something you like (interest) and something the company needs you to do (company need).  That’s the sweet spot.

That’s the area of pure motivation, engagement, performance, and joy at work.  That’s the gold standard.

In my experience, the most important circle to be aware of (and also the trickiest to manage) is the green circle.  If you were to ask your team where most of their job lies on this diagram, they will probably say blue, yellow, or the overlap of the two.  Why does this matter?  Because it is outside the green circle.  If it is something they aren’t interested in at all, they will likely burn out, or grow disinterested, disengaged, or just stop doing their job.  #thatsaproblem

So, use this model of career development to begin discussions with those on your team – evaluate where different pieces lie, on the diagram, and talk about how to get them into the middle triangle.

This approach will change the focus slightly, instead of thinking about career development in terms of getting promoted to the next level, next position, etc. – it becomes about bringing as many things as possible into that middle section.  This will bring additional skills, experience and results that benefit all involved.

(Next week, I’ll share some examples to help walk through this in more detail…)

Try it our!  See where it goes.  I think the hardest part about career development discussions is just getting started.  This is a great point to start!

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