What Is a Career Path?

A career path is a progression of different or more advanced roles an employee undertakes to achieve their ultimate career objectives and future goals. Creating a career path benefits both employees and employers as it improves morale and profitability in the long term.

What are the types of career paths?

There are two types of career paths – vertical and horizontal, both of which can be adapted according to an individual’s opportunities, preferences, and aspirations.

For instance, vertical career paths include either advancement to higher-level positions or movement to lower-level positions depending on an individual’s desire for increased or decreased job responsibility and time commitment. Horizontal career paths involve lateral movement within an organization, industry, or across multiple industries depending on an individual’s willingness to learn new skills, have different experiences, and achieve personal satisfaction.

What steps can employees take?

When deciding on a career path, employees must take into account their personality, career goals, and future plans. To do this, employees can take the following steps:

  • Reflect on personality & personal beliefs: Consider core values, passions, niches, etc.
  • Choose career goals: Consider the ideal end goal, and build a trajectory towards it.
  • Consider your future: Ensure future aspirations are a part of the career path.

These steps help employees make intentional and strategic decisions for their career path.

Long story short

Career pathing is often done by an employee during a performance review under the guidance of their manager or HR representative. To follow a determined career path successfully, employees must be willing to learn new skills, network with peers, and make the occasional lateral (or backward) move to achieve their long-term goals. They also need to be prepared to adjust goals if their preferences or needs change along the way.

Considering the right career path upfront can lead to better job satisfaction, a better relationship with the employer, and an increased sense of purpose at work. By following the best practices outlined in this glossary, both employees and employers can achieve greater success and profitability in the long run.