Thursday, November 21, 2013

What Should You Do With Your Life?

This week's topic is Careers and Professional Development. To explore this topic, we take a look at two articles. In Butler and Waldroop's (1999) article, employee retention takes a front seat. They claim that employers do not understand the concept of work satisfaction. Employers seem to think if someone is a successful employee, he or she is a happy employee. However, research shows that happy employees are those whose work aligns with their interests. Aligning word with those interests is called job sculpting, and employers would be smart to take it into consideration. The authors blame hiring practices and development practices as reasons why the system is currently broken. Hiring practices are based on abilities, not interests. The problem with professional development is that HR people are not your boss. If you want to truly develop as a professional, you and your boss need to collaborate on that. Another interesting aspect of this article was the discussion of the top eight life interests for people suited to business careers. These are application of technology, quantitative analysis, theory development and conceptual thinking, creative production, counseling and mentoring, managing people and relationships, enterprise control, and influence through language and ideas.

Paradise (2009) looks at the 2009 ASTD State of the industry report. The good news is that those of us in areas of study that align with workforce development and performance improvement are in a field that remains steady. At least in 2009 organizations were not cutting professional development budgets. That said, the employee to training staff ratio is quite high. So, while there is plenty of work to be done, organizations do not appear to be hiring more of us to do it. Outsourcing went down a little bit, which would suggest organizations are hiring their own development teams, rather than hiring outside companies.

While the job market in professional development tends to be seasonal, I've noticed a lot of jobs in that area over the last couple of years. My job board notices are constantly flashing with new entries for instructional designers, trainers, and workforce development coordinators. Perhaps, as more of us are hired into this field, we can design professional development programs that take into consideration people's interests and helps to bridge the gap between employee and supervisor for better collaboration.


Butler, T., & Waldroop, J. (1999). Job sculpting: The art of retaining your best people. Harvard Business Review, 77(5), 144-152.

Paradise, A. (2009, November). The 2009 ASTD state of the industry report. T+D, 44-49.


  1. Scarlett, I am curious, do you have a sense of whether the job board postings your'e getting are more full-time or consultant positions? I'm wondering whether what you're seeing supports the Paradise data.

  2. Molly, I'm seeing a little of everything out there. The corporate sector jobs tend to be full-time, but they may be labeled as temporary or project-based. That said, if you contact them about it, many say that it starts out as temporary or project-based and leads to full-time if they like your work. However, I also see the same postings over and over again. So, either they are not finding what they are looking for, or something else is going wrong there. In academic jobs, most of the instructional design and similar positions are full-time and seem to be good opportunities as an administrative staff member at a college or university. My un-scientific guess with regard to the teaching jobs are that they are about 60% full-time, tenure-track and 40% adjunct or full-time non-tenure. Of course, all of this depends on what job boards you watch. I would be interested to see how other folks would answer this question.