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Why do we need career development opportunities?

13 Jan 2021 | Rob Williams


This blog describes what a career pathway is, how it is relevant to the veterinary professions and how the development aspects of a career pathway can be delivered.

Why do we need career development opportunities? Image

Why do we need career development opportunities?

The recently launched BVA good veterinary workplaces voluntary code includes ‘Personal and Career Development’ as a core pillar of the code. The first question many people in the veterinary professions might ask themselves is “why do we need this? We’re clinicians, we know what we’re doing and what our chosen career is”. However, career development is one of the key tools at the professions’ disposal to reverse the trend of people leaving to pursue other interests.

What is a career pathway and career development?

A Career Pathway is an organised approach to career planning for anyone wanting to improve their skills, knowledge and experience for advancement within a job or profession. Creating a career pathway involves identifying occupational interests, determining education, training and development needs and establishing an action plan for reaching career goals. It is an active process, led by the individual employee and supported by their line manager and employer.

The benefits to the individual of structured purposeful career pathways include:

  • Co-creation of your career development and progression with employer support
  • Transparency about your development and progression
  • Consistent management based on fairness and transparency
  • Development of life-long skills (e.g. leadership, clinical skills, customer service) that are transferable

This development works for all regardless of where you are in your career cycle.

A Couple of Myths

Myth 1: ”It takes too much time”

Managers often baulk at the prospect of the time commitment to developing team members, but can you afford not to encourage your team to develop a career? Most development occurs on the job by people observing, trying new things, making mistakes, learning and persevering until they start to master a task or skill.

Myth 2: It is too expensive and they will leave.

Managers may also worry that developing a team member will be costly, and result in them leaving. As we can see from 70:20:10 model described below, the most effective learning and development happens on the job, making development very cost effective.

Opportunities for growth, development and career progression are cited across a wide variety of industries throughout the world as the top reasons to stay in an organisation.

The Right Mix of Development?

The 70-20-10 Model for Learning and Development is a commonly used formula within the development profession to describe the optimal sources of learning. It recognises that individuals obtain 70% of their knowledge from job-related experiences, 20% from interactions with others, and 10% from formal educational events.

The 70% is the most beneficial for employees because it enables them to discover and refine their job-related skills, make decisions, address challenges and interact with other team members and mentors within work settings. They also learn from their mistakes, which in the clinical setting is important.

Individuals learn from others (the 20%) through a variety of activities that include social learning, coaching, mentoring, collaborative learning and other methods of interaction with peers. Encouragement and feedback are prime benefits of this valuable learning approach. Again, clinical work lends itself to this approach.

Interestingly only 10% of professional development optimally comes from formal traditional course instruction and other educational events, a position that typically surprises those from academic backgrounds.


Development opportunities should not be narrow, for example only considering specialism or practice partnership. There are a wide variety of interesting career development opportunities available within the veterinary profession.

Two under-developed and much needed areas of meaningful career development are in the general practice specialism and clinical leadership. The core of what we do is and always will be the delivery of veterinary care in the general practice setting. Clinical leadership is of great importance in improving the quality of animal care and clinical outcomes.

Leadership is one of the key facets of delivering career development and as Jack Welch the former CEO of General Electric said: “Before you are a leader success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.”



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