Employees at a cafeThe ABCs of career development can help you reach your ultimate career goals by helping you identify your interests, focus on gaining valuable experience, and learn about positions that may help grow your career.

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Learning the ABCs of Career Progress

Aug 14, 2018

Employees at a cafeAs you start thinking about work, it’s obviously important to set goals, whether you know what your dream job is, which skills you want to learn or which tasks you'd like to do. But just as important when you're looking for work, you should also think about the process over time. You may be working for many years, and the job you get today may not be the job you have later in your career. It may be helpful to look at what we're calling the ABCs of career progress: A job, a Better job, and Career development.

A Job

Finding "A" job doesn’t mean going for any job that's available. As you look for "A" job, think about the skills and experience you need to reach your ultimate goal and jobs that include tasks and assignments that you enjoy, and skills that you'd like to learn.

For example, if you'd someday like to be the general manager of a store, you might want to begin by finding work as a cashier in a store or restaurant, where you would handle money and interact with customers. These skills will help you build your resume to include the capabilities that are required of a store manager.

Think of this job as an opportunity to decide if this industry is a good match for you. You may change your end goal based on whether you like the responsibilities and tasks required. Or you may find that this position suits you well and helps you reach your financial goals.

A Better Job

If you decide you want to look for a different job, the experience you gained from your "A" job may help you qualify for a slightly higher job opening, either within the same company or elsewhere. A "Better" job should help you continue to practice the skills that you learned in your first position, but add additional skills and experience to your resume.

Returning to the cashier example, you may hear about other positions, like shift manager, as they become available in the same store. However, you can also watch for help wanted signs and job listings for other businesses if you'd like to explore another workplace.

By finding a "Better" job, you may use the skills that you learned in your "A" job — like handling money and talking with customers — and build on them too. As a shift manager, you may be required to not only talk with customers, but also help them solve a complicated problem or complaint. And instead of being responsible for one cash register, you may need to input daily sales into a computer system and make sure money is deposited in the right places at the end of the day.

You'd also add new skills and experience, such as managing and scheduling employees. And because it's likely that you would work more closely with the general manager, you would be able to observe their behavior and ask questions to learn more about the position.

Career Development

Just as with the transition from your "A" job to your "Better" job, the experience you build in your better job may help you qualify for even higher positions. If you have set a goal of getting a high-level position in a company, you may find that you work in several "Better" jobs before you reach your dream job. Throughout the journey, you may also find that one of these "A" or "Better" jobs is actually the best fit for your goals, skills and needs.

Learning, practicing and strengthening your skills is how you develop a career and continue to find better jobs until you reach your ultimate goal. 

As you gain more experience, be sure to add new projects, responsibilities and skills to your resume to keep it current so you can be ready to apply for promotions and new jobs as opportunities come up.

On the Path with Ticket to Work

If you're age 18 through 64 and receive Social Security disability benefits (SSI/SSDI), Social Security’s Ticket to Work (Ticket) program may be able to help you reach your career goals. This free and voluntary program connects people with disabilities with the employment supports and service you need to find work and earn your way to financial independence.

A Ticket program service provider, like an Employment Network (EN) or State Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) agency, can help you establish and reach your goals through services like career coaching, job placement, interview preparation, and on-the-job support. As you start working and developing your career, a service provider may also help you find answers to your questions about your benefits as you start working and earning income.

Learn More

To learn more about the Ticket program, call the Ticket to Work Help Line at 866-968-7842 or 866-833-2967 (TTY) Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET. Ask a representative to send you a list of service providers or find providers on your own with the Ticket program Find Help tool.