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ATD Blog

Planning a Career in Talent Development: It’s All About You

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

When I was asked to write an intro to the “Planning a Career in Talent Development” chapter for ATD’s Handbook for Training and Talent Development, I looked back on my own career and discovered something startling—I didn’t plan it. At least not in the beginning. And I certainly didn’t design it.

Like many, I explored the most in-demand jobs, investigated the highest-paying careers, and pored over The Best Companies to Work For list. Now, I see that after all that, I simply went where my interests, judgements and beliefs led me. My advice to you on planning a career in talent development (TD) is to start with YOU.

Who Are You?

Your degree, certificates, and experience are critical components of your career, but the essence of what you bring to TD begins with who you are. You can earn a coaching certificate and make it part of your resume, but if you lack the emotional intelligence to relate to others effectively and you don’t believe people are truly capable of improving, or if you don’t get excited about providing personal mentorship to a 20-person team, you should probably avoid a coaching path.

Likewise, your education can provide you with the methodology to identify a business problem, and your research or experience might tell you what has worked and what hasn’t. Unless you bring sufficient curiosity, creativity, and commitment to the problem, you probably wouldn’t be a successful business partner.


In other words, a career in talent development is largely about your mindset. I believe there are certain mindsets that will serve you, as TD professionals, well wherever you are and will make the difference between hanging on for the ride and creating the career of your dreams. These mindsets are described in the ATD Handbook.

Here is the list of mindsets described in detail in the handbook:

  • The Inquirer: Inquirers are unusually curious, willing to ask questions, and able to evaluate the validity of the answers.
  • The Envisioner: Envisioners can imagine things that don’t currently exist.
  • The Ambiguity Appreciator: Ambiguity Appreciators can sit in uncertainty without trying to escape immediately.
  • The Pulse Checker: Pulse Checkers are vigilant and alert to vital signs, trends, and threats.
  • The Conscious Connector: Conscious Connectors naturally identify and see alignment between seemingly disparate concepts and ideas.
  • The Bottom Liner: Bottom Liners approach problems, decisions, and projects with a business case mentality.
  • The Change Chaser: Change Chasers both react to and instigate change.
  • The Network Finder and Minder: Network Finders and Minders identify and maintain relationships with those critical to their success and that of the organization.

Success Is Not a Skill

You might spend your TD career attracting and retaining employees, identifying development gaps, creating strategies for closing them, or designing and implementing performance management, leadership development, or employee assessment programs. Whatever you choose, you can be confident that your degrees, certifications, and skills will enable you to demonstrate your aptitude, but without attitudes like those above, your success cannot be ensured. Talent development career success is a close collaboration between aptitude and attitude.

About the Author

Beverly Kaye is recognized internationally as one of the most knowledgeable and practical professionals in the areas of career development, employee engagement, and retention. Her contribution to the field includes the Wall Street Journal bestseller, Love `Em or Lose `Em: Getting Good People to Stay, now in its sixth edition. Her recent books include Up Is Not the Only Way and Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go, which helps managers blend career conversations into their everyday routine. In 2018, ATD honored Beverly with a Lifetime Achievement Award recognizing her contributions to the profession. The Association of Learning Professionals honored her with their 2018 Thought Leadership Award. In 2019, Beverly was recognized with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Institute for Management Studies.

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Companies who partner with their employees around the noble cause of serving customers profitably outperform their competitors. This is not just my opinion. This Inc article shares research on hundreds of companies that show how partnering with employees to serve customers drives superior results:
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