Career Development: A Journey Through Time

Exploring career development’s evolution through historical events within Canada and beyond, and shifts in the world of work.

As a field of practice, career development has emerged relatively recently but the notion of individuals helping others find work, become crafts-persons, contribute to their communities, and discover ways to harness their skills and talents can likely be traced back hundreds, perhaps thousands of years.

In the earliest days of the formal profession, the work we do was more commonly known as vocational guidance – a term still used today in many countries. In Canada, Etta St. John Wileman, who lobbied the Canadian government in the early 1900s to establish employment bureaus to help facilitate labour mobility, is often credited with the creation of the field in Canada.

Similarly, in the US Frank Parsons wrote Choosing a Vocation in 1909 which provided the first record of what we understand career development to be: knowledge of yourself, knowledge of different types of work, and how all this knowledge can contribute to good career “fit.”

Yet, we can actually trace career development even further back in history as communities around the world grew, taught, and learned from each other about living, learning, and work.


Early Publications

The Mirror of Men’s Lives, Translated to German, written by Spanish author Rodrigo Sanchez and published in 1472

  • Half of the book describes occupations in the church and the other half includes secular occupations
  • Not intentionally designed to guide people in career decision-making, but it is one of the earliest books that offers a list of occupational options


Early Publications

The Book of Trades: Or Library of Useful Arts

  • Described 68 trades including feather worker, cork cutter, and lace maker
  • Between 1807 and 1865, versions of this book were published throughout the United States, England, Germany, Italy and France
  • Many believe the intent of The Book of Trades to be an introduction to occupations for youth



  • Increased industrialization, urbanization, and immigration begins around the globe
  • People begin to move from rural work to working in cities
  • Factories require specialists to perform specific tasks
  • Unique occupations begin to be defined
  • In 1851, the YMCA in Montreal creates the first guidance program for youth


The Turn of the Century

  • The Technical Revolution or Second Industrial Revolution occurs around 1870–1920.
  • In 1912, the province of Québec opens provincial employment offices to the public.
    World War I (1914-1918)
    • Industry in Canada booms and many people find themselves employed in support of the war effort.
    • Manufacturing in the Maritime provinces soars, and new industries grow across the country
  • After WWI, soldiers return and need help to re-enter society and the labour market. In 1918, the Public Employment Service launches in Canada. It remains a national network of provincially managed but federally funded services between 1918 and 1940.



  • Post-World War I, industry in Canada begins to decline. The Canadian Department of Employment Services creates over 1,900,000 jobs for men, most of them temporary.
  • The Canadian Labour Revolt, a loosely connected series of strikes, riots, and labour conflicts takes place across the Dominion of Canada between 1918 and 1925, largely organized by the One Big Union (OBU).
  • The Strong Interest Inventory (SII) is developed Edward Kellog Strong, Jr. in 1927 to help people exiting the military after WWI



  • The “dirty thirties” prove to be a desperate time for many Canadians. Mass unemployment leaves thousands of Canadians struggling to survive in a world without unemployment insurance, health care, and with very little social assistance.
  • The Depression triggers the birth of social welfare and the rise of populist political movements. It also leads the government to take a more activist role in the economy.



  • In 1940, Canada establishes an unemployment insurance system, the last major Western country to do so. Today we refer to this system as Employment insurance (EI).
  • The Public Employment Service becomes an arm’s length organization under federal control in 1940, remaining so until 1977
  • World War II (1939-1945)
    • With many men serving abroad as part of the war effort, the role of women in the workplace changes fundamentally as women are employed in stereotypical “men’s work” in factories.
  • 1944
    • Myers & Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), one of the first assessments used to support people in career choice, is developed by mother and daughter team Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers.
  • After WWII, there is a growth in developmental psychology, promoting ‘career’ as a lifelong journey rather than a point-in-time choice.



  • The International Association for Educational and Vocational Guidance (IAEVG) is formed, and continues to this day!
  • Donald Super (1956) Life Span Development Theory
    • The theory focuses on “the combination and sequence of roles played by a person during the course of a lifetime”
    • Super’s “Career Rainbow” suggests that people play a number of life-roles as they grow and decision points (including career decision-making) occur before and when taking on a new role
  • The position of labour in Canadian society is strengthened by the formation of the Canadian Labour Congress in 1956.



  • The first Youth Employment Services (YES) opens in Toronto. YES grows to over 100 locations between 1968 and through the 1980’s.
  • Person-Environment Theory, John Holland (1966)
    • Describes 6 personality types (RIASEC): Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social Enterprising, Conventional.
    • Trait and Factor theory suggests that when a person’s personality aligns well with their work environment, then they thrive.



  • The Counselling Foundation of Canada (the parent organization of CERIC) is founded. Recognizing a need for increased training qualifications, the Counselling Foundation of Canada funds counselling programs in more than 20 Canadian universities.
  • Stu Conger (the inaugural Executive Director of the Canadian Career Development Foundation, CCDF) initiates the first national consultation on employment counselling research, NATCON, in 1975.
  • Canada’s public employment service moves under direct management of a federal government department in 1977, and remains so until 1996
  • Social Learning Theory of Career Development, John Krumboltz (1976)
    • Social Learning Theory suggests people make their career decisions through learning opportunities in their social environment.
    • Career development professionals take on the role of facilitator for focused career planning and career learning.



  • The Canadian Career Development Foundation (CCDF) is established in 1980 to strengthen the reach and impact of career development through research & development, capacity building, and advocacy.
  • The Standard Occupation Classification is created. This system for organizing and classifying job titles eventually become the National Occupation Classification (NOC) system that we use today.
  • Work Adjustment Theory, Dawis and Lofquist (1984)
    • Work Adjustment theory suggests that the relationship between an employer and an individual is a balancing act.
    • Individuals need their work environment to support their growth and success.
  • Canadian federal government launches ACEC, a national competency-based training program for employment counsellors.



  • Starting in 1996, the federal public employment service is transferred to the provinces and territories one jurisdiction at a time over a period of 14 years through Labour Market Development Agreements.
  • Organizations become less engaged in ensuring individuals can ‘climb the corporate ladder’, and investment in training by Canadian employers lags behind other OECD countries.
  • Value Based Career Decision-Making, Duane Brown (1995) suggests that in order to make an informed career decision, an individual must know their cultural, work and life values.
  • Boundaryless Career, Arthur and Rousseau (1996) suggests that individuals are no longer attached to the boundaries of a traditional career or “corporate ladder”.
  • Life-is-Career Theory, Anna Miller-Tiedeman (1999) suggests that career is integrated into life, focusing more on the process of career development.
  • The Canadian federal government begins work to address and support needs in the Indigenous labour market through a variety of programs, starting with Pathways, 1996-1999 and Regional Bilateral Agreements, 1999-2004
  • Canada hosts the first International Symposium on Career Development and Public Policy in 1999.



  • The Canadian Standards and Guidelines and Code of Ethics for Career Development Practitioners is developed as the first standard in the world for career development professionals. (2002)
  • SocioDynamic Counselling, Vance Peavy (2002) centres around the idea that individuals “construct” their identities through their story and experiences.
  • The International Centre for Career Development and Public Policy is launched in 2004. (
  • Provincial management of public employment services is extended in 2007 with additional federal funding through Labour Market Agreements.



  • Canadian federal government continues to address and support needs in the Indigenous labour market, including
    • The Aboriginal Human Resources Development Strategy (AHRDS), 2004-2010
    • Aboriginal Skills and Employment Training (ASET), 2010 to present (now
    • Indigenous Skills and Employment Training (ISET))
      Skills and Partnership fund 2010 to present.
  • The Truth and Reconciliation Commission releases the Calls to Action (2015).



  • The new Competency Framework, National Profile, Industry Standard, and Code of Ethics is launched. (
  • The Career Development Professional Centre is launched. (
  • The first ever Global Career Month happens, with CERIC, CCDF, and NCDA collaborating as North American partners. (
  • Inspired by the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, a global committee of career development professionals advocates for a United Nations (UN) International Day of Careers and Livelihood. (
  • What will be next? …
    • And what role will you play???

Career Development Professional Centre

Help us cultivate a community we all enjoy by reviewing and following the Code of Conduct.  

Our Purpose  

Thank you for being a part of the online CDPC social learning community. To ensure that all members have the best possible experience, we have a few ground rules that we ask everyone to adhere to. This code of conduct applies equally to every person in the community and is intended to foster an online space that is inclusive, safe, and welcoming to all. 

Community Rules 

Be welcoming 

We strive to be a community that welcomes and supports people of all backgrounds and identities. We aim to create and facilitate a community that promotes excellence and innovation in career and workforce development. Please extend respect to all members; we all come from different backgrounds and levels of knowledge and there is no such thing as a stupid question. 

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We won’t all agree all the time, but when we disagree don’t let those disagreements turn into personal attacks. A community where people feel uncomfortable or threatened will not be a productive one. Instead, when having discussions in the online community, create productive conversations around the content being presented, not the person behind the content. Any post that is determined to be “hate speech” towards any individual or group will be deleted, and the user account may be locked until an investigation regarding the post has been concluded. The user may be given a written warning or removed from the CPDC community platform depending on the findings of the investigation.  

Hate Speech could include and is not limited to:  

  • Violent threats or language directed against another person 
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A good rule of thumb is to never post anything that you wouldn’t be comfortable with the world seeing or that you wouldn’t want anyone knowing came from you. We ask that you keep in mind the focus of this community, which is building excellence and innovation in career and workforce development for all individuals.  

Be considerate of the purpose of the community 

This community will be focused on building excellence and discussing innovation in the career and workforce development field. The goal of this community is to communicate goals, challenges, constructive feedback, and questions in relation to career and workforce development. The community should be a place for continued learning and development as well as a place to discuss the future of our field (solicitation without written consent by the Project or Advisory team, is strictly prohibited). Any post that is determined to be soliciting any individual or group will be deleted, and the user account may be locked until an investigation regarding the post has been concluded. The user may be given a written warning or removed from the CPDC community platform depending on the findings of the investigation. 

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Make reasonable efforts to ensure that posts and materials are allocated to the appropriate group or topic. This will prevent cluttering the community and make it easier for everyone to find the information that they are seeking. Individuals who do this repeatedly will be contacted by one of the group admins and asked to follow these guidelines.  

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CDPC-CEDC will not release your information to any third-party agencies.  

Group Admins 

There are four group admins who are available to you. Below are their names and their spoken language. 

Heather Powell | Anglophone 

Gabrielle St-Cyr | Francophone/Anglophone 

Florence Desrochers | Francophone/Anglophone

Muriel Andoblé-Yao | Francophone

Thank you and welcome to the CDPC Community!