Career development has a yearly low point about June, but the good news is we are on an upward curve, until about September. After that, if you are a Career Development professional or careers author looking at launching a book, forget about it and take a long vacation till January. I am basing my advice on the number of people who are searching on Google using the terms Career Development. I have been playing with Google trends, one of their analytic services that provides information on the volumes of searches on certain keywords over time. The trend pattern for the search term “Career Development” is in the first graphic below.
The pattern is interesting because it repeats more or less in the same fashion every year since 2004 (the earliest that Google Trends presents). Within each calendar year, searches peak in the Jan- March quarter and tail off to a low around mid-year. They then build again in the third quarter before collapsing catastrophically in December.
Looking at the graph, it is interesting that major events such as the global financial crisis do not show up in terms increased search activity. It suggests that “career development” is a search that people make irrespective of global financial conditions, but not irrespective of personal concerns – for instance swopping career planning for Christmas shopping in December.
The figures are largely dominated as you’d expect by US searches. The data for other countries is generally so small and incomplete that it shows no sensible pattern. So the other possible “story” in this data could be that career development searches peak after major holiday times. I.e. straight after Christmas, after Easter, and at the end of the long summer vacation and do I detect a small peak around Thanksgiving (towards the end of November) as well? Well it is hardly news that newspapers are full of “New Years” resolutions and life planning type articles, but the other periods of peaks are less obvious. Do we need this time away from work to reflect on where we are going? Is it breathing space that creates the demand for career development ideas?
The second point about these trends that is clear is that the term “career development” is being searched less and less each year. The downward trend is unmissable, but what is causing it?
Maybe the term “Career Development” is less resonant than it was half a decade ago. If that is the case, it is ironic given that some professional groups such as the Career Development Association of Australia recently changed their name to include this term. Equally another group I belong to, the National Career Development Association in the US, may want to take note. When we compare the search pattern on the simpler term “Careers” we see a very different and more positive story.
Firstly the term is being searched more often than it was. Are we ready to rebadge as Careers Professionals or CIs – “Careers International” members, which captures the increasingly popular term and takes it global. Furthermore this search term does seem to be sensitive to world events showing the strong upward trend coinciding with the worldwide economic deterioration.
The term is also more consistently searched throughout the year and does not appear to be as subject to the seasonal variations of the “Career development term”, other than it shows the characteristic terminal drop coinciding with Christmas. Honestly it’s almost enough to make you an atheist!!
One possibility is that the term “careers” is more closely associated with “jobs” and “employment” whereas “career development” might be seen as a more disconnected, reflective activity. Some support for this hypothesis can be seen in the trend graph for “jobs” which resembles the “careers” search trend graph more than the “career development” search graph.
The term “coaching” also displays seasonal variation and something of a slight decline over the last five years. If anything, the interesting aspect of the coaching search pattern is the apparent peak just before Christmas evident in most years, as well as the mid year slump and end of year shut down. Not sure what to make of that. Perhaps people seek coaching to improve their performance in a role they are struggling to stay motivated in. Then if and when that fails to address their malaise, they look not to stay in the role, but to change careers, and hence they then seek career development. Just a wild stab in the dark.
And talking of wild stabs in the dark, the last graph throws up a somewhat unexpected relationship between Career Development and Sex.
“Sex” searches have definitely drooped since the Global Financial Crisis making them more labile than “career development” but they do show a cyclic pattern. If you look at the trends for searches on “sex” it seems to show almost the opposite of what is happening with searches for “career development”. Thus “sex” searches peak when “career development” searches wilt. In other words, when a person is not thinking about career development, their thoughts turn in a very different direction! I am really not sure what the implications of this are for those of us who proclaim a passion and enduring interest in career development. You might think it, but I could not possibly say….