Most young adults don’t want to work for just any company; they want to work for an employer that will support their career-development goals. Here’s how to find those companies and the types of programs they offer.

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“I don’t want to work for just any company,” my early-20s client said. “I want to work for a tech company that will support my career development, especially since I’m female and there still aren’t equal numbers of women in tech.”

My client’s problem? She wasn’t sure how to find out about company-sponsored career-development programs, specifically those that target women, as this information isn’t usually included on websites.

If you happen to know someone who works at your target employer, you can ask that person about the career planning and training programs the company offers. But if, like my client, you don’t know anyone there, don’t worry. You can use your telephone (aka screening) interview with the recruiter or the hiring manager to ask about any formal and informal programs that are available. Here’s how:

  • “I never want to stop learning or growing in my career. What types of company-sponsored career-development programs are available to employees?”
  • “I know that my career development is my responsibility, but I’d like to find out about the types of career-development programs <company> provides. Specifically, what formal or informal programs are available for female employees?”

There are two general types of career-development programs. Formal programs are offered to all employees — or a subset of employees, such as high potentials or women — on an ongoing basis. These programs, usually administered through the HR department, might include leadership and conflict-management training, new manager training, mentoring and job-rotation programs.

F5 Networks in Seattle is an example of a local tech company that provides formal career-development programs for all employees, including career workshops and mentorships. It also provides programs that help female employees advance in their careers, helping to create a diverse workforce and a culture that is supportive of women.

Informal programs are often begun or sponsored by managers or executives in large, global corporations. These frequently include on-the-job training, coaching or mentoring, implementing women’s networks, holding workshops with speakers and creating programs that target specific employee groups.

Microsoft is one company that provides informal career development programs (in addition to formal ones through its HR department). For example, its Step Up program helps women prepare for senior management roles by guiding them through self-assessment and the creation of a personal development plan, and then matching them with internal coaches.

If you want to work for a company that will support your career development, conduct research and ask additional questions during your job-search process. It might take a little more time, but it will increase your chances of landing a job where your career goals can be met.

Lisa Quast is the founder of Career Woman, Inc., and the author of the book Secrets of a Hiring Manager Turned Career Coach. Email her at