By Joe Pisicolo
I have no idea what I want to be when I grow up. That’s a candid statement that may emit a notion of confusion or indecisiveness when, truly, it is becoming the foundation of many conscious and strategic career development approaches. Almost gone are the days when you decide on a single career path that is characterized by loyalty to one organization with a stable progression of promotions until the point of retirement. More and more, career development is being viewed as a nonlinear and constant work in progress. This unconventional approach to employment embraces uncertainty, and is shaped through curiosity, adaptation and careful risk-taking.
Why is the new method for career development becoming relevant?
The world of work is different than it was in the past, and is still changing. Technological innovations, globalization and increasingly competitive labor markets are just a few examples of movements that are making the professional world more and more unstable. Accordingly, the relationship between employers and employees is shifting. While employers used to offer long-term job prospects to workers in exchange for hard work and loyalty, the relationship is now generally more short-lived. In other words, employees are now easily replaceable due to the competitiveness of labor markets and employers are equally challenged by the need to attract employees more so than their competitors.
The new reality of the professional landscape has fostered a culture that is more permissive of transient work experiences and larger turnover rates.
What are the benefits of this new method for career development?
Dabble in various fields. The thought of focusing on one discipline throughout life can be unexciting or even daunting to some. For these individuals, pursuing various disciplines affords the opportunity to explore multiple interests. Especially for those who prioritize work that they enjoy doing, the ability to dabble in various fields can be invigorating.
Avoid being pigeonholed. What happens when your parents convince you to go to medical school before you have the time to explore what type of work truly motivates you? True talents and passions often take time to be revealed, and so diving into a field and digging too deep can be limiting with regard to your career if you realize that the path you chose isn’t right for you. One can avoid being ‘pigeonholed’ by garnering a breadth of experience in a variety of professional areas.
Tell your own story. Your interests should impact the career path you choose. People’s interests often change or develop over time. The career decisions people make and the new opportunities they explore form the story of they are. John Smith works for a business for three years and realizes that management is treating employees unfairly. He is touched and moved by his experience, so he decides to go to law school and pursue a career representing clients victimized by workplace injustices. This simple example demonstrates how individuals can tell a powerful story through their career development in the working world today.
Be strategic. You may be unsure exactly what role you want to have in the far away future but may have an idea of the skills you will need to get there. Be strategic about your career choices and the opportunities you seek. Explore opportunities that may help you build skills necessary to pursue future endeavors you would be interested in. If you know one day you want to start your own company, it may make sense to first explore various roles in different organizations and industries. This untraditional career path will help you garner a variety of necessary experience and demonstrate the many challenges you will face when you decide to start your own company.
To conclude… Exploring various opportunities requires an ambition to be on your toes and to actively be contemplating what experiences reflect your interests and curiosities in a given time. For some, this kind of mindset and the energy needed for it could be draining. The need to always be conscious of your passions and abilities and have the courage to take calculated risks can be daunting for some. While pursuing new experiences can be rewarding, if it is done recklessly it could damage your career prospects. All in all, those who are energized by their professional life can take on this new method of career development – one that involves a constant analysis of one’s own abilities and aspirations as well as the professional opportunities that present themselves.