Article: Building an intentional career

Learning & Development

Building an intentional career

Are we choosing our career or is our career choosing us. How does one ensure career satisfaction when future becomes disruptive and tougher to predict?
Building an intentional career

The word Career is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as a person's "course or progress through life” and this is one such journey which evokes a thousand emotions. So how does one prepare for a journey as personal and unique as this? 

Preparation paves the path for success, here’s a list of a few practical considerations before embarking on your chosen career path 

Tenet 1: Future will bring more disruptive career paths 

Change which is hitting us faster than ever, is spawning new organizational structures like Virtual Organization, Self-Organizing Systems, Learning Organizations, Network Structure etc.  The evolution of these organizational structures mirrors the markets they serve. However, this evolution process is externally stimulated and the organizational systems may not always be geared to match the change simultaneously. Often organizational structures tend to evolve with little conscious planning with practicality overshadowing these organizational arrangements. Combine this with the rapidly changing technology and we have a rich tapestry of opportunity and ambiguity. 

Look at all the roles in your organization today and compare it with the list of roles 10 years back, you will find at approximately 50% or more of the roles are new or evolved from what they were. Being mentally prepared that there may be newer possibilities or a different path to your goal post opens new doors of opportunities.

Tenet 2: Careers are not Ladders but ZigZags 

Here’s a thought - What if tomorrow brings us organizations where there are no structures, no hierarchy, will there be a step to climb up? We cannot continue to harbor a traditional mindset while viewing our career progress in future. To remain relevant, I suggest we view career paths as zigzags and not ladders. Career ZigZag’s ensures that there is motion and learning while one progresses ahead while ladders may bring substantial periods of stagnation or wait to move up. 

Most “Zigzag’s” made by professionals today oscillates between generalist and specialist roles. These Zig Zags are typically ungoverned, they are not intentionally engineered. The time span spent in each specialist or generalist role is heavily dictated by the pulls and pressures of the available opportunities. Career management therefore, is largely ambiguous and unplanned when it’s guided by circumstances rather than careful thought.


Tenet Three: Success means different things to different people

If we all had one, single interpretation of success, then life would not have been such a colorful canvas of possibilities. And the thing with ideology is simple, if you don’t have one defined, someone else will define it for you. It may seem easier to adopt what others think success is all about but the internal struggle it brings perhaps is not worth it.  Knowing your own benchmarks ensures both career longevity and resilience. 

Tenet Four: Intentional Careers begin with Career Charters

Given that career management of protean careers is yet to find firm feet in organizations it is critical for individuals to write broad career charters which outlines one’s long term vision on how should their abilities be utilized in short, medium and long term.  Building a career charter makes it easier to make career decisions because these decisions are not dictated by role, money or power but how an individual’s abilities are being utilized at each stage.  It is but obvious that having an intentional career is far more satisfying and fulfilling than steering a career in default mode – My recommendation get into the driver’s seat today!

*Reference Occupational Employment Statistics Data 2005 & 2015 US Bureau of Labor Statistics;  Future Work Skills 2020, University of Phoenix Research Institute 2011; The Psychology of Careers, D E Super 1957
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Topics: Learning & Development, #Career

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