Article: Realizing your career aspirations

Learning & Development

Realizing your career aspirations

Channeling one's career aspirations in the right way is the success mantra for steering through some of the tricky phases of life. Have you mapped where you stand on the career continuum?
Realizing your career aspirations

Leading yourself through the career zig-zags is like running through a hedge maze and what helps navigate the uncertain terrain is when aspirations are not capped by a ceiling, at the same time grounded in reality. Being Aspirational is critical to realizing one’s potential and aspirations need direction to become meaningful. While understanding the nature of organizations help us deal with the realities of working in one; balancing the aspirations of our stakeholders in the organization, our own and those of our significant others is the key to our overall career satisfaction index. 


One of the interesting models of career management was proposed by Gene Dalton & Paul Thompson who explained that careers unfold in distinct stages and each stage expects different competence and behavior from the individual. Their research described career progression in four stages – ‘Contributing Dependently’, ‘Contributing Independently’, ‘Contributing through Others’ and lastly ‘Contributing Strategically’.  

The transition from one stage to another is not automatic and definitely not indicated by designations but more from a work complexity perspective. Moving from one stage to another requires a renewed approach to one’s job and this transition is called ‘Novation’. The organization can bestow a role, promote or give a designation to the individual but it cannot ‘novate’ the individual.

To make matters more interesting, individuals are often ‘novating’ through roles, simultaneously in their personal lives as well from being an ‘independent self’, to ‘partnering with significant others’, to ‘partnering to raise family’ and lastly ‘partnering with the larger community’. Often these transitions overlap in the same space of time and managing both personal and professional roles can be a tricky ask. While I cannot hazard a generic account of what is expected of one in the personal space, here is an account of understanding and being aware of the expectations from a career stage point of view:

While in the ‘Contributing dependently’ stage one would contribute by helping the organization improve the use of individual and physical resources; maintaining a constructive working atmosphere and being open to listening and talking, suggesting and advising.

In ‘Contributing Independently’ stage one creates value by being open to discussions about issues and constraints, providing views about how priorities can be set, refining professional practices and by living the cultural tenets through work.

‘Contributing through others’ is perhaps a most rewarding professional phase where one is judged by the quality of teams they build.

In this stage one contributes by giving people space and sense in the ways they do their work and the implications for themselves as individuals. 

Lastly in ‘Contributing strategically’ phase one contributes by helping organizations leadership make sound business and people judgments, managing environment conducive to change and defining a vision for the enterprise.   

Our career universe is not a disjointed reality. It is a very connected space. Our partnerships in work arena are as significant in molding our persona as is our partnerships in personal lives. Balancing this equation requires bit of art, bit of expectation setting and bit of planning! 

Reference: Novations: Strategies for Career Management by Gene W. Dalton, Paul H. Thompson, 1986, Measuring Career Anchors and Investigating the Role of Career Anchor Congruence, Catherince Ann Steele, 2009

This is Chapter 5 of the Series on Career Management by Subhashini Acharya.

Read the previous Chapters:

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Topics: Learning & Development, #Career

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