How do you decide on the career direction for you when the world of work is so volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA)? Increasingly, it’s tough when job roles are disappearing because of technology change and when new ones appear quicker than ever. This post explores four career directions to help you reflect on your current and preferred direction.
Firstly, research by Envisia Learning shows there are some generic preferences that apply in any field, irrespective of specific job roles. Commonly, they have patterns of movement within and between fields of work over time. Specific and unique interests, values and motives uniquely anchor each preference. These clusters of interest (not capability) are managerial, specialist, entrepreneurial, and generalist.
You might be someone who prefers to progress through managing individuals, teams, and organisations. This direction is characterised by increasing spans of control, responsibility, decision-making freedom, and authority. Traditionally, this is the route to promotion within hierarchies.
Other people prefer the stimulation and challenge of being in one career field, occupational area or profession for much of their working life. Along the way, specialists refine and deepen their technical knowledge, skills, and abilities. In essence, you want the freedom to do your stuff and to develop and be recognised for your expertise.
You may prefer a variety, risk, and challenge. This could be through starting or owning your own business. Alternatively, it may be about short-term job, career, and occupational changes. For you, change is the norm and an opportunity. You enjoy working on diverse projects, tasks, assignments, and business ventures with measurable and visible outcomes. Creativity, drive, flexibility, and the ability to network are features of being entrepreneurial.
This career direction preference is about gradually changing jobs and careers over time. You use the foundation of existing skills, knowledge, and abilities with enough depth and breadth. Moreover, you are likely to prefer managing and leading increasingly more complex projects and programmes rather than people. Often, generalists move in different directions to increase their breadth of knowledge and experience along the way. Additionally, read about the hot debate on the relative merits of generalism v specialism.
Lastly, it is not unusual to find blends of interests, values, and motives that shape our career direction preferences. For example, a combination of Specialist and Entrepreneurial preferences could lend themselves to an external or independent consultant role. Specialist and Generalist preferences might lead to following an internal consultant role. Entrepreneurial and Managerial can result in leading internal incubators or being intrapreneurs. Or, Specialist and Managerial preferences might direct you to be a technical leader or a functional manager.
From a career “path” to career opportunities?
A final thought, given increasing career mobility. Jesse Lyn Stoner of the Seapoint Center for Collaborative Leadership poses a good challenge to the metaphor of a career path:
What would it mean to change from thinking about “career paths” to “career opportunities?” How can we change our norms and beliefs to view frequent job change as desirable?
Does your current career direction feel right for you? If not, what would you prefer? If there’s a gap, what does it mean? What’s your next step?
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