For the longest time, "climbing the corporate ladder" has been the perfect phrasing for what building a career in a large organization meant. It was all about hard work, being seen, recognition, and promotions. Each individual's skills and ambition dictated just how high they could go.
Becoming a manager or having Senior in front of your job name is still considered a measure of success. However, there's been a large shift in how to get there.
Direct managers and HR specialists are no longer mainly responsible for finding and developing the right people for the right role. Employees need to take ownership of their career paths, while leaders and support staff are responsible for providing suitable space and resources.
This change is equally exciting and scary.
The importance of smelling the cheese
If you have not yet read Dr. Spencer Johnson's "Who Moved My Cheese" I recommend it. It's a short yet powerful book about the attitudes we can embrace when faced with change. And let's face it, there have been a lot of dramatic changes lately.
Surviving and thriving in today's disruptive work environment requires employees to be always ready to go another way than they originally planned. The Institute for the Future reports that 85 percent of the jobs that will exist in 2030 haven't yet been invented. Take a minute to let that soak in.
Even those who are well informed and have an active imagination can't predict how the work landscape will look, and there is no need to fret about it. It's important to keep moving and look for opportunities. The cheese will still exist; it will just be in a different spot.
Developing a genuine growth mindset
Growing up, I was taught that the best careers were the safe ones – if I became a teacher, doctor, or engineer, I could get a job in one establishment, prove my worth and retire decades later with a gold watch and a lot of history made in that place. That was the dream of the Baby Boomer generation.
I've already had more jobs than both my parents combined, and I am nowhere near retirement age. Gen Zs have probably held more positions than me, even though they entered the workforce a few years ago.
My point is that the dynamics have changed. At some point, not being great at your job right off the bat stopped being a problem. Younger employees want to explore and learn. They have no qualms about making mistakes because that's how genuine development happens. That also is, in a nutshell, the definition of the growth mindset.
Giving up on job security
This will probably be a tough one for many people. The need for security is a basic human one. We naturally crave it. However, in today's work landscape, it's no longer a given, and clinging on to it could have disastrous results in the long run.
So, it's a million times better to develop learning agility. You don't have a guarantee that you'll be in the same position ten years from now. You need to ensure that, as time passes, you'll be relevant enough to find a job in different places.
That's why employers that provide learning opportunities and encourage their teams to develop new skills are the most sought after. In today's dynamic and unpredictable environment, the only way to make sure you come out on top is to have a diverse set of skills and be ready to take on a new role.
Agility is the new face of security.
Embracing role flexibility
This is a natural continuation of giving up security in exchange for agility. Job descriptions are useful, but roles are becoming increasingly fluid with the rapid technological and societal changes. We can't just be stuck in a "that's not my job" mindset.
Development doesn't come from doing the things that you're good at over and over again. It happens when individuals unlock the necessary bandwidth to expand and explore. This means doing what needs to be done or giving a hand on projects that are usually not in your wheelhouse.
Taking ownership of your job and striving to be good at it even when it goes outside the initially established parameters is the new "work hard to move up."
All in all
Career building is no longer linear. Most of the time, it's not even predictable. However, developing agility, thinking outside the box, and not being afraid to look for opportunities and seize them are true and tested ingredients for success.