What Is The ‘New Career’?

For years it was assumed that people wanted two main things in their careers – money and advancement. Organisations have offered their employees both of these through promotion up the career ladder. More recently however people have begun to realise that with societal and economic changes, there is much more to a career than earning money and moving upwards.

In the 1950’s, the bureaucratic organisation was at its peak. However from the 1980’s onwards, organisations began to realise that having flatter, more adaptable structures led to huge economic rewards for them. Arthur, Inkson and Pringle stated that “if the byword of the Industrial State era was planning, its equivalent in the new era is flexibility. It is a word that turns conventional career thinking on its head” (1999, p. 9). People now need to make their own career success, rather than rely on their organisation to provide them with a way of achieving it.  So what has this meant for the word ‘career’?

No longer does the word career lead to visions of climbing one’s way up the corporate ladder. In the career development literature these changes have been referred to as Protean and Boundaryless careers. Essentially, these terms mean that people are now directing their own career paths, making career decisions in line with their personal values, and crossing organisational boundaries more frequently during their careers. Individuals have also had to become more open to networking and collaborating both within and beyond their own organisation. So what does this mean for individuals and organisations?

Individuals are always going to want different things from their careers. The key now is for individuals to decide what they want out of their career and then find a way of achieving it. Those who are skilled, younger, open, and proactive are naturally going to adapt better to having to network, collaborate, and take charge of their own careers. However for those who may not adapt as easily to this new career environment, it has been shown that through career counselling, individuals can learn to take a more self-directed approach.

So what about organisations? While flexible and adaptable employees are valued in today’s work environment, are they less loyal? What kind of development opportunities should organisations now offer their staff? Should organisations help their staff to become more self-directed? These are the types of questions that all organisations need to be thinking about in order to adjust to this new career environment.   

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2 thoughts on “What Is The ‘New Career’?

  1. sandra brown

    Good comments – over the last 2 decades I have seen a number of organisations and in fact industry sectors investigate secondment options in an effort to provide development options for staff in different environments. Whilst this has had some negative outcomes the majority have been favourable especially where two different employers in geographically diverse areas are willing to particpate – not only does this allow people to add to their skill base, it also allows them to expereince different cultures (business and location)and to contribute this to the fabric of their original organisation on their return.
    Doing this can help employees identify and achieve their career objectives in a supported environment and hopefully contribute to staff retention.

    Reply
  2. Heather Morrell

    Hi Sandra,

    Thanks for your comment! Secondments are definitely a great way for organisations to offer staff more flexibility and career opportunities. There’s a wide range of research in the area of boundaryless careers and expatriates, as well as how the process of re-integrating them into the culture and organisation works on their return. I agree that offering such opportunities can be very valuable in today’s career environment, particularly for multi-national organisations that have this capability.

    Reply

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