Making and Embracing Progress, Defining Your Own Career and Work.

Happy International Workers’ Day! There has never been a more important moment to take control of your life, step up to the plate, determine your destiny or whatever other call-to-action resonates to galvanize you! Proactive participation is becoming essential in the evolving working environment if you want to advance successfully in your work, career, and life. Thrive through purpose.

I actually don’t necessarily mean you have a mission or need to find one, although it can make a significant difference if you do. My meaning relates to personal deliberation and involvement. For so many of us before now, our work and careers have been a short series of reactive decisions adjusting when/if required to occasional events or forks in the road otherwise our lives mostly unfolded. Things just ‘happened’. Now, the shift is for each one of us to determine our future ‘purposefully’, getting involved in a pre-emptive and thoughtful way over the course of many varied careers.

Emerging Career Paradigms

The traditional “linear, continuous compounding” career paths are over. This is no tragedy for many people for whom the rigid formula was certainly suboptimal. Such paths assumed conformity. The emphasis on continuity neither acknowledged societal developments nor accommodated any hiatus in employment — to take care of children or an ailing relative, for example, or for any other needs or pursuits.

The two-dimensional, linear aspect also did not allow for exploratory lateral moves, or changing gears — especially for anyone who realized that they had not made the right choice at the beginning of their career. Further education — whether business school or another type of course or additional certification — has previously been the key accepted way for someone to change track in midcareer. However, this has often not been an accessible or viable option — whether time- and or cost-related — for making a transition to another area or discipline.

“Permanent,” full-time jobs are also over. They have been for a while, but we have not really wanted to admit it to ourselves. We are now beginning to see what is generally replacing them — full-time jobs are expected to come and go over the course of longer lifetimes and many careers. In parallel and in sequence will be periods of part-time work, freelance projects, and longer-term consulting work — for the majority of us, not just a small segment of the working population.

A confluence of forces has resulted in these nascent career paradigms that are very different — with unprecedented diversity, discontinuity, sector changes, lateral moves, and multiple transitions. For individuals, the emphasis is shifting to revenue generation, not jobs. For corporations, careers are becoming individualized and latticed. Subsequent positions for an employee can now involve sideways and or diagonal moves in addition to vertical moves straight up the corporate ladder in the same area.

Managing Your Career Experience

With all these changes, people are inevitably starting to experience their careers very differently. Previously, someone’s identity was company-centric or had a strong and long-term corporate allegiance. A man might consider himself an “AT&T guy” after more than twenty years working there, and would not be planning to move. However, work-related identity is now more individual-centric — with more weighting on someone’s personal “brand” or story — which is self-managed. Tenure at any specific company may not be extended for years, and personal income will often be coming from more than one source.

These new careers are more involved, for all of us — corporate employees and independent workers alike — as each person’s main employment classification will likely change multiple times during their many careers. We are facing a new range of options enabling us — and indeed requiring us — to craft our own career plans and “work profiles”. These refer to the outline and design of personalized career and work situations that fit our individual unique strengths, work style, obligations and activities.

The more we can thoughtfully select personally-relevant options — our work focus, type, location and timing as we choose how we wish to combine and apply our talents over time — the better we can outline our own optimal career framework and evolving plans. We can then identify appropriate positions, relevant companies, jobs and projects that fit well with these proactively-chosen parameters.

Taking Proactive Measures

Self-awareness and emotional intelligence are therefore rising in importance to facilitate our making individually-sensitive, informed decisions. For example, the discovery process naturally entails answering questions like:

– What are my strengths and how do I want to apply them next?

– Do I work best early or late in the day?

– Do I prefer working in isolated or populated places?

– Do I perform better on independent tasks or team projects?

– What types of work and projects do I enjoy the most?

With input from colleagues, friends and family, we can each start to iterate and build our own personal career plan; map evolving career and job prospects; and advance thoughtfully.

There are many aspects to consider and data points to pull together to build a relevant career framework and work profile for yourself. It is a process, but it will allow you to make progress and remain adaptable in an evolving marketplace and work environment. In an increasingly self-directed world, why leave your career to whim and chance? Creating your own road and defining your own vision of success is the power you now have in your hands. It is an exciting opportunity.

What proactive measures are you going to take this week to catalyze your career and work progress? Onwards and Upwards with intention. Now’s the time!

This article includes excerpts from my new book Embracing Progress. Next Steps for the Future of Work which is released today May 1.

Originally published at