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How to get rid of ambiguity in careers

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Changing career model

In one of my previous blogs I have written about the changing career model that is underlying on the way we think about careers. The linear career with its focus on stability, loyalty and security is gone and it has been replaced with a dynamic, unpredictable model with focus on employability. This blog is about how both organizations and individuals create ambiguity for themselves and each other by not letting go of the old model.

In my practice, I’ve come across the following examples of ambiguity:

Within organizations:

Company sends the message “You have to take care of your own career” (new model). Yet job classification prevents jobcrafting (old model).

Company grants retention bonus to high performing employee (old model) and lets go of that same employee six months later, claiming that job security is never guaranteed (new model).

Within employees:

Individual employee complains that the organization does not invest in her (new model). When a collegue suggests to seek employment elsewhere she argues that she has a fixed contract (old model).

Young graduates hold high expectations in terms of career development, challenging assignments and autonomy (new model) yet this group shows equally high scores in recent studies concerning need for stability (old model).

Between organizations and employees:

Individual has organized for himself to go to high profiling network event with obvious win-win for organization and individual (sales opportunities were eminent) for free (new model), organization vetoes with the argument that development opportunities are managed by the organization, not by the employee (old model).

Organization wants to improve employability as a measure to help people work on their adaptability. Employer starts questioning people concerning topics of development and mobility (new model). Reaction of unions: “You are preparing to let go of people, instead you should guarantee job security.” (old model)

Both parties are cherry-picking from the old and the new career model dependent on the concrete situation. Confusion all around.

Getting rid of ambiguity

This ambiguity has to be lifted. To say it with a metaphor: if my world is flat and yours is round, how can we have a sensible discussion on travelling? The confusion and the frustration that comes with it will not be lifted unless the underlying assumptions on careers are brought into the discussion.

Here are three tips to do just that:

  1. Have a dialogue about the new and old career models and all the implications throughout the organization
  2. Gradually let go of systems like job classification and retention bonuses to show that the new career model is really accepted within the organization.
  3. Develop self-managing career attitudes in individuals so people know how to deal with the new reality.

There is ambiguity concerning careers within employees, within organizations and in the career dialogue between the two. A part of the solution lies in having a dialogue concerning the underlying assumptions on careers within the organization.

Written by our partner: Lesley Vanleke from Careercoach Network.

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