THE WIDER CONTEXT IN FACING UNPLANNED CAREER CHANGE

Posted in: Career Change

Unplanned career change brings with it a sudden array of pressures.  These can include dealing with the uncertainty created by the loss of a formal position, financial concerns, and family instability, as well as the need to articulate capabilities and begin to exploration and capture a new career.

At the same time, as a wise colleague once said: “Being retrenched can be like being kicked in the bum with a rainbow.”  In other words, after the initial wave of emotion and uncertainty, the period between careers can be liberating – a time to decompress and effectively take a sabbatical of sorts.

There is a wider context – and this concerns the way work in fact is changing.  A part of the sabbatical phase should entail taking a look at how markets are changing and how work itself is evolving.   This can be more productive than focusing wholly on intense and (sometimes futile) efforts to replicate the past. This can be hard -since one’s first instinct is to follow the pathways and practices which have worked before.

We are now experiencing major shifts in the way work is experienced.  There are the things we see clearly, like the impact of technology and the emergence of new professions around IT utilisation, the internet, and social media.

(A related impact is information overload, and “attention fragmentation”. It becomes harder and harder to reflect, and think, and engage in new learning with the continuous distraction of emails and social media.)

Organisational careers are reducing significantly in numbers, as work is outsourced, or achieved through contract engagements, and as organisations downsize, merge and change shape more frequently.  Periods of self-employment, as advisors, consultants, project leaders, subject experts and so on are becoming common in the span of current careers.  Working in this framework requires skills which are not developed particularly well in a corporate or public sector environment.

What does this changing context in the world of work mean for a mid-career professional suddenly needing to create a new field of employment and potentially a new identity?

Much of what follows comes from a reading of Lynda Grattan’s “The Shift” – an excellent discussion on the changing world of work.

  • Use the opportunity to push back on “attention fragmentation” and explore areas of opportunity thoughtfully and completely.  Don’t jump from one frying pan into another. The ability to concentrate, observe and practice new skills is critical to learning.
  • Work on building broad insight, through what we call “intelligence gathering interviews”- moving widely beyond your current field of work.
  • Reflect a little on the three types of capital critical for the future:
  1. intellectual capital: mastery of more than one field of knowledge: being willing to embrace new areas to master over time, and trial new fields of work,
  2. social capital:  building diverse and creative networks and strengthening what Professor Grattan calls “regenerative networks”(alliances with people who support one another),
  3. emotional capital: which is all about self-insight, resilience and tenacity.

Career transition services typically start with conventional tools, around resume building, the recruitment game, and interviews.  We think that alongside these activities much broader thinking and exploration is needed, because the world of work is changing fast around us.  Building new skills around intelligence gathering, market exploration, research, relationship building, social media and business formation have become essential in the future world of work.