Flicking through a copy of Business Life recently, I came across an article that outlined how we should adopt a more flexible approach to career management that really resonated with me. Written by Jenny Blake, an author, consultant and speaker, it focused on ‘pivoting’; changing direction when needed in the pursuit of building rewarding and fulfilling careers, and is based on the early strategy adopted by many of the now giants of the Silicon Valley.
Underpinning the approach is being open to changing direction from time to time, and not viewing such diversions as a failure, but as an opportunity to actually further your career, experience new things and learn new skills that will ultimately strengthen your career. It’s not necessarily a new concept, but labelling it certainly helps to put it in context.
When you consider this in the context of careers today, it’s sound advice. Flatter structures, rapid constant change and less visible development opportunities have made the notion of the long-term career plan hat progresses steadily through singular roles or organisations is largely defunct given the changing world of work that surrounds us. Yet the reality is we’re all going to be working longer, so we need to think about what this means for us, and for our careers. We need to think about the long haul, and all its twists and turns.
Whether we’re a business looking at how it can develop its people and build an agile workforce capable of responding to changing environments, or an individual thinking about where we want to be, the reality is that we need to re-think our approach to career development and focus on fulfilment and personal growth, instead of the fastest route between A and B. Because let’s face it, it’s getting harder to go in a straight line, and fixating on one path will undoubtedly result in us missing out on enriching experiences, or worst, see us becoming frustrated because things aren’t happening the way we’d planned them.
On an individual basis, pivoting doesn’t mean flitting directionless between jobs every few years. It’s more structured than that. It’s about self-awareness. It’s about effectively managing your career. It’s about knowing when you’re ready to develop new skills that will ultimately get you to where you want to go. It’s about mind-set and recalibrating your approach; not allowing the desire of the ‘perfect’ career or ‘perfect next move’ to actually translate into career paralysis, but being more flexible and open to seizing opportunities, tweaking and adjusting as you go.
For businesses this also means adapting how we discuss career development with our employees. Helping them to understand how careers have, and continue to, change. Outlining how they can develop successful and fulfilling careers within the organisation, whilst making them aware of the skills, such as adaptability, that they need to develop to enable them to ‘pivot’ with the business as needs change.
Given the rapidly changing business landscape many of us find ourselves operating in, Blake’s approach to ‘pivoting’ is not only an interesting one, but it makes absolute sense, and would certainly deliver greater alignment between organisational and individual objectives. After all, if it worked for companies like Google, why can’t it work for all of us?