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The New Career Reality

The notion of what a career is and how one unfolds is changing rapidly.  The days of the linear corporate ladder are nearly out of sight, replaced by blurrier, more self-driven models that mark progression but don’t offer a black and white path.  Here’s how I like to sketch this shift:


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The new model is anchored in who we are — in each of our unique identities.  In this reality, careers are additive rather than a series of climbs and plateaus.  Every single thing we do, everything we learn, and every person we meet becomes part of our career journey — adding breadth and depth to our core without taking anything away.  And while it’s terrifying to not have a clear path to follow, it’s empowering to be in control of what content and experiences we want to add; and it’s exciting to think that we’re approaching a world where the things we know and do outside of work can become part of our work story.

This model leaves more room for work and life to blend.  It makes the idea of sprinting and pausing make sense.  And it’s a reminder that life is long…resulting in an ever-evolving journey with no clear end in sight.  Oliver Sachs shared a great reflection on this idea in an essay in Sunday’s New York Times called “The Joy of Old Age. (No Kidding).”  May we all be so lucky…

How do you think about your career?  Does the new model above resonate with you, or do you think about it another way? 

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. I love this. I’ve read a bunch of articles about how Millennials think of their careers this way — and even though I’m *barely* a Millennial (gulp!), I definitely do this. Probably b/c, as a writer, you sort of have to get used to the idea of cobbling together your career — and planning for the ups as well as the downs — and you have to embrace the fact that you’re not on a ladder, you’re on a wonky ferris wheel. To me, the idea of rethinking HOW we think about our careers feels really empowering.

    July 9, 2013
  2. Brynn – Thumbs up on this post! It reminds me of another blog post I read recently by Jason Seiden (@Seiden) called Screw Your Career Path. Live Your Story.

    In recent years I have learned to embrace my own professional journey that has included working in for-profits, non-profits, higher-ed, parenting without working for income, working PT for a few years, etc. I like the New Model picture you drew.

    July 11, 2013
    • Thanks for sharing @Seiden’s post! And congrats on re-defining what a career means for you. Really appreciate the comment!

      July 11, 2013

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