Many people started down their career paths with the belief they would stay in the same field – or even at the same company – until retirement. Some envisioned their parents’ or even grandparents’ trajectory: choosing a career, landing a job, moving up in that field, and retiring in the same profession where they began.
But this career path simply isn’t possible anymore. According to career coach Dawn Graham, career shifters are – and will continue to become – the new normal.
“While retiring from an employer after a 30-year tenure used to be standard, now the average time in a role is 4.2 years. Further, employees who remain with a company for 10 or more years are viewed as less adaptable by hiring managers,” she noted.
While we often hear about how career changes are becoming more commonplace, methods for actually shifting your career can be more ambiguous. How can you catch a hiring manager’s attention when seeking a position in a new field? How can you stand out in an applicant pool among candidates with more experience in the field?
We recently hosted a webinar with Connie Steele, author of Building the Business of You and co-founder of Flywheel Associates who answered some key questions about career shifts. Here are the highlights from her presentation “How to Build A Career Mashup – The Career of the Future.”
Where does the impulse for the “career mashup” come from?
Connie suggests that many people have diverse interests that they can’t pursue in a single position or career field. During the pandemic, professionals came to recognize how significantly they have segmented their lives and are seeking a better balance between the personal and the professional.
“It’s this desire to integrate all the things we want to do and who we are…there’s this desire to marry purpose, as well as create the financial stability that we’re looking for,” she said.
At the same time, uncertainty is the new certainty in the world at large, the professional world, and, in many cases, our personal worlds.
“Given this constant change, we don’t have to go with a flow to adapt because nothing is fixed in the way that your processes aren’t necessarily fixed, and things constantly change. It’s important that our mindset isn’t necessarily fixed as well, because there may be new opportunities that we want to take advantage of,” said Connie.
Though change can be nerve-wracking for some, Connie suggests that professionals find enthusiasm for the chance to learn and grow. As the landscape shifts, you might recognize that what you want now was different from what you wanted 10 or five years ago – and these new opportunities will help you evolve.
How can identities shift as we change careers or we build multiple concurrent careers?
Connie says the key is recognizing the “future is fluid.”
For instance, the pandemic has made us realize we don’t have to work in the office everyday; we can work at different locations. That change may end up fitting into our lives more seamlessly.
At the same time, careers give us a sense of self – of who we are and what we’re about. So, as we wear different, or multiple, hats, how can we adapt to our changing selves?
“When I talk about the future being fluid, it means that you as a person, your identity, who you are, how you define yourself is constantly evolving. It’s having that introspective moment and realizing where I was years ago isn’t who I want to be right now or into the future. Who we are is such a critical facet into crafting that career that we want,” Connie said.
Part of this is recognizing that professionals want to be their whole selves, rather than leaving out parts of their personalities or interests in their professional lives. Many people have talents they aren’t using in their careers – interests, hobbies, and passions that don’t come to bear on the workforce but could.
How do we create it?
Connie has a five-part system that helps professionals create their career mashup.
The first step is spotting the trends. This is the research necessary to uncover opportunities you may never have known about. For instance, why is an industry evolving? Why is there traction? How does that traction translate into new jobs?
Second is creating your personal compass. Connie prefers the compass metaphor over the concept of a “North Star” because a compass is changeable.
“You have an idea of where you want to go and you’re going to plant a flag for now. But that doesn’t mean that might not change over time, and you iterate on that, because we’re now in a world where it is about test learning,” she said.
The third marker is preparing for change. Many people are excited for changes but may be so fearful about what they could lose that they remain stuck.
“So often pivoting in any new direction brings a lot of discomfort. I know it does for me, but I think whenever we are pushed out of our comfort zone, it can be met with excitement, because we see it as an opportunity to grow,” Connie noted.
The fourth step is networking. Not networking in the traditional sense of meeting others for a rather transactional relationship. Instead, Connie’s networking focuses on building a village of support, so others understand how they can support you.
The last step is building both hard and soft skills necessary for the new trajectory you have identified.
“It’s sometimes very tangible, and you can go take a course and get certified. But what’s also absolutely important are these soft skills,” she said.
Career Mashups Can Be Exciting
Career shifters are becoming more and more common in our modern world of work. But that doesn’t mean changing your career doesn’t provoke anxiety. However, Connie encourages multi-talented individuals to view a career shift as an adaptation to an ever-changing world and as a way to bring your full self to the table.
“You can create that mashup that brings together all those talents, skills, interests, and passions,” she said.