Thoughts on Career Development in Innovation-Driven Economy

“Career Development” is one of the commonly misunderstood or broken pieces of modern corporate life. In many mentoring/coaching sessions I had with various managers and individual contributors; I observed many outdated beliefs which are not holding true anymore in the new world, hence I wanted to share couple of thoughts here too. The whole notion of the traditional “career” itself is anchored in an industrial economy viewpoint, not an entrepreneurial or innovation-driven economy viewpoint. We need to turn this on its head and completely rethink the entire concept of “career”.

Below are my 4 principles for career progression & career development in the new world:

  • Periodic Reinvention: The new paradigm for meaningful career paths
  • Career Ownership: Your career is managed & owned by You.
  • Outcome-Based Career Advancement: The demise of role-based career advancement
  • Ongoing Organic and Holistic Feedback: The end of the annual performance review

Let me go into some more observations/guidance I had during various coaching sessions for each pillar above:

Periodic reinvention holds that individuals, like businesses, must periodically reinvent themselves to remain relevant to the world. This is the reality of the world we now find ourselves in. Individuals who understand this, and who embrace the challenge it presents; will enjoy a lifetime of periodically reinventing or remaking, themselves and the careers they hold. This makes for a completely different paradigm of career. No longer is there a single lifelong career, but progression of an evolving career path made up of multiple different careers. For those who understand how to leverage this, and who are naturally given to periodic reinvention, this can be incredibly rewarding. But even for those without this propensity, they will often have little choice but to reinvent themselves. From a career development standpoint, if businesses want to achieve maximum competitiveness and innovativeness; they must provide individuals with both the liberty to pursue different career paths and just as importantly, the training, resources and experience opportunities needed to master.

Career ownership is all about who sits in the driver seat of your career. In many mentoring sessions I drove with many people across the world, I had the great luxury and pleasure to mentor amazing employees. One common observation I had and something I started to do intentionally is ask the business plan for their current role in the first session and their career development plan in the next session. Usually how we end up is a with a very mature business plan but with very weak career plan. And this becomes the wake up moment for many mentees I have. Unless you manage your career like you manage the business, chances of career success is pretty low.  It is your career which needs to be planned and managed like you manage your business across three horizons. The second phase of this discussion usually might bring up the “excuses” part with misbeliefs that the manager or HR is not driving the individual’s career or she/he had no luck. It is “Your” career that needs to be managed and owned by you. Managers, Mentors and HR are there to support you and guide you; but Driving seat cannot be outsources to others. And re Luck, let me add one favorite sentence from one of my previous articles on “Growing Big by Thinking Big”: “Someone’s “Good Luck” is due to preparation, planning and success-producing thinking. Don’t be a wishful thinker. Don’t waste your mental muscles dreaming of an “effortless” way to win to success.”

Outcome based career advancement is the greatest challenge to the outdated perspectives of career advancement. Under the sway of industrial economy thinking, many organizations historically awarded career advancements and pay raises based on what level a person had already achieved. This was often true regardless of what the individual had actually contributed to the business in recent years. Entrepreneurial economy thinking brings an end to this ungrounded practice of role-based career advancement ( title based career advancements in other words). To replace this, it introduces the concept of outcome based career advancement- what one actually does and accomplishes with the business. Progressive organizations and leaders adopt the outcome-based career advancement philosophy and apply it across the business to recognize and reward those who truly bring the most value to the business. ( Another area I am usually stuck is how mistakenly people mismatch outputs vs outcomes. We are here to create outcomes not outputs; but this is a deeper topic for a different article)

Finally couple of thoughts about performance reviews in the new agile world. The annual Individual Performance Review delivered by one’s manager is an archaic relic of the industrial economy. The innovation economy demands a different approach. It demands that ongoing organic and holistic feedback be provided to each employee. This means that feedback on performance is offered to employees by their managers on an ongoing continual basis, not waiting months and months to spring surprises one way or the other. In this way, employees should never have any doubt as to what is expected of them and how they are performing against those expectations. Progressive organizations and leaders will institute such a program of ongoing organic and holistic feedback.

Rumi had said: “Everything about yesterday has gone with yesterday. Today, it is needed to say new things.” Most of the things that had been said about career development and advancement in the old world are “gone with yesterday”. We are in a new world which requires us to be more agile, drive more innovation and start to look things differently. That includes “Your Perspectives on Your Career” too!

Kadir Sener | LinkedIn