In today’s world, career paths have been described as “boundaryless“. We build careers and seek fulfillment by collecting varies experiences — across organizations, supervisors and work content. What we are seeking growth-wise at specific points will often guide our direction.
Ultimately, we seek situations that offer alignment with our current career vision.
Through years of speaking to individuals about work and career, I have observed combinations of elements (such as challenge vs. stability) that describe growth “states”. We flux in and out of these states, depending on our goals (both in and out of work). Some contributors seem comfortable remaining in one state for an extended period of time, while others might shift to meet their evolving needs.
Career Growth States
- Future Forward. In this state, we may hold a role aligned with our education and experience — yet there is often another career step in your “back pocket” that serves as a longer-term, motivating goal. Whether this entails preparation for a pivot or perhaps becoming an entrepreneur — we are firmly focused miles ahead. Gaining skills to ensure the dream comes alive is an imperative. Organizations can contribute by building foundation skills and an instrumental network.
- Creative Calibration. This trajectory can involve a single direction or path, as long as we have the opportunity to add or delete tasks/content that meets our need for challenge. We might incorporate a constant flow of industry research or expand our “mission” to create more interest. Appropriate expansion of the horizon is critical to avoid disengagement — and multiple benefits can be realized.
- Progressive State. While here, we desire build a new “morphed” career path, integrating novel or disruptive elements (such as technology) smack into our area of expertise. We allow skills to co-exist that others may never envision together and this helps drive us forward. A high tolerance for ambiguity likely co-exists here, with a healthy dose of “progressive ambition”— as the steps of this path reveal themselves only as time goes on.
- Steady-State. Healthy stability is the name of the game here. Contributors desire a specific role, maintaining a strong, singular path for an extended period of time. We are less likely to job hop, but would move along with a specific group of contributors focused on an area of interest. Working on longer-term initiatives is often the hallmark.
Above all, knowing thyself is critical. Individual contributors (and organizations alike) should build awareness concerning how our own needs — and how individual needs can evolve over time.
To explore your growth state needs, ask yourself these questions:
- Are you leaning toward stability or challenge at this point in time?
- Recall a time when you were satisfied with your career growth. How did your growth needs align with your role?
- Think of a time when you were frustrated, overwhelmed or disappointed with your path. What was happening?
- Have your growth needs tended to shift significantly over time or have they remained constant?
- Do you lean towards being proactive or relatively passive where career growth is concerned?
- How might voicing your needs, affect your job choices?
So — where are you? Have I missed a growth state? Share your story.
Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is the Director of Organizational Development at Allied Talent. A charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program, her posts on workplace topics have appeared in Forbes, The Huffington Post, US News & World Report and The World Economic Forum.