Career Mobility for the Future Starts Now

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This blog was originally posted on Enterprising Investor on 22 May 2017.

With expectations for average working years extending from 30 to 50 and beyond, we have to be comfortable with sweeping career changes. This is not just due to evolving external factors, but also because our interests, values, and search for meaning will evolve over the span of our working lives.

These were among the key takeaways career expert Tracey Wilen emphasized during a Career Conversations interview I conducted with her following her presentation at the 69th CFA Institute Annual Conference. Wilen also shared actionable insights for managing careers in an increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) environment.

Mobile Careers

There’s a popular conception that millennials have demonstrated that regular job transitions will become the norm. Though this may have less to do with millennial behavior than their sheer numbers amplifying the impression, the trend is worth considering.

For her part, Wilen recommends the following rule of thumb for career transitions: Spend about four years in a role, make a significant, positive — and preferably highly visible — contribution, then make a move. Older professionals must be particularly certain of the significance and visibility of their accomplishments, so for them, four years may be optimistic. Wilen explains that exceptional performance in a role and a record of positive contributions helps ensure our career mobility and the ease with which we can move among jobs and employers.

Construct a Career Narrative

For careers that transition among functions and industries and between individual contributor and people manager roles, we need to construct a narrative that explains our trajectory. Employers recognize the benefits that employees with a diverse wealth of knowledge, skills, and experience bring, but they are wary of candidates who seem to flit about and demonstrate a lack of focus.

We can build our narratives by conducting a continuous gap analysis. We need to evaluate, refine, and maintain a clear sense of our career and life goals, and develop an inventory of our skills and strengths. Then we must determine what further experience and expertise we need to realize our aspirations. As long as we can visualize and articulate this trajectory, using it to guide our career decision making, we can reassure employers who may have concerns about job hopping.

Employers want to retain top talent, so a career transition may not require switching firms, Wilen says. We should consider whether lateral or vertical moves, international rotations, or cross-functional projects within our current organization can achieve our immediate goals.

If you have insights about future-proofing your career, share them in the comments section.

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