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How to get rid of ambiguity in careers

19 October 2016, by Lesley Vanleke
  • #Career Discovery Trajectory
  • #talent development

The linear career with its focus on stability, loyalty, and security is gone and it has been replaced with a dynamic career model with a focus on employability, performance and subjective career success. This blog is about how both organizations and individuals create ambiguity for themselves and each other by not letting go of the traditional model.

In my practice, I’ve come across the following examples of ambiguity:

Within organizations: 

The company sends the message “You have to take care of your own career” (new model). Yet job classification prevents job crafting (traditional model).

The company grants a retention bonus to a high performing employee (traditional model) and lets go of that same employee six months later, claiming that job security is never guaranteed (new model).

Within employees:

An individual employee complains that the organization does not invest in her (new model). When a colleague suggests seeking employment elsewhere she argues that she has a fixed contract (traditional model).

Young graduates hold high expectations in terms of career development, challenging assignments and autonomy (new model) yet this group shows equally high scores in recent studies concerning the need for stability (traditional model).

Between organizations and employees:

An individual has organized for himself to go to high profiling network event with obvious win-win for organization and individual (sales opportunities were eminent) for free (new model), organization vetoes with the argument that development opportunities are managed by the organization, not by the employee (traditional model).

The organization wants to improve employability as a measure to help people work on their adaptability. Employer starts questioning people concerning topics of development and mobility (new model). The reaction of unions: “You are preparing to let go of people, instead you should guarantee job security.” (traditional model)

Both parties are cherry-picking from the traditional and the new career model dependent on the concrete situation. Confusion all around. 

This ambiguity has to be lifted. To say it with a metaphor: if my world is flat and yours is round, how can we have a sensible discussion on traveling? The confusion and the frustration that comes with it will not be lifted unless the underlying assumptions on careers are brought into the discussion.

Here are four tips to do just that:

  1. Have a dialogue about the new and old career models and all the implications throughout the organization.
  2. Show that the new career has become the norm in your organization, by addressing processes, tools, and behavior that belong to the traditional career model.
  3. Develop self-managing career attitudes in individuals so people know how to deal with the new reality.
  4. Train managers, so they know how to coach their employees on career attitudes. The quality of career dialogues will improve as a result.

There is ambiguity concerning careers within employees, organizations and in the career dialogue between the two. A part of the solution lies in having a dialogue concerning the underlying assumptions on careers within the organization.

Contact us for more information about the Career Discovery Trajectory solutions for transforming the talent culture in your organization towards contemporary careers.


About the author

Lesley Vanleke

Lesley Vanleke holds over 20 years of experience in HR. In 2014 she co-founded TalentLogiQS, where she searches to understand all different aspects of customers’ challenges and needs. She strives to be a sounding board and bring about connections that deliver added value for all parties concerned.