Career Portability & Your Future Success

Transport It always amazes me how the relevance of certain ideas changes. Have you paid attention to this too?

Whether it’s the passage of time, cultural change, or our own new circumstances, we seem to find new meaning in familiar sayings.  Take, for example, the French proverb, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” While true for some things, I don’t think it has the kind of broad application you’d want to stake your career on. Especially if it blinds you to the need to develop yourself.

Frankly, if you accept that things don’t really change all that much, it’s easy to believe things like 20 years in a given job gives you 20 years of experience. If you think it does, you may want to consider a point made by Andrew Hargadon:  “Twenty years of experience is not 20 years of experience.  It’s one year of experience repeated 20 times.”  And that’s not a good thing.

There are other ideas you should question.

Career coaches (including me) have traditionally offered a career management remedy to bolster clients’ prospects in the (increasingly) likely event of job loss. It’s the idea that skills are transferable. So, if you were, say, selling aluminum siding, your core skills could transfer to other sales jobs…you know, like pharmaceuticals. Great, in theory. In practice, not so much.  Without the industry knowledge, the prospects for transferability are slim to none.

Similarly, career coaches have pointed to career portability as another possibility for career management. In theory, careers in education, healthcare, or administration were thought to travel well — globally, in fact.  Yet, the seemingly built-in portability is modest at best. It can only succeed where there is a fit with other factors, such as licensing requirements, industry knowledge, language, and cultural.

The good news is the profile of the portable career has changed. Now, it’s more likely to mean the possibility of living anywhere, while using technology as a platform to deliver products and services. In other words, having the ability to work virtually. This can and does work for many people.

Yet, I think career portability goes beyond industries or global locations. As Yogi Berra observed, “The future ain’t what it used to be.” So, you can’t expect your current job function or skill sets to offer safe passage into the future.  Today, true career portability rests on your ability to transport your career across time. [Tweetable]

Your future success is directly related to your willingness to abandon old mind sets and work processes. You need to continuously learn and adapt in ways that help you face new challenges, respond to new opportunities, keep yourself relevant, and sustain your ability to deliver value to the people you serve. It is, according to Hoffman and Casnocha, a state of Perpetual Beta!

Increasingly, you must see yourself as a work in progress. You need to realize it’s up to you to shape your destiny. And you need to more strategic about the choices you make at every stage of your work and life. Which brings to mind another idea from Peter Drucker, “The only way to predict the future is to create it.”


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