Between a global pandemic, a double-dip recession, ongoing digital transformation and more, navigating an executive career move is proving to be both more complex and riskier across every sector. The world is changing around us, presenting new challenges and opportunities every day.
Some executives who may have been resisting digital transformation have had to quickly pivot in order to stay operational and competitive. Meanwhile, those who have been pushing for change in their organisation may suddenly find that they now have the internal support and resources needed to achieve their vision after facing periods of pushback. Some executives will unfortunately be made redundant, while others may feel bogged down by an organisation that is deeply concerned with tightening the purse strings.
Research indicates that in today’s world, the average person has five careers throughout their life which rarely follow a linear direction, instead taking diagonal or horizontal routes. This has been a growing trend, as professionals no longer feel obligated to remain in unfulfilling roles and have an abundance of opportunities for reskilling and changing course. Sometimes, these changes happen due to a desire to pursue a passion or find a more satisfying role. Alternatively, executives may change direction as a means of self-preservation, finding a new path before being made obsolete by plateauing organisations, new technology, automation or other threats. Many executives will be feeling these pressures in the current digital-driven climate, as artificial intelligence (AI) and other new technologies reshape the business landscape.
With new challenges come new opportunities and dilemmas for professionals whose current situation no longer suits their career path, organisation, or industry. These professionals must decide whether to stick it out in their current career trajectory, or to twist and change course towards something new, fulfilling and future ready. But when faced with such a massive dilemma, how do you determine your next step?
Circumstances are not created equal, and every executive has their own set of personal and professional considerations. When deciding your next step, it is crucial that you understand your own individual circumstances. Perhaps you have fiscal or familial obligations that you need to fulfil. Maybe your hand has been forced due to changes to your role or within your company or industry. The factors driving you to change course will absolutely play into the decision-making process and should not be an afterthought.
The most important consideration to make involves your own personal and professional fulfilment. In our recent blog on developing a personal digital brand, we discussed the importance of determining your ‘Why’ when attempting to understand who you are as a professional. The same principles apply here. Having a clear idea of who you are professionally, what skillsets you’ve gained that will add value, what is important to you, and what goals you would like to achieve will help you assess whether or not you are receiving the level of fulfilment you need from your current career path. You need to ask yourself what your objectives are in order to continue to be successful and fulfil your ambitions. What is it that will satisfy you personally? What do you need to change or find in order to achieve that goal?
Being fully aware of your personal brand and how you compare with those in the same playing field will be a major advantage here. You will have a better sense of what your skills are, what you enjoy doing, and what you bring to the table. You will also be able to shape what upskilling, reskilling or cross-skilling may be required. This self-awareness is key for deciding your place in the evolving landscape. For example, you may lack tech savviness, but are a gifted creative or strong strategic thinker. Instead of scrambling to adapt to new technology, you may choose to seek out a role that plays to your strengths. An honest assessment of your own skills, passions, and abilities will help you to ascertain what you have to offer, what you want to do next and where the gaps might be for you to compete given prevailing market trends.
At Rialto, we advise our clients to consider all of their options when it comes to career progression, whilst being increasingly mindful of the role that technology is playing in the future world of work.
For some, a career transition involves taking a step back to reassess your skillset and what you can offer your industry. This usually means allowing automation and machines to do what they are designed for and to take over the space you previously occupied. This does not mean you are regressing or bypassing innovation. Rather, stepping in this direction involves narrowing in on your talents, skills, and passions in order to develop a specialisation that is not currently serviceable with automation. This specialisation may fall into a field where there is no feasible business case for implementing new technology, or where a human could potentially be more knowledgeable. The focus can be on a skills gap that machines cannot currently fill. There are niche pockets within every industry that are not currently hot targets for mechanisation, and while some of these niches will stay this way, others may become targets later on. Professionals who step in this direction typically pivot to roles such as those requiring creativity, empathy, or vision. Developing a foothold in these pockets presents an interesting opportunity later down the road for professionals to help drive the development of technology and tools in their specialty.
For others, stepping forward to drive the development of future technology and tools is the answer to immediate progression. While this sounds technical, it doesn’t necessarily have to be. Technology and automation are a huge asset to businesses, but it takes human minds to understand the ways that technology benefits specific areas of the business. This direction can involve taking on more transformational, strategic or advisory roles but equally be more hands-on and require you to work directly with the solutions and technologies. You may lend your expertise to overseeing the work carried out by automation, essentially managing the technology to ensure it runs smoothly and accomplishes what it’s meant to. Or you may need to push aside any previous hesitation or cynicism and fully embrace new tools in your existing role. Machines are incredible things, but even with all of their incredible capabilities, they still require some human involvement to ensure the outputs are right. By choosing to head in this direction you are acknowledging your acceptance of the more hybrid workforce and demonstrating an openness to embrace these tools for the success of the organisation.
As the old saying goes, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” With the amount of change that is taking place daily, we as professionals cannot possibly expect that our careers will not need to evolve as a result. The worst response is to resign ourselves to complacency. This does not always necessitate a full-on career switch. Sometimes, it’s simply a matter of thinking differently about what is happening, what is possible, and what role you would like to play in a world being reset.