As organizations become more agile they commonly encounter shifting resource needs, including human resources; and this scenario is likely to be ongoing as needs continue to change. This may mean new knowledge or skillsets are required, organizational alignments may shift, or a number of other changes that affect workers may occur. Preparing for these shifts is a shared responsibility between employer and employee.
Career agility can be summarized as a positive attitude toward change, exhibiting resilience, and being able to change one’s approach to meet the challenge at hand. Working in a variety of market sectors and settings, and with a variety of team structures and backgrounds, as well as understanding, navigating, and being successful amidst ambiguity are other hallmarks of career agility.
You Are Responsible for Your Own Career Agility
For most of us the idea of a one job career is far in the past. My father had two jobs his entire adult working life and they were both in the same field. Early in my career I changed companies and market sectors every few years either because of business conditions, opportunities to take a step up, or family considerations. I even ventured outside of FM twice, both of which were good engagements and broadened my knowledge and experience. He never quite understood the dynamics and we would sometimes have interesting discussions on the topic. But the environmental conditions of my generation were different than his, and they are today different that when my generation was making its mark. The speed of business and changing requirements has accelerated. If you want to remain relevant then you have to keep up, and that in large part means being agile.
A key component of maintaining relevancy is being able to change effectively and efficiently when needed. Doing so requires not only being willing to change but also being able to do so with speed and a minimum of friction. That kind of nimbleness grows from a mindset that accepts that change will happen and seeks to maximize its benefit and personalize its implementation. This applies whether the situation requires learning new technical or business skills or changing jobs … or even careers.
Executive coach Debra Desmond notes five ways people with good career agility respond to change:
- Anticipate change: Look around, observe what is happening, recognize what you need to continue taking note of … and ask yourself how you need to change to adapt.
- Generate confidence: Prepare yourself. Education, training, getting the resume geared up … whatever it takes. Start laying the groundwork. Doing so overcomes inertia and gives you confidence that you are ready.
- Initiate action: Move out on your new plan. Don’t wait for others to come to you. That may mean making a proposal for a new product or process, or getting started on finding your new gig.
- Liberate your thinking: Investigate new perspectives, listen to ideas with an open mind, experiment. Do not be bound by what you have done – think in terms of what you could do or want to do.
- Evaluate results: Be objective. If your new plan isn’t working then tweak it, change it, or abandon it in favor of another. Be honest and consider your carrying capacity (money, family, etc.). Make sure your reserve is big enough to get you over the startup phase of your new plan, or to allow a reboot if necessary.
To Debra’s list I would add two more, specifically for those who intend to make a job or career change:
- Seek wisdom from you inner circle: Close professional friends and mentors know you better than you might think. Use them as a sounding board for ideas and strategies, and for guidance on improvement areas.
- Build your brand: This is one you should be working on all the time. Get involved in your profession outside of the office. Build your network, contribute, become known as one who honors his or her commitments and gets things done.
Companies Can Benefit from Helping to Improve Career Agility of Employees
While employees are taking more responsibility today for their careers the companies they work for must juggle shifting talent needs and talent resources. Employees may be more vocal in what they want to learn, how quickly and how often, but it is the company that usually provides a learning environment and access to content.
As companies strive to become more agile they need employees with career agility, allowing them to source talent from a number of pools as specific needs dictate. But the task of developing career agility should not rest entirely on employee’s shoulders. Organizations focused on developing agile employees may implement several strategies.
- Provide a career roadmap: Establishing and clearly communicating career progression pathways removes ambiguity and allows employees to make purposed choices.
- Provide access: Connecting employees to resources such as coaches and mentors helps improve productivity, performance, and connects the employee to the organization at a deeper level.
- Provide networks: Supporting professional development through involvement in industry associations such as IFMA, BIFMA, FMA, BOMA, CoreNet and others. This type of engagement allows the employee to continue developing collaboration and leadership skills outside the workplace, benefitting the organization as well as the employee.
The talent in today’s workforce desires more agility in their careers and companies need a more agile workforce to meet constantly shifting needs. Developing career agility is beneficial to both and the foundation of a partnership between the two. Companies have their responsibilities in this, and so do you.
Take care of your career, and your career will take care of you.