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The Future of Career Management - Part 3

In Part  3 of our series "The Future of Career Management" our guest bloggers Maryanne Peabody and Larry Stybel discuss how to master all the elements of career management effectively.

This requires a new set of skills involving flexibility and discipline.

They effectively show how important this new set of skills will be in the job market of the 21st century.


How to Traverse Between Cosmopolitan and Provincial Knowledge.

To master an assignment-driven economy, stop thinking in terms of company centered ladders of success. The concept might have been appropriate in mid-twentieth century developed countries but it no longer applies. 

Move your conceptual framework to skiing and having the agility to traverse between the W-2 and 1099 worlds.  Success requires using your edge.  Finding your edge that is not company or industry specific is going to be critical if you are to be a successful traverse artist who moves between W-2 to 1099 to W-2.

From a retirement planning perspective, the traditional model of retirement planning has often been based on disciplined contributions to a company sponsored retirement plan.  That model of funding retirement breakfast no longer applies when you zig zag between W-2, 1099 and W-2 assignments: there will always be periods of unemployment between assignments.  Traditional retirement planning does not account for this. 

In the final part of his series we will discuss the last two lessons learned in managing careers in a gig economy: how to master affiliation needs, and how to traverse between provincial/cosmopolitan knowledge.

In Part 1 and 2, we focused on the need for unlearning “climbing ladders” as a cognitive framework for career management.  A better conceptual framework revolves around the ski term “traversing” down slopes of different terrain: “ski with your edge.” 

The key in successful career management in the 21st Century is not necessarily the rank on the organizational hierarchy you achieve but your ability to identify your “edge” and apply that edge in novel circumstances.

In a world of short job tenure and long middle age, "ski with your edge" is can provide more economic security than job titles.

This article will focus on managing affiliation needs through professional associations.  We will discuss traversing between provincial and cosmopolitan knowledge.  Finally we will argue that feelings of exhilaration/terror might as well be embraced because it is a sign that you are doing the right thing.

Manage Your Affiliation Needs Through Associations:

Affiliation is the desire to be an integral part of something larger than you.  It could be as small as being part of a work team that will finish a project this month or as large as being a member of an institution whose mission will make the world a better place.

In the W-2 phase of a career, moderate degrees of Affiliation are helpful: you are part of a team.  But when you are in the 1099 phase, you are not part of a client’s team.  You are helping a team for a period of time and then your job is to leave the team.

 How do you manage your Affiliation needs when you no longer can really be part of a team?

The answer is to focus your Affiliation needs on professional associations.  Professional associations are work-related reference groups outside the corporation. These reference groups can focus on function/profession (American Psychological Association, Financial Executives International, American Marketing Association), industry (American Bar Association, Massachusetts Biotech Council), or geographic (Chicago Chamber of Commerce; Downtown Crossing Association of Boston).

Successful careerists take their association membership seriously as a way of meeting their affiliation needs.   This is an important but difficult statement to make, given the time pressure of work and home.  But it is important to understand how important associations are for your future.  In the 21st Century, associations have the same role that guilds played in the Middle Ages: a source of stable affiliation in an unstable project-oriented world.

The connections you make in such associations will form the core professional network to help you traverse between 1099 and W-2 roles.  It is important not to just join an association.  You need to become known within that association.  You need to be a committee member and not just someone who sometimes shows up for the occasional cocktail party.

Traverse Between Provincial and Cosmopolitan Knowledge:

In the W-2 phase of a career, leaders are often hired to manage the work of others. Moving up the corporate career ladder means leaving behind technical mastery of “doing” to managing others whose technical mastery allows them to do what you are unable to do. 

For example, a hospital CEO may have management responsibility over a surgeon yet not know how to perform surgery.  In addition to leadership skills, strategic vision is increasingly of greater value as one moves up the hierarchy. 

We call these "cosmopolitan skills" because strategic perspective and leadership can be of value in any industry and any organization. Lou Gerstner took over IBM without skills as an electronics engineer or even an appropriate background in IBM’s technology foundation. George Marshall moved from being a soldier to running the Department of Defense to being Secretary of State to being the President of the American Red Cross. Both were masters of the cosmopolitan skills of strategy and leadership.

In the W-2 phase of a career, on the other hand, you will be retained to help solve specific problems.  You must know how to “do.”  Your technical skills are critical.  We call this provincial knowledge because it is highly focused on specialized knowledge.

Being wise in mastering cosmopolitan versus provincial knowledge is critical in effective career management in the 21st Century.

Bill Fallon was Chief Information Officer for a financial services organization.  The organization was going to be acquired and Bill was thinking about his next assignment.  He was anticipating that he would move from CIO to technical consultant:

“I am already thinking ahead to the next move in my career. And that will probably be a consulting position. It is important to keep my technical skills sharp. I am planning to take a course in a technical area at a local community college. I'll probably be the oldest student in the class.  I don’t' care.  You’ve got to stay sharp. Taking the courses also helps shape the external perception others have of me. I want to be flexible. I am 54. It is important to build a perception that I am not stuck in a mold. Taking courses is one way to do that. Two years ago I was taking strategy courses at Harvard Business School Advanced Management Program.  It is important to do both."

Bill understands that his current W-2 assignment will set the stage for his next 1099 assignment. He is at ease moving from a course on strategy at a world class institution of higher education to a course on the new programming language at his local community college.

Exhilaration and Terror:

The three sections in this series have argued for a specific mixture of flexibility and discipline.  That mixture of flexibility and discipline is not unlike traversing down a mountain as you navigate through different snow conditions.  The thrill of skiing is the simultaneous emotions of exhilaration and terror.

 Managing careers in the 21st Century is about embracing exhilaration and terror while unlearning corporate ladder climbing, free agency, and comfortable (non working) retirement.

The closest thing to job security most of our clients will ever know in the 21st Century is the security of knowing know how to successful generate income under different conditions.

About the Authors

Stybel_Peabody.jpgLarry Stybel and Maryanne Peabody are the principals for Stybel Peabody, a human capital management consulting firm based out of Boston. Their core services include retained search+, high potential leadership development, and executive outplacement.

Stybel Peabody clients include 21% of the one hundred companies named by Fortune Magazine as “Best Employers in the United States,” two of the Big Four CPA firms, 60% of Boston’s largest twenty law firms, 70% of Massachusetts’ largest twenty health care delivery systems, five of Massachusetts’ largest seven institutions of higher education, and a number of family businesses.

Larry and his partner Maryanne Peabody also write a monthly column in Psychology Today called “Platform for Success: the making of great leaders.” In the past 12 months there have been 220,000 downloads.https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/platform-success