The linear career path is DEAD… and that’s the best news ever

I had coffee with someone I really respect last week — his name is Eb Adeyeri. He has recently moved to a new company that on the face of it, looks entirely different to his previous one. Not only in terms of corporation type, but also job title. As you could imagine, this opportunity came up through his own personal networks rather than via recruitment consultant. Why do I say that? It is often the case that when applying through the normal channels, you get subjected to the demand for the linear career path. It’s this frustrating mindset: in order to be eligible to apply an ‘Head of X’ role, you have to have been an ‘X manager’ and before that ‘junior X’ for a number of years. You’ll of course recognise this — it’s the doctrine that many of us have subscribed to for decades.

However, Eb’s career path looks nothing like this: starting in PR, he moved to strategy, then to a technology platform and now a SaaS provider, managing their partnerships. As we talked it became clear that the centre of all of his roles sat a set of core key skill sets; strategy and developing real world relationships for example.

Eb is a perfect example of the new kind of professional that is present in today’s market; one that can translate their core skills across any number of potential roles. This is something we’ll (need to) see more of in the employment market going forward. There are a number of trends that support this viewpoint:

  • As some careers are at risk of automation, demand in other areas are surging, which will need people to re-train.
  • The growth in consulting and freelancing points to a more fragmented marketplace in which some skills are hired on a pay-as-you-go basis.
  • Longer lives and a lesser chance of full retirement means that people are likely to not just have multiple jobs, but multiple career paths in their lifetimes.
  • Entrepreneurship is growing; with people aged 20–29 leading the way.

The death of the linear career path may sound threatening for some — but I think this is a very positive development. It means that “transferrable skills” will not be needed as an exception, but a rule, offering more people the freedom to hop industries, roles and sectors as they please. Heather McGowan describes this as articulating yourself as a “business offering”. This also presents an opportunity for forward thinking recruiters to see the emerging trend and adjust accordingly. Although there is sill currently a gulf between how today’s workers like to work and how hiring managers perceive this mobility (ever heard the term “that CV is a bit jumpy”?) there are plenty of startups using platforms, UpWork and others to bypass the traditional (and expensive) way of finding great people.

Perhaps this trend may begin to take hold sooner rather than later; only last week a hiring manager from an established company shared a very popular LinkedIn post provocatively titled “you don’t need a recruiter”- in which he posited the changing role of tomorrow’s recruiter as a partner, advocate and advisor. The death of the linear career path needn’t be a threat to the recruitment industry, but it could spur some measure of disruption.

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