Pivoting on the Career Path

Pivoting on the Career Path 3

How can you grow your own career, in a world where AI, Machine Learning and automation seem to change the basic rules of the game? The answer is becoming a lifelong learner, pivoting among different possible steps to change the meaning of your new work.

One of the most interesting paragraphs of the book “The Technology Fallacy” that I’ve reviewed yesterday, looks at how people can get prepared for Digital Maturity by becoming lifelong learners. Ongoingl learning and a growth mindset will allow individuals to remain flexible enough to develop new skills.

The need to pivot will mean that individuals will need to chart their own career path amid these changes in work.

Gerald C. Kane et al., The Technology Fallacy

The change imposed by technology and the necessity to create more adaptable organizations, will lead an important transformation in the way we all perceive “career”. The days of steady, stable careers are over. As organizations get flatter, some of the principles of Vertical Progression get questioned. AI, Machine Learning, progress as a whole will make many jobs superfluous, and create new ones.

Your Work in the Future

Reasoning in terms of this new career model, is the key to move away from thinking in terms of The Future of Work, and challenge ourselves in thinking in terms of the The Work of the Future.

An important article from this perspective is that of Tom Davenport and Julia Kirby, who have described several different ways in which employees can pivot in their career path in response to technological advancement. They introduce the concept of Augmentation as opposed to simple Automation provided by the investments in Technology.

Augmentation, in contrast, means starting with what humans do today and figuring out how that work could be deepened rather than diminished by a greater use of machines

T. Davenport, J. Kirby, Beyond Automation, HBR 06.2015

What they suggest are 5 Steps to consider in redefining the relationship to machines and defining employability in this changing context. Essentially suggesting 5 different ways to pivot your career.

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The Five Steps to Pivot your career

  • Step Up: this means invest into higher intellectual ground. When employees step up, they choose to develop the skills that make them more valuable and marketable in a digitally disrupted business. This can mean acquiring entirely new knowledge or skills to keep up with disruption.
  • Step Aside: means developing strengths in areas that are not easily disrupted by technology. You might focus on interpersonal skills for example, focusing on a uncodifiable strength you already own, diligently working to heighten it.
  • Step In: means developing your broader skill set for the technologically disrupted organization. Computers still need oversight. Algorithms will need to be improved. This is the concept underlined by all those who recommend more STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education.
  • Step Narrowly: means focusing on specializing deeply in an area that machines are not likely to disrupt in the near future. It’s the equivalent of dominating a niche in the market and maintaining high barriers to entry. Particularly important if these skills can become differentiators vs. competition.
  • Step forward: means attempting to move ahead of technology disruption, building the next generation of computing tools. Behind every machine there’s many people, and this can very well be one of the best way to preserve a career opportunity.

What’s in it for Employers?

The complexity of the above is that rarely companies are equipped for a these multiple tenants of career. Most talent Development methodologies are deeply rooted into an “averagarian” way of planning a career that is vertical. And so manager react (ever tried to explain one that a lateral move is a career step?). And this ripples down in most employees.

The business case for lifelong learning is easily demonstrated, if the company accepts that it cannot control the development of its resources. People will need to be empowered to pursue their next career with passion. If even the World Economic Forum sponsors the Japanese concept of Ikigai as a concept to develop and happy working life, we need to ensure that Passion intended as the point in which personal interest and market opportunities are maximized for the individual.

This can be internal, but sometime can also mean allowing people to wonder in the external market.

The strategy that will work in the long term, for employers and the employed, is to view smart machines as our partners and collaborators in knowledge work. By emphasizing augmentation, we can remove the threat of automation and turn the race with the machine into a relay rather than a dash. Those who are able to smoothly transfer the baton to and from a computer will be the winners.

T. Davenport, J. Kirby, Beyond Automation, HBR 06.2015

What can I do as an individual?

Stop thinking about career in terms of the next promotion, the job title, the status symbols of the next level. Think in terms of content, and knowledge that you can develop. Study continuously something new, wether related to your current job or not, that’s not relevant. Be brave in scanning the environment, and understand opportunities. Nurture a variegated network (not just within your company….) and choose strategically what is your n ext step.

Any other advice you would share?

Sergio Caredda - Blog Signature

Photo by Rommel Davila on Unsplash

  1. […] Ikigai has inspired many authors in respect to identifying a personal purpose. But it also connects very well with some of the elements of organisational purpose we have seen here. This model, developed by M. Griffin of Wharton Business Consulting (Griffin and Hirst, 2020), shows Purpose as a “sweet spot” between four questions: […]

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