The days of one career in which to spend your entire work life are long gone. The average American changes jobs every 3-4 years and careers every
5-7 years. Why do people change careers? And if you are gainfully employed at the moment, what benefits do you gain by creating career flexibility for yourself?
Because of the uncertain nature of today’s economy on one side and people’s increasing demand for more personally fulfilling work on the other, people think about their careers all the time. They are constantly looking for ways to enhance their value to current and future employers while at the same time seeking careers that give them more personal satisfaction. They no longer settle for “making a living”. They aspire to engage in “making a life”.
What makes this more possible than in the past is that employers today don’t mind seeing resumes with two or three different careers before the current one. They even look positively on this as a sign of versatility and ability to work effectively in various environments. But how can you add flexibility to your career?
The good news is that it is easier than you think to move between fields like corporate / employee communication, training, human resources, teaching, consulting, coaching and related areas. These fields have in common the ability to understand and contribute to the issues on the human side of business. While engineering and accounting for example might not have anything in common, making it difficult to move from one to the other, this is not the case in the related fields mentioned.
For example, many teachers move into the corporate training field. Instead of teaching young people, they now teach adults. People working in Human Resources move into employee communication or training, or vice versa, after discovering that they have a passion for that type of work, and getting some studies or training in it.
Many universities, associations, and companies offer intensive programs in these areas so people can get a good understanding of the filed by taking a few courses – perhaps online - over a short period of time. The rest they learn it on the job and with further training.
Career flexibility also includes the ability to move from working for others to working for yourself by establishing your own consulting business in fields like training, HR, PR, or employee / marketing communications.
You can plan for career flexibility while employed, or while you’re in between jobs. While working, ask for assignments outside your job description to get a feel for different types of work. Once you discover work that stirs your passion, try to get more experience doing it then request a transfer.
Here is an example from personal experience. While working as Director of Organizational Communication for a large healthcare organization, Francois Basili, now president of HumaNext, proposed to his boss to deliver a workshop to managers to train them to become better communicators. This led to more training workshops on communication to everybody in the organization, which proved very successful. Finally, during a re-organization, the boss asked Basili to take the management of the training department in addition to his communication department. This expanded Basili's responsibilities, status, and experience and enabled him to do more work later in both communication and training.
Ask: How can I create career flexibility for myself so I can expand or change my career when I need to?