Career Development May Mean Career Disruption

We’ve seen it time and again. The products and services that we loved yesterday are old news today… and obsolete tomorrow. It plays out in everything from our voracious appetite for new features and phones to the revolving doors of food providers who ride the taste-of-the-moment waves from cupcakes to fro-yo to poke.

That’s why most organizations rank innovation among their top strategic priorities. They know that the only way to survive this challenging and unpredictable reality is to continue to evolve products and services to stay ahead of (or at least even with) their customers’ fast-evolving and frequently fickle expectations.


But for many, mere incrementalism may not be sufficient to thrive – or even survive. So, disruption or radical change has now become the new normal. Organizations can certainly choose not to proactively disrupt; but, in that case, they’d better prepare to be disrupted themselves.

Even the employment landscape reflects this disruptive dynamic. The workplace of the past was almost completely populated with full-time employees. At present, full-timers only make up just over 50% of the workforce and the rest is a patchwork quilt of badge types and employment forms –part-time, contractor, consultant, intern, extern…. and the list goes on.

This dynamic business landscape has introduced a range of challenges when it comes to career development.

Gone are the days of predictable progression through pre-determined paths. The corporate ladder has toppled.

Learning has morphed from formal, organizationally-driven training initiatives to organic, embedded experiences and self-service access models.

Environments characterized by all of this disruption are frequently labeled ‘VUCA’ – volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. Making the most of these factors and thriving in today’s environment requires a disruptive approach to career development as well – one that comes with its own brand of VUCA. Because 21stcentury career development must be:


Career success today demands an unprecedented level of flexibility, adaptability, and versatility. ‘Multi-purpose’ is the name of the game. Becoming a multi-purpose player. Developing multi-purpose skills. This helps one add more value while keeping pace, shifting gears, and responding fluidly, nimbly, and quickly. Versatility supports career disruption, preparing employees to remain in a perpetual state of readiness to perceive and pivot toward possibilities. This is the secret sauce of sustainable success.


For career development to get the attention it deserves (and to break through the din of organizational priorities and noise) it has to mean something. Employees won’t put forth the discretionary effort required to pursue plans and goals if they don’t have an emotional connection to them. As a result, powerful development includes an affective dimension… with activities and elements that leave people inspired, energized, and uplifted.


In the past, career development was guided by static maps or career paths. But what happens if there’s a roadblock, accident, or just the desire to take a more scenic route? Career development in today’s disruptive environment requires dynamic GPS systems that offer current data about changing conditions and options for moving forward. The best career plans are the ones with many decision points, options, and possible roads in the right direction. These choices, teamed with versatility and adaptability, allow for real-time rerouting to take advantage of evolving possibilities as they present themselves.


Gone are the days of employees being passive consumers of organizationally-driven career development services. Today employees and leaders actively partner to co-create opportunities for growth. But employees must really own their development. It must be a conscious choice, a personal priority, and a deep commitment that plays out every day.

Today’s business environment requires employees to be ready, receptive, and resilient. Whether people come out feeling vulnerable or victorious depends largely upon one thing: their willingness to disrupt themselves and their careers.

Originally published on Let’s Grow Leaders and featured here with author permission.


Julie Winkle Giulioni
Julie Winkle Giulioni
Julie Winkle Giulioni is a guardian of growth, defender of development, and promoter of potential in today’s workplace. She’s the author of  Promotions Are So Yesterday: Redefine Career Development. Help Employees Thrive and co-author of the international bestseller, Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go: Career Conversations Organizations Need and Employees Want. Named one of Inc. Magazine’s Top 100 speakers, Julie offers memorable and actionable live and virtual keynotes and presentations worldwide. Julie is a regular columnist for Training Industry Magazine, SmartBrief, and contributes her thought leadership around career development and workplace trends to The Economist and other publications. You can keep up with Julie through her blogLinkedIn and Twitter.

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