Changing Careers and New Patterns of Working

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We have fundamentally shifted our career patterns over the past 30 years. Changing careers is becoming the norm. Straight line progression up the functional hierarchy in a full-time role is largely a thing of the past. There are lots of reasons why changing careers is actually the new career. 

Why Changing Careers is Becoming the Norm

  • Organisations want you to experience different functional areas. This is so that you understand how the business works as a whole. That means changing careers, at least on a temporary basis.
  • With continual restructures and flattening of organisations, the straight line disappears. Therefore, unless you can find the same job elsewhere,  you may need to change careers. Alternatively,  you are prepared to sit there and wait.
    Jobs are more rounded, and to survive, you have to learn what other functions do. Often that learning comes with new skills. That leads to changing careers.
  • There is a wider recognition that ‘skill transferability’ is an option. This is a catalyst for changing careers. In other words, rather than looking at a person and labelling them. For example, a HR person has many of the skills of a Marketing person. A natural consequence is to change careers.
  • People are more intelligent at marketing themselves and not ‘boxing’ themselves into a tight definition. They are more open to changing careers.
  • Jobs are more rounded, and to survive, you have to learn what other functions do. Often that learning comes with new skills. That leads to changing careers.
  • Projects and cross-functional working has increased. You naturally pick up what others do, and often learn those skills. It provides the option for changing careers.
  • There is an increased need to ‘cover’ roles in a business. As cost cutting means you hold down more than one role within an organisation.

Changing Careers: A Consequence of Core and Peripheral Workforces

These changes have lead academics to use the term Core and peripheral workforce. Both groups may need to change careers, but for very different reasons. For the organisation, the aim is to assure the most appropriate allocation of resource. It also aims to minimise costs whist maximising flexibility. Organisations have made a clear distinction between their ‘core’ and peripheral workforces. Where worker protection legislation is weak, this is becoming a major socio-political issue. The characteristics of each are as follows:

  1. Core workers are perceived as multi-skilled ‘talent’ that can be directed to a need. They are ‘talent’ and can work in any functional area. This ‘talent pool’ is smaller than the size of the traditional workforce. It is multi-skilled and able/willing to tackle whatever the needs are in the business are at any time. Highly developed and highly valued within the business. These are flexible resources that are looked after by the organisation. At the more senior levels, they may be called ‘high potential staff. They are also likely to be on succession plans. That means changing careers at least on a temporary basis.
  2. Peripheral workers consist of a number of groups and sub-groups. The first are specialists that cannot be justified as a full-time cost. They have competence in areas that are outside generalist requirements. These groups may be labelled as consultants, self-employed and interim staff. The chances are that they work for a number of organisations providing specialist skills and services. Although peripheral, they are likely to earn more on a hour-by-hour basis than their full-time equivalents. However, they have far greater risk in employment continuity.
  3. The second major peripheral group may have less specialist knowledge or provide less specialist services. Changing careers is a prerequisite for them. They are utilised where there are shortfalls within the business. These are usually labelled as temporary staff, seasonal, fixed-term, zero hours and part-time employees. Changing careers is a fundamental requirement for this sub-group. This is not necessarily a bad thing for these employees. They often choose this path as a ‘return to work’, or just require more flexibility. However, this group can also be easily abused.

Both groups can be ‘turned-on’ when the needs exist, and turned-off when there are no justifiable needs. Consequently, the business can control its costs.

Changing Careers is the New Career

Are things changing? Yes. In the UK, the Office for National Statistics has regularly reported that the self-employed are growing enormously. This includes one-person businesses. For those on seasonal, fixed-term and zero hour contracts, the options are changing. As economies come our of recession, think through the scenario:

  • Unemployment rates fall.
  • Organisations require higher productivity to keep pace with increasing customer demands. there is more money in the economy.
  • That means there are more jobs and fewer people chasing them.
  • These posts need to be filled, or the organisation looses market share. Alternatively, the quality of their outputs falls. In the competitive world of today, that just cannot happen.
  • Therefore, they have to attract a diminishing pool of peripheral workers. However, at the same time as other organisations are doing the same.
  • This competition for resource means they have to make the employment proposition attractive. If not, then they have a big issue. Zero hour contracts become part-time with guaranteed hours. Part-timers get offered full-time or home working. The best of the seasonal workers are picked-off and offered more extensive contracts.
  • It is just the rules of competition.

For you this means:

  • Know this is happening and negotiate from your position of strength.
  • If you don’t like your job, then quit. There are lots of organisations that want you. Remember, changing careers is becoming the norm!
  • Understand the mentality. Changing careers is the new career!

If you are following pathways, you may wish to look at career choices.

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