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Career Progression - 6 January 2015

One of the most frequent comments made by leaders is that their younger employees are restless and impatient.  Keen to climb the corporate ladder quickly, they seem unwilling to put in the hard yards, expecting instead to be promoted before they’re ready.

If you can relate to that gripe, a new study in the International Journal of Behavioural Development provides some fresh insight that might help you.  The researchers assessed the career progression of hundreds of individuals over the space of seven years.  What they discovered was that people tend to fall into one of four career pathways:
  • Consistent Pursuit
  • Adapted Pursuit
  • Survivors
  • Confused / Vague
Consistent Pursuit:  This represents those who are clear on their goals.  They have an elaborate career development plan in place, connected to their values and motivators.  Even though they pursue their career with vigour, they nonetheless remain open-minded and flexible, ready to change course should the need arise.

Adapted Pursuit:  These are the individuals who shift their career in a different direction because they’ve been disappointed along the way.  This might be because they realised they weren’t good enough for their original goal or maybe they found it wasn’t what they expected.  Either way, they successfully adapt and enjoy a fulfilling job in an unexpected career turn.

Survivors:  This reflects those who, on the surface, seem stable.  But, in reality, they’re dissatisfied with their career and feel as though their job is unaligned with who they truly are.  In a sense, they see themselves as failures.  Often, that’s not because they don’t have aspirational goals, but because they haven’t taken the necessary steps to achieve them.

Confused / Vague:  These are the people who still have no idea what they want to do.  This causes them some distress, frequently resulting in job-hopping in a desperate attempt to discover what they’re great at and what they love.  As a result, their lives are unstable.  Their level of wellbeing is usually much lower than people in other categories.

Your priority as a leader should be to discover the stages into which your employees belong.  And then put in place actions to help them progress.  For example:

   -   Consistent Pursuit employees need additional tasks and responsibilities that are linked to the position they’re most likely to apply for next.

   -   Adapted Pursuit employees need opportunities for work experience, secondments, or job shadowing before they embark on their next career change.

   -   Survivors need motivation above and beyond anything else.  Find out their underlying aspirations and prod them regularly to make sure they’re taking action.

   -   Confused / Vague people need clarity.  Consider providing them with personality profiling, strengths assessments, or a professional careers coach.

So long as you’re seen to be doing something to help further their career, it’s usually enough to keep their restlessness and impatience at bay.  Well, for the time being, anyway.


To download complimentary e-books on employee engagement, retention, and recruitment (valued at over $100), please click here.

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