Your New Career Path In The Digital Economy

Danielle Beurteaux

The conventional career path is at this point a relic, reserved for those “remember when” moments. Like: remember when televisions had antennas and hats were de rigueur and great-grandpa had a job at the same company—maybe the same job!—for 40 years and retired with this thing called a “pension.”

Sticking with the same company used to be resumé gold. It showed an employee who was consistent, reliable, and faithful.

But these days that consistency could be interpreted as someone stuck in a career rut, afraid of change, and stalled on the training and development path.

Career expectations have changed. Switching jobs every few years is now not just accepted but often lauded. The new interpretation: Employers see someone adaptable and ambitious. Employees know that if they want to get ahead, they’ll have to make their own road. If they want a salary increase, that’s easier and more likely with a new job. If they want to learn, that means leaving.

Because there’s often still a disconnect between what job seekers really want and what recruiters are offering. It’s sort of short-term thinking versus long-term. Throwing more money at a prospect doesn’t always work—a potential new hire could very well place more value on training and learning opportunities and chances for promotions. And a lack of of those things is a big reason people move on.

The digital economy is making job moves even easier, because we’re not starting from scratch with every new position. When we move jobs, we keep our network, and research has shown that people with open networks have more career success than those who keep closed networks. One reason is that they’re often more innovative, able to pull seemingly disparate pieces of information and form something new.

As Clay Spinuzzi argues in his book All Edge, our new network capabilities are changing workplace structures. And they work on two levels: flexible, as-needed, with longer-term and more stable aspects.

These networks are where much of contemporary work life happens. Now employees have essentially two careers: the one at the company where they work, and the other that lives in their networks and can include things like social media presence and training done via MOOCs. The transportable nature of digital networks can help improve productivity and learning. A new job no longer means spending months getting up to speed.

With two generations currently in the workforce who are used to (if not quite welcoming) change and instability, career consistency ain’t what it used to be. Even the advice of always have the next thing lined up before jumping ship isn’t carved in stone. People quit without knowing what they’re going to do next. Or they reverse-engineer their professional lives and end up somewhere surprising.

For more insight on hiring strategies in the digital economy, see Fix Tech Hiring: Make It Data-Driven And People-Led.

Danielle Beurteaux

About Danielle Beurteaux

Danielle Beurteaux is a New York–based writer who covers business, technology, and philanthropy. Her work has appeared in The New York Times and on Popular Mechanics, CNN, and Institutional Investor's Alpha, among other outlets.