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We have moved well beyond the traditional organisational career, where individuals are hired in to an organisation that takes full accountability for providing the career pathway to suit the needs, capabilities and preferences of that individual. Traditional career pathways were very entrenched in this model of career development where the success drivers were hierarchical progression; ‘ladder climbing’ being the best expression used to describe this approach.

However, the global organisation structure has changed and in many markets, this has been reflected in the change to different career development approaches. Specifically, it has introduced the protean career and boundaryless career. Although there are strong similarities between each of these, there is a slight differentiation in their purpose:

The protean career is a name given to describe a career that is driven by the individual and not by the organization, however the career may remain within the organisational boundaries. The boundaryless career is similar to the protean career however, a boundaryless career focuses on external influences to deliver their objectives and is not limited by organisation, industry, culture or location.

Each of these define a new level of complexity for organisations in talent management and recruitment practices, but it also presents new challenges in different cultures and labour markets. Importantly however, this different approach to career development has a substantial impact on your ability to achieve success if you do not align your career type to what is available or suitable to you.

Why should you know what type of career is your preference?

The way you approach your career development, or in the more traditional term, the way you desire your organisation to provide you career development, will depend on your type of career preference. For some cultures, career development and employment regulations enforce a more traditional, hierarchical organisational career offering. In this circumstance, individuals that are seeking a more protean or boundaryless career may not achieve this in their current location.

How will this impact your career success?

As organisations change, their talent management strategies change to reflect their growing needs and objectives. This may alter their approach to career development, talent management as well as recruitment and selection for staff. This change may suit some of the existing employees. However, if the organisation strategy seeks to move to hiring individuals looking beyond organisational, cultural and country boundaries, this may limit career success within this organisation if you are seeking to remain in a more traditional organisational career.

There are a great number of influences that determine why an organisation may seek to employ individuals desiring different career types. Specifically, the way an individual manages their career and seeks to achieve their own career objectives influences the policies, internal culture and work environment within an organisation. Furthermore, organisations that are looking to expand themselves beyond cultural or country boundaries may see that they need to look for individuals seeking boundaryless careers to support this.

How do you determine what career type you are?

Like all great advice, talking to a career coach or career development practitioner is a great place to start to understand your specific preferences. Working with a qualified professional can then support you in delving deeper in to how to align these preferences to organisations, industries, labour markets and work environments.

However, if you feel that you wish to start with your own research, here are some questions that if you answer ‘yes’ to, can determine what type of career you are:

Organisational career

  • Am I keen to have someone else facilitate and define my career opportunities?
  • Do I like the stability of remaining within 1 organisation across my career?
  • Do I have limited flexibility and mobility in where I can work or where I can move my family to?
  • Am I not interested in relocation or frequent travel beyond my existing environment?

Protean career

  • Am I interested in defining my own career direction and identifying the required steps to take to get there?
  • Am I keen to work with my current organisation to provide the foundation for this?
  • Do I have limited flexibility and mobility in where I can work or where I can move my family to?
  • Am I not interested in relocation or frequent travel beyond my existing environment?

Boundaryless career

  • Do I want full ownership of my own career direction?
  • Am I motivated to achieve my career regardless of the industry sector or organisation?
  • Am I comfortable with change and the need to be mobile and flexible?
  • Am I limited in the location that I am able to move to?
  • Can I undertake frequent travel?
  • Am I excited by the opportunity to experience different cultures and lifestyles?

Although there is a lot more planning and thought required to understand your own career pathway, these questions will allow you to have a greater understanding of what career type best suits you. This will change as your priorities in life change, however, having the knowledge of different career types will ensure that you can analyse what is best for you when the time comes.

About Rebecca Fraser

Rebecca Fraser is an Executive Career Coach and Professional Resume Writer. She is highly recognised for her contribution to the industry and for her work in the media providing information on modern day job search strategies. She is the author of ‘How to get a job in the 21st century’, her newest release on job search and resumes.

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