Building Career Adaptability

Article authors:

This is a post by a guest blogger invited by the CWL to contribute to our site.

I attended a conference last week run by the Centre for Workplace Leadership focused on exploring the Many Futures of Work. One session focused on the value of good jobs and the importance of ensuring these are created into the future. Whilst the researcher noted there isn’t universal agreement on what a “good job” is (as different people value different things), certain characteristics were heavily focused on as being necessary.

In particular, long term, permanent employment with the one company was heavily promoted as the ideal model. Anything less than this was considered to be too “risky”, resulting in additional stress for the employee. The first thing that sprang to mind for me was how incredibly risky it would be to have your entire income dependent on the one company.

The reality is that companies come and go all the time, sometimes entire industries disappear as new technology is developed or it becomes advantageous to shift offshore. And just because a company has been around for 100 years doesn’t mean there’s any guarantee that it will make it to the end of the month.

The idea of one permanent job with one company seems outdated in the modern economy. I asked whether the research factored in the risks inherent in being dependent on the one company.

Short answer, no.

It has been over a decade since I was in a permanent employment arrangement, but with multiple businesses and clients in the mix, I’ve always had plenty of work to keep me busy. I’m concurrently engaged in a range of activities across productivity, business strategy, manufacturing, technology, public policy and more. The thought of regressing back to working exclusively in the one permanent role now feels restrictive and suboptimal for developing a resilient skill base. While there were one or two conference attendees who echoed my sentiments, a good portion of the dialogue around work flexibility was negative. However I’m looking forward to continuing this dialogue at the Future of Work: People Place Technology 2016 Conference where I imagine there will be a distinctly different tone.

From my experience, building a varied, dynamic and agile career represents the best possible strategy for ensuring steady income over the long term. I don’t think there is any amount of money that could tempt me to want to take a full time, permanent, long term role with one company in one industry. That seems far too risky for me. I would rather the true security that comes from maximising adaptability, rather than the illusion of security that comes with “permanent” employment.

In my PhD research I’m taking this concept of individual adaptability one step further and looking at cross-sector professionals who concurrently undertake roles across business, the research sector and government. I’m still in the early stages of this work, but I would be very interested in connecting with professionals who have successfully built a cross-sector career.

Zoe Piper is Founder/Director of Allaran & Delmata, and Cofounder/Director Ecolour. She advises a range of organisations looking to adapt to future challenges, including boosting productivity, performance and cross-sector collaboration.

This blog post originally appeared in Zoe Piper’s own blog which can be found at:

One Response to “Building Career Adaptability”

  1. Timothy

    Thank you for highlighting the risk of the traditional single-career model in today’s environment.

    As you have indicated, industries are being disrupted forcing individuals to adapt and maintain relevant skills. However, it is becoming apparent that individuals themselves are increasingly seeking alternative roles throughout their working lives. That is, they are embracing change rather than having workplace disruption imposed upon them.

    I myself am also transitioning from a traditional role (medicine) to a more contemporary role (finance).


Leave a Reply

Header image credit: Pedro Ribeiro Simões.