Non-linear careers are now the norm

Non-linear careers are now the norm

Professional soccer player.  Cinema Manager.  Recruitment Consultant. Project Manager. Product Manager.

That's roughly my career path from leaving school to where I am now, and you definitely can't say that this is a linear career.

What I can say however is that all of these roles have contributed to the knowledge and skills I have as a product manager (with maybe the exception of professional soccer player!).

From cinema management, I bring a good foundational business knowledge, team management skills, and an understanding of dealing with thousands of customers.

From recruitment consultancy, I think I gained some good insight into diving into what the customer really wants, as well as co-ordination skills.

Project management of course makes you think through all the different scenarios and options, whilst bringing people on a journey with you, as well as including vast amounts of communication.

Without each of these roles I wouldn't be the product manager I am today.

What path is your career taking?

If you have undertaken a career assessment what did you find out?

  • What does your ideal career look like? 
  • How does this compare to your current career?

Are you heading down the right path, or do you need to take a sideways step in order to get the experience or opportunity that you want?

I've posted previously about my non-linear career, where I looked at how I took some roles to meet the needs of my non-work life rather than my career, but in each case, they've been in areas where I utilized my skills, got to develop some new ones, and gained valuable experience with new industries, organizations, and teams.  

If you're in a position where something in your life isn't working how you want it to, then ask yourself what needs to change.

If it's the organization you work for, then there are many others out there that will benefit from your contribution.

If it's the role, then there are others that you can transition into.

If it's personal, then there are ways in which you can adjust your employment to meet your home life needs. It could be finding a role closer to home.  Finding two roles that can be worked around whatever you need it to.  Finding a remote role that saves you commuting time.

Whatever it is, the first step is understanding what you need to move in the direction you need to at the current point in time.

Don't worry, our working lives are very long and decisions you make today aren't going to close out opportunities way into the future.

When I had my first child I was working in London earning a good salary, working with some prestigious organizations, however, the priorities in my life changed, so I sought out an opportunity closer to my out of London home so I could spend more time with my daughter.  I took a role for less money, working with clients that most people had never heard of, but which gave me what I personally needed.

Four years later, when circumstances changed, I was able to take up another role in London, with some great clients, but now with a new range of skills that I'd developed.

What next?

Take a look at your career path and your life in general.

What do you need?

How can you then make that happen?

Nothing is forever, and opportunities are always around the corner.  Don't be afraid to take control of your career.

Career coach Stacey Lane's definition a non-linear career path is that it “starts out in one direction, but zigs and zags through insights, discoveries and happy accidents. A nonlinear path requires a bit of planning, chance, serendipity, risk and faith.

It's your career and no-one can define it for you or prescribe the way it should go.