Business Women Media: It's time to disrupt yourself - Michelle Gibbings

My article “It’s time to disrupt yourself” first appeared on the Business Women Media website

The rules of work have changed and to stay in the game you need to know how to adapt to them and, at times, break them. In the past, the rules of the game were fixed. They were set by big organisations and bureaucracies. Now there is a democratisation of the workforce that enables you to have much more freedom and choice about how and when you work. The gig economy and the transition to an automated and fully flexible workforce are here!

And yet we are still encouraged to think of our career in a linear fashion: we enter the workforce and explore a few roles, then midway through our career we land something that will keep us happy until we retire.

Become the leader of your career

Careers these days are fluid, organic and adaptive, which means they need a degree of reinvention.

Gone is the notion of one organisation and one role or function for life. Gone is the notion that someone will plan your career for you, and you can sit back and just let it happen.

The person you most need to rely on for career success is YOU. You must become the leader of your own destiny, your own career.

Salim Ismail, the author of  Exponential Organisations and an expert in helping organisations leverage technology and strategy to grow faster, suggests, ‘Today, if you’re not disrupting yourself, someone else is; your fate is to be either the disrupter or the disrupted. There is no middle ground.’ Whilst his comments were directed towards organisations, it equally applies to your career. Now more than ever you need to be comfortable designing and orchestrating your own career path.

Make the new rules work for you

It starts with understanding that the old parameters for how a career operated are no longer relevant.

Job for life – a few companies
with a number of different
Multiple careers – the potential for
multiple companies, roles, and
career paths
One role and one company
at a time
Portfolio of roles – jobs on the side,
side hustle or ‘moonlighting.’
Full time or part-time
employment with hours
relatively fixed
Flexible work arrangement
that suits your lifestyle and needs
Job taker: you take the job
that is on offer
Job maker: you create your
own job that fits your lifestyle,
skills, competencies and ambitions
See yourself as working in a
‘role’ which has no defined
end date
See yourself as working on a
‘project’ with a more defined start
and end date
Manage your career which
has a linear progression
Own your career, which has a
circular progression with
multiple points of career reinvention
You are hired because of
your formal knowledge and
You are hired because of your
life experience, expertise,
and competencies
You rely on recruiters, job
advertisements and your
reputation to get a job
You rely on your network and market
positioning to get work. It’s the value
you deliver that matters

Ditch the ‘should do’

Being ready to embrace the future means you need to step beyond what’s familiar and comfortable.

This is often an internal debate between what you ‘could’ do and what you ‘should’ do.  The ‘could’ being something that is unexpected, challenging, risky or slightly left of centre.  While the ‘should’ being the job that people expect you to do, or the job that your beliefs limit you too.

Breaking away from the ‘should’ do means you have to walk away from the expectations of others and shift your expectations of yourself.

It starts with ditching any unhelpful internal dialogue you say to yourself about your career that may be holding you back or hindering you.

Ask yourself:

  • What are the rules (both written and unwritten) I’ve been told about my career and career change?
  • Which of those have held me back?
  • Which ones have propelled me forward?
  • Which ones are no longer relevant?
  • Which rules am I prepared to ditch?
  • Are there new rules I need to create to help me leap into a new career and stay professionally relevant?

As one of the world’s greatest artists, Michelangelo, said: “The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that our aim is too low and we reach it.”

If you aim high you might just reach it, but if you aim low you are unlikely to go beyond your aim.