HR Leader: It’s time for HR leaders to disrupt themselves - Michelle Gibbings

Thanks to HR Leader, Michelle says it’s time for leaders to disrupt themselves and why.

The rapid breadth and pace of technological change, including generative AI, creates new ways of working, opens opportunities and shifts the emphasis on skills and capabilities. There are also economic challenges to confront.

In this rapidly changing working world, you want to be the leader of your career – managing your career so you are ready to take advantage of opportunities that come your way.

To do this, it’s crucial to recognise how the rules of work have changed, so you can adapt to them and make them work for you.

Challenge the old

In the book 5 Patterns of Extraordinary Careers, authors James M. Citrin and Richard Smith outlined three core career phases:

  1. Phase 1 – Promise: from formal education to early 30s
  2. Phase 2 – Momentum: from mid-30s to early 40s
  3. Phase 3 – Harvest: from a person’s 40s and beyond into retirement.

In such a linear career world, the expectation was for a person to specialise, get a trade or university degree, and work their way up the hierarchy. People with a career focus looked ahead with a 10-year career plan in mind.

It’s time to welcome a different type of career planning.

Welcome the new

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.”

His comments were directed towards organisations; however, they equally apply to your career.

Gone is the notion of one organisation and one role or function for life. Gone is the idea that someone will plan your career for you.

Careers these days are fluid, organic and adaptive, which means the person you most need to rely on for career success is YOU. This is you becoming the leader of your career, where you’re ready to design and orchestrate your career path.

Start by challenging the old rules and find ways to make the new career rules work for you.


Job for life – a few companies with several different roles.


Multiple careers – multiple companies, functional areas, roles and career paths.


One role at a time – work in one role and one company at a time.


Portfolio of roles e.g. ‘side hustle’, ‘moonlighting’, freelancing, contracting.


Full time or part time employment with hours relatively fixed.


Working when and how a person wants in a flexible arrangement matching their lifestyle and needs.


Job taker – take the job that’s on offer.


Job maker – create own job aligning to lifestyle, skills, competencies and ambitions.


Working in a ‘role’ which has no defined end date.


Working on a ‘project’ with more defined start and end dates.


Manage your career, which has a linear progression.


Own your career, with multiple points of career reinvention.


You rely on recruiters, job advertisements and your reputation to get a job.


You rely on your network, the value you deliver and market positioning for employment.

Career scenario planning

Just as organisations undertake scenario planning to help them investigate and plan for potential changes and risks, so too can you.

For example, PWC outlined four potential future work scenarios based on how people and organisations focus on collective or individual needs and gain and operate in an integrated or fragmented manner.

Using such scenarios, you can examine where your industry and occupation are heading and how far you need to pivot and adapt to be equipped for whatever the future holds.

Shift your perspective

This may require a shift in how you see the nature of your work.

In the past, a portfolio career was seen as something someone does towards the latter half of their career. However, today, it equally applies to people early on or mid-way through their careers.

Having a portfolio career requires people to have a more active, flexible and engaging approach, where they are ready and equipped to embrace change and intent on orchestrating a tailored career life cycle.

Ditch the ‘should do’

Being ready to embrace the future means stepping beyond what’s familiar and comfortable.

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

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 you’ve been told about your career and what’s possible?
  • Which of those have held you back or propelled you forward?
  • Which ones are no longer relevant?
  • Which rules will you ditch?
  • Are there new rules you need to create to help you leap into a new career or 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.

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