The Traditional Career Path Will Disappear

May 28, 2009
This article is part of a series called Opinion.

In the July/August print publication Journal of Corporate Recruiting Leadership, I’m spelling out my “10 predictions for the coming year.”

If you’re a recruiting leader who subscribes, you’ll get those 10 in the postal mail. For now, here’s one: the traditional career path and all its assumptions (such as that the MBA is the ticket to success, and it’s the only path to the top) will be gone.

We’re already seeing signs that many long-held assumptions about what success looks like are now open to interpretation. Forced to get creative, companies are now reviewing the long-term effects of traditional staffing models. Buying talent from competitors fills jobs quickly, but those people don’t always stay. Fighting for a top MBA grad at the best school may give your company bragging rights, but does the expense associated with managing them (and their expectations) yield a good return on the investment?

While some managers used to be convinced that there was no talent within their own companies, many are now taking a closer look at internal candidates when filling key jobs. Career paths are now often about moving sideways, not always up. As each and every hiring decision is placed under greater scrutiny, hiring managers will become more flexible in finding ways to get work done.

What would once have been an open job that would have involved an in-person pitch from a retained search firm, a parade of candidates, a consensus-driven decision, a nasty attempt to address a counteroffer, and an expensive relocation, might now simply involve a qualified long-term employee working remotely.

Faced with the reality that their jobs might be eliminated despite good performance, employees will be more open to lateral moves and developmental assignments. And companies, desperate to fill key roles, will be willing to give them those opportunities.

This article is part of a series called Opinion.