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The Digital Age is impacting conventional careers in a number of demanding ways and one of the most significant in the respective context is the fragility of seemingly-secure professions that are facing marginalisation/obsolescence as organisations gravitate towards the lure of efficiency-focused gains provided by AI-driven solutions.  Consequently, today’s multi-generational workforce is facing existential challenges that are more pronounced and transformative than for earlier professionals, e.g., narrowing occupational paths, re-skilling imperatives, depreciating conventional education models, multiple careers, early retirements, forced entrepreneurship by converting hobbies into businesses, rather than, staying ‘true’ to ‘degree-driven’ choices, etc.

Efficiency is no longer the mainstay of ‘human’ excellence as advanced automation and seamless autonomous functioning have steadily taken out the ‘committing of operational errors’ from the corporate equation.  Consequently, ‘excellence’ is being ‘commoditised’ with respect to job performance and the notion of being ‘relevant’ in the Digital World is gaining more traction.  This necessitates the need for timely realisation of the changing professional landscape, especially, due to the disruptive innovation(s) impacting the relevant ecosystem, and the level of corresponding astute adaptability for staying ‘relevant’ in order to sustain a viable and productive ‘career life-cycle’ that can robustly stand up to dynamic changes in the marketplace for talent.

Care has to be taken that it doesn’t come at the cost of severely undermining well-being since intrinsically-driven/highly-ambitious professionals frequently tend to marginalise health concerns, hobbies & interests, family & friends, old contacts & acquaintances, etc., as they focus on career aspirations by embracing stressful conditions and diving into time-consuming complex assignments to impress influential sources of power with their professional abilities.  However, such ‘transient’ bonds cannot substitute the time-tested relationships that are generally needed in precarious situations to provide strong and reliable support for a balanced approach to life with the help of profound self-reflection to calibrate priorities in accordance with the ‘true’ passions.  This also provides remedial safeguards against the disturbing phenomenon of ‘Karoshi’ (overwork death, https://lnkd.in/f_-7rky).  Furthermore, it serves as a protective buffer against the entrenched psychological strains of being the offspring of ‘Kiasu’ parents (https://lnkd.in/fxUTac2).

Generally, there are 5 types of focus most needed at different stages of a meaningful professional career.  They are:

Pre-Career
This refers to the schooling years when a ‘baseline’ is being set for stepping into the professional world.  The primary focus during this stage should be on learning and comprehension through personal experiences and academic teachings.  It includes the leveraging of advice from key influencers, e.g., parents, teachers, role models, counsellors, etc., with one’s own passions to formulate a viable path for accumulating the ‘right’ kind of academic credentials that are peppered with the requisite skills needed by the targeted employers.

It also involves creative exploration of multiple approaches to enhancing ‘employability potential’, e.g., engaging in productive internships, running effective multimedia social campaigns, helping solve a nagging problem by developing a facilitative app, becoming part of a key research project involving collaboration between the academic institution and the corporate sector, etc.  It is prudent to remember that the ease of closing the distance between the person you are and the person you want to be is primarily dependent upon the integrity of your innate values, resolute focus, and unwavering commitment.

Junior Professional
This refers to the early period of a professional career as the ‘reality’ of corporate life meets the ‘mirage’ envisioned during the school years.  The primary focus during this stage should be on establishing and illuminating a clear path for steady career progression.  It includes taking prudent steps for cementing a place among the ‘prized’ talent pool, e.g., through liberal display of relevant skills acquired during the school years while accomplishing assigned tasks, brazen acceptance of work challenges with calculated risks, developing cordial relations with supervisors and peers, insatiable hunger for benefiting from the corporate knowledge bank, etc.

The significance of a having a good mentor cannot be overstated at this stage as it lays the solid groundwork for maximising value-addition to the organisation while charting a achievement-laden course for climbing the corporate ladder, e.g., integration with the organisational culture, safeguarding against organisational politics, having ‘someone to talk to’ during stressful situations, having a ‘supportive voice’ in the influential circles, etc.  It also helps in fuelling the professional passions driven by the voracity of one’s dreams to realise the true extent of inherent and acquired talent for succeeding in fulfilling challenging objectives.

Middle Manager
This refers to the critical stage where the longevity and relevance of careers is decided through controllable and uncontrollable circumstances, e.g., influx of AI-driven solutions shortening the conventional career streams, quota-driven nationalisation drives, pivoting to new efficiency-focused technologies, organisational restructuring due to change in strategic imperatives, etc.  The primary focus during this stage should be on acceptance and recognition of professional prowess among ‘those who matter’ to buffer against ‘career cannibalisation’ by shrewd peers who are frantically engaged in winning the ‘survival of the fittest’ competition as the number of positions that can productively and profitably benefit from ‘human’ talent shrink steadily within the digitally transforming workplace.  This also requires the knack for never starving one’s mind of its ability to envision novel ways of adapting to the dynamic demands of the Digital Age by failing to engage in an honest and timely self-appraisal of professional proficiency while successfully addressing the ‘narrow’ compulsions of working in a particular organisation.  Consequently, one should never stop challenging himself/herself from actively seeking avenues for evolution by embracing change, rather than, finding ways to avoid it to ensure that their ‘professional shelf-life’ is extended beyond the conventional wisdom.

Additionally, sagaciousness in the respective context requires to be mindful of the obscure form of ‘Glass Ceiling’ that pertains to marginalisation of systems/processes/procedures/regulations when upper echelons of organisational leadership are the direct affectees, e.g., designing of performance-driven compensation packages, inculcating lucid accountabilities, transparent and open succession management practices, etc.  Consequently, the determination to succeed during nagging struggles, the resolute anchoring of purpose during sleepless nights of self-reflection, and the uncompromising valour in neutralisation the fear of failure will be invaluable in surviving and thriving during this stage.

Senior Executive
This refers to the mature phase of a professional’s ‘life-cycle’ and is often the pinnacle of achievement that he/she has attained after successfully navigating the corporate labyrinth.  The primary focus during this stage should be on enabling/grooming budding talent and cementing an admirable and enduring positive legacy driven by impeccable professional integrity.  The significance of mentoring cannot be overstated; however, the quality of such facilitation must be paramount to avoid over-dependencies or undue protectionism that can plague the best of intentions and lead to unnecessary organisational politics with the beneficiaries pledging allegiance to the ‘stronger party’, rather than, thriving with judicious support in an astute manner.

Care must also be taken in not confusing integrity with honesty.  Integrity is the internal robustness of righteousness while honesty is the external manifestation of candidness.  Consequently, honesty can exist without having integrity, but, integrity cannot exist without honesty.  Such a distinction is necessary for projecting/reinforcing/legitimizing one’s authenticity as a ‘true’ leader.  A key measure in the respective context is the level of willingness to sacrifice ethical misgivings at the altar of pragmatism to boost personal gains for a ‘cushy’ retirement.  It is important to remember that one lives a little or dies a little each day based upon the quality of his/her thoughts and the purposefulness of their actions.

Post-Career
This refers to the life after retirement (forced or intentional) when professional deeds have the opportunity to either become ‘cherished memories of profound accomplishments’ or haunt incessantly with the ‘nightmarish decisions’ that sullied pristine reputations and precipitated the decline in industry standing.  The primary focus during this stage should be to refrain from any acts/measures that may tarnish the established positive legacy.  It includes passing confidential information of previous employers to competitors in return for direct monetary benefits or accepting ‘advisory’ positions, fomenting discord through union connections, blogging anonymously against former employers, hampering talent acquisition initiatives by propagating unsubstantiated rumours about poor working conditions of industry leaders, etc.

Legacy by its very nature tends to have a longer time horizon and, while statues (physically or figuratively) can be constructed for both tyrants and benefactors; it’s the latter that has more ‘staying power’ in terms of the ‘goodness’ imparted by their actions within the relevant professional realm.  Consequently, it is imperative that the positive examples set during the professional tenure should not be stained by any malicious actions taken in the retirement phase.

Happiness liberates the mind, passion unleashes the heart, and contentment soothes the soul.  Are you focused accordingly?

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