What Kind of Career Growth Are You Seeking?


In today’s world, career paths have been described as “boundary less”. We build careers and seek fulfillment by collecting varied experiences — across organizations, managers and work content. However, what we are seeking growth-wise at specific points in time will often guide that direction.

Ultimately, we seek situations that offer alignment with our current career vision.

Through years of speaking with individuals about work and career, I have observed combinations of elements (such as change vs. stability) that describe different types of growth “states”. We might flux in and out of these states — depending on our life situation or goals — and none would be considered “right” or “wrong”. Interestingly, some contributors seem comfortable remaining in one state for an extended period of time. while others might shift to meet their evolution.

Here are just a few I’ve observed. Please share any others in comments.

  • Future forward. There is a longer-term passion in the distance. In this state, you may currently hold a role aligned with education and experience — yet there is another career step in your “back pocket” serving as a strong motivator. Whether this entails preparation for a desired pivot or perhaps becoming an entrepreneur, we are building infrastructure for the miles ahead. Gaining skills to ensure the dream becomes a reality is a key imperative. Organizations can contribute by building foundational skills and the opportunities to build networks.
  • Creative calibration. You are primarily happy…but. This trajectory can involve a single direction or path — as long as we have the opportunity to add or delete tasks that meet our need for challenge/creativity. (It’s a bit like a central core with satellites orbiting around it). We might incorporate a flow of industry research or expand our “career mission” to create more interest. Appropriate expansion of the horizon is critical to avoid disengagement. There are multiple benefits for both the employee and the organization.
  • New progressive. You want to break the mold. Literally. While here, you desire to build a new, possibly “morphed” career path, integrating novel or disruptive elements (such as technology) smack into your current area of expertise. We would have the opportunity to allow skills co-exist, that others may never envision together. A high tolerance for ambiguity and exploration, along with a healthy dose of “progressive ambition” coexist — as the steps of this path reveal themselves only as time passes.
  • Steady-state. Healthy stability is the name of the game here. Contributors desire a specific role, while maintaining a strong, singular path for an extended period of time. We are less likely to job hop — but may move along with a specific group of contributors focused or an area of interest. Working on longer-term initiatives is often the hallmark — and contributors find this very satisfying.

Above all, knowing thyself is critical. Individual contributors (and organizations alike) should build awareness concerning how our needs evolve over time.

To explore your growth state needs, ask these questions:

  1. Are you leaning toward stability or change/challenge at this point in time?
  2. Have your growth needs tended to shift significantly over time or have they remained constant?
  3. Recall a time when you were satisfied with your career growth. How did your growth needs align with your role?
  4. Think of a time when you were frustrated, overwhelmed or disappointed with your path. What was happening?
  5. Do you lean towards being proactive or relatively passive, where career growth is concerned?
  6. How might voicing your needs, affect the possibilities?

So — where are you? Have I missed a growth state? Share your story.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk writes about life and career as an Influencer at LinkedIn. Her posts have also appeared at various outlets worldwide including US News & World Report, Forbes, Quartz and The World Economic Forum.

Live.Work.Think.Play shares observations concerning a wide array of topics from running a company — to the perfect handbag. It is designed to share lessons learned from a variety of perspectives.


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