Are Career Paths an Outdated Concept?

Brittney Jackson
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Growing up you’ve probably heard how important it is to establish a career path especially throughout school. For those who are unfamiliar with what a career path is, it can be defined as a roadmap that is developed typically by employers to help employees reach their career goals through career development. Oftentimes landing your dream job means you might have to work in other various job positions before you can reach your end career goal. You need to garner expertise and having a planned career path is one of the easiest ways to achieve that experience. 

For the longest time, establishing a career path meant you were setting yourself up for financial security and a steady career. But recently, the idea that a solidified career path leads to financial and job security has started to be questioned. Considering how quickly the job market is changing on a year-to-year basis thanks to rapid improvements in technology and the rise of AI, some jobs you might create a road map for may not exist in the future

Compared to the last two decades, today’s job market is much more unpredictable and at first glance designing a career path may seem like an outdated practice. But not so fast! Career paths aren’t out of the game yet because it really comes down to the type of career path you choose to develop. Interestingly, there are various types of career path designs with the most common being the traditional linear career path. 

A linear career path is inflexible and follows a strict point-A to point-B design. Look at it like a ladder, each bar represents the next step in your career development, and one cannot come without the other first. But with life being unpredictable sometimes, you may be missing a rung on the ladder and find yourself incapable of reaching the top without it. Having a linear career path leaves little room for improvisation and backdoors that could in some cases help you reach your career goals. 

Having a linear career path isn’t necessarily unwise despite it being slightly old-fashioned because it can work very well for specific careers where the job market landscape isn’t predicted to have any major shifts in terrain or experience a steep decrease in available jobs. But all in all, having a linear career path can put you at a higher risk of not being able to effectively pivot since it can be difficult to accurately predict what the job market will look like in coming years for every career path. 

At the moment, a non-linear career path seems to be  a good way to weather an ever-changing job market, if you’re in a field that’s likely to adapt. Making a sudden career change isn’t as scary when you have a non-linear career path because employers are becoming more flexible concerning the qualifications of their candidates. Positions that used to require a degree to even be considered are now being opened to those without degrees who have enough desired experience. The skills you possess may prove to be more attractive than a degree and if things don’t go as planned or you find yourself feeling like your current career isn’t for you, a non-linear career path will enable you to branch out. Being flexible and adaptable is a quality that will give you the best chance of achieving and maintaining job security and financial stability through your professional journey. 

While some career paths may be dated some of them are still relevant today so don’t give up on developing a career path altogether. Find the one that works best for you. Trust your instincts as a working professional!


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