Disrupt Your Career!

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In partnership with ESSEC Alumni’s Career Service, headhunters tell us more about current trends in the jobs market and the do’s and don’t of professional life. Today, Claire Harbour-Lyell, co-writer of Disrupt Your Career: How to Navigate Uncharted Career Transitions and Thrive (Lulu Publishing Services), shares some insight into how to manage a disruptive career, at a time when we all tend to go through many different jobs in our lives. 

ESSEC Alumni: What is a disruptive career?

Claire Harbour-Lyell: AI killing jobs, resultant mass unemployment, the universal wage… we know there is sea-change in the world of our careers. We are all concerned in this huge shift, in some way or other, whether just putting the finishing touches to a dissertation for your MBA, or considering retirement – or indeed a return from retirement! Ask yourself how many career transitions your parents or grandparents went through, and then compare those numbers to your own. Probably not even in the same ballpark, right? 50% of Millenials will live to the age of 100, and expect to have done between 10 and 12 jobs by the age of 38. In face of all this, we all make not just more changes, but changes of an increasing size and nature, moving to and from areas which were previously unimaginable in simpler times. This is career disruption, and your own career is probably already “disruptive” in this sense, whether you planned it that way or not. So you can choose whether you want to have more disruption done to you, or whether you want to take control of the changes yourself.

EA: Why did you choose to focus on this subject?

C. Harbour-Lyell: Precisely because the landscape is changing, and we wanted to derive insight from real-life stories, as well as to create some frameworks that would help us all bring the kind of agile thinking that is required to manage career – both as an individual and as a leader.

EA: How did you do your research and how long did it take?

C. Harbour-Lyell: During two years, we published a series of articles which covered significant, “uncharted”, or unusual, previously uncommon types of transitions. Then, we decided to go deeper into the subject matter, backing up stories of 50 characters from all over the world. They each go through one of nine kinds of significant and often uncharted career shift, from consulting to the board room, or from professional sport to business, expatriation to home, and so on. Our matter is to study what provoked the change, the challenges and opportunities it creates, and how each of them is surviving the disruption. It is not all pretty, but it is compelling!

EA: How do you define the success of a career transition?

C. Harbour-Lyell: Since we are fans of real life stories, we would make comments about happiness, speed and ease of transition, financial and career success, comfort and enjoyment of the new role, and overall life satisfaction. But of course, this success does not come without some good work and process behind it!

EA: What are the main success factors involved in making a successful career shift?

C. Harbour-Lyell: We think of these success factors as the 6C’s! Commitment, control, curiosity, change agility, connections and confidence.

EA: What stages are involved?

Our model is a wheel that never stops turning. Indeed, with the speed of change expected today, you can expect never really to stop the process of career management and transition. There are 4E’s here:

  • Explore – yourself, your environment, your dreams, and so on.
  • Experiment – network, connect, ask, try it out, volunteer, but don’t give up the day job!
  • Engage – as you find and move into your new role, you unlearn old skillsets, adopt new ones.
  • Expand – deliver and thrive, consolidate and expand your capabilities, continue to reflect on journey.

EA: How can career disruption be important to you as you manage your teams?

C. Harbour-Lyell: We uncover some pretty shocking statistics. Did you know that companies that take care to collaborate with their people on Career Development get six times more engagement and four times less employee attrition? And that the prospects of job advancement in a new offer were deemed as important as either the financial package or the intellectual stimulation, according to a 2015 LinkedIn study? In light of these figures it is obvious that if managers can learn how to take a genuine interest and play an active role in the career management of their people, and HR leaders drive a broader view of the talent pool, people will stick around longer in their jobs and companies, and be happier while doing so. Given the cost of replacing an employee, this is a pretty reasonable objective, but often overlooked.

EA: So, how can you better manage the careers of the people in your teams? 

C. Harbour-Lyell: Consider the following:

  • Expand your view of your talent pool.
  • Understand and value career changers’ core capabilities.
  • Tap neglected sources of talent and craft messages that appeal to them.
  • Customize and contextualize your career management strategy.
  • Create a flexible work environment to accommodate your employees’ life changes.
  • Provide “disruptive” experiences to your own talent.
  • Enable frequent, high-quality career discussions.


Interview by Solveig Debray Sandelin, ESSEC Alumni’s Career Service Manager.


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