The Diversified Career: This IS the New Normal

Society, and culture, has changed around us and with us over the past few decades. It's evolution at work, or perhaps another revolution, as where we are now seems to be a high-tech iteration of somewhere we've been before.
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Do you feel slightly uncomfortable about not having the big job at the big company?

Did you take an 'alternative' career route, but sometimes wonder about your choice?

Have you reinvented yourself since 2008, but want to get your career 'back on track'?

Do you feel you're not successful as you aren't a rising star in a name brand institution?

You shouldn't.

Your diversified career IS the New Normal.

And that's a good thing.

Society, and culture, has changed around us and with us over the past few decades. It's evolution at work, or perhaps another revolution, as where we are now seems to be a high-tech iteration of somewhere we've been before.

Progress and success was defined on a mass scale -- big corporations and mass manufacturing that echoed the existing mass, organized religion. And, with it, the definition of success became working at and climbing the ranks of a major institution. BIG culture. Homogenized, desensitized, urbanized and disconnected. Cookie-cutter people, products and solutions.

Now we are getting back to basics. It's more personal.

Technology, developed for business, has also sought to reconnect us, supporting, as well as replacing, real with virtual communities and in-person conversations and relationships with remote ones. At the same time, this technology has allowed us to work outside the monolithic corporate structures, permitted customized solutions and enabled us to celebrate, not limit, our individuality.

Fragmentation has ensued -- people are again living their naturally more diversified lives -- following more of their own personal agendas, responding to the necessities of economic cycles, as well as their own family evolution, their responsibilities and, where possible, their desires too. People's circumstances and needs change significantly over the course of the lives, and there is an increasingly overt recognition of and response to these life transitions.

Instead of a discordant disregard for individual's specific needs, more and more employers ARE recognizing the benefits accruing to all parties when they respond at an individual level... whether driven by good ethics or good business sense. This a huge shift philosophically as it also brings a reciprocity to the employer/employee relationship that is new and unique, which values each person individually and generates a new commitment, engagement and loyalty from the employee. Happiness for one's workforce can now be an objective and beneficial, not an almost unseemly coincidence!

The most important effect of these changes is the relaxing of rigid definitions of what a 'real career' is, and what 'success' means. Broader definitions are more accepted, the integration of family elements is being respected and a combination of corporate AND non-corporate ambitions is better understood.

Look around you. The diversified career IS here.

The person working at the major institution is the anomaly, not the rule. Big companies are seen more as training grounds rather than ultimate destinations. A career in a major institution is still respected, but is now the desired end game for a small minority. Full-time employment per se is not necessarily the goal. Working to achieve your objectives is, and there are many more options now as to how to do that.

It's about a portfolio approach to work along one's working continuum. It can either be a parallel combination or sequential series of different working roles and experiences.

The options and opportunities have increased significantly: The companies, your positions, the skills you leverage and or your working locations can be varied. New technology platforms allow individuals and small companies to develop niche applications -- possibly the high tech equivalent of 'arts and crafts.' Other online platforms create distribution opportunities, allowing even small companies (including traditional arts & crafts) to find their niche market audiences far and wide. Co-working and teleworking are ramping up to enable greater real estate/location options. Professionals are being matched with companies by relevant expertise for freelance and project work on and offline, wherever each may be.

That doesn't mean that we don't still have a long way to go.

To make this work properly, next is the consolidation of the diversified career and the creation of the proper legal and policy framework. This is necessary to support and facilitate people being able to fulfill their portfolio career objectives. The infrastructure is woefully inadequate right now -- whether with regard to workplace flexibility, maternity/paternity leave, pro rata benefits, paid sick leave, elder care leave and much more.

But, as 2013 comes to a close, I feel that this year has seen much change. Our options HAVE increased. Stigma IS fading. Success DOES look different.

Bring on 2014 and let's see what more we can achieve.

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post in conjunction with our women's conference, "The Third Metric: Redefining Success Beyond Money & Power," which took place in New York on June 6, 2013. To read all of the posts in the series and learn more about the conference, click here. Join the conversation on Twitter #ThirdMetric.

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