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I wrote this article back in 2014. I was interviewing with Expedia and contemplating a jump from aerospace to eCommerce. Within a month I had a job offer and decided to make the leap. It was a breathtaking jump! So, here I am, four years in and on my fifth big Expedia assignment.

Career Paths are Changing

Breaking traditional career chains is tough. I have been around long enough to see the concept of a career change, a lot. And, even transform into something that is barely recognizable. There are so many driving factors. New technologies emerge. New corporate human resource strategies appear. In addition, new constraints arise. Global business models disrupt. Digital connectivity transforms. People frequently change jobs. Furthermore, work evolves toward the freelance model.

It is a human tendency to try and shield oneself from these external career forces. This is especially true if past strategies produced successes. However, past successes become chains that hold us back. Embracing the new career landscape is essential for long-term career sustainability. And, embracing career changes is more enjoyable than shunning it and hoping these career forces never reach us.

Breaking Traditional Career Chains Before it is too Late

Bastions of traditional careers remain, mostly inside large companies. However, those bastions are becoming fewer, and smaller. Anyone that is clinging to the traditional approach is at risk. They are at risk for unexpected career disruption. Hallmarks of excessive dependency on traditional career models abound. Solely relying on internal corporate training programs. Expecting one’s current supervisor to supply career management. Confining one’s career network to internal corporate contacts. And, waiting for vertical-line promotions within a single department. All of these behaviors narrow perspectives. Options narrow. Skill bases shrink.

Actionable Steps

I encourage all professionals to take some low-risk steps toward breaking traditional career chains. These are a few of my ideas and encourage readers to add their own in the comments section.

Visualize yourself as an individual professional

This is the first and most important step to breaking traditional career management chains. Even if you continue to work for a company, think of yourself differently; as an individual. This may seem like trite advice but I have met so many colleagues that fused their employer with their professional psyche. Keep them separate. Maintain a mental model of your career that is independent of your current company. Establish a personal brand.

Broaden your professional networking base beyond your own company

Meet new people and garner new ideas and perspectives. There are so many new networking options such as Linkedin. Be brave and reach out to people you do not know. It takes some practice but once I started getting some positive networking experiences, it motivated me to do more. And, by networking, I do not mean just have a Linkedin profile with a long list of connections and no interaction. If I am travelling, I contact individuals in my network and invite them to lunch, coffee, or drinks. I call contacts just to say hello and ask if they need any help.

Obtain training outside your company

Companies often develop custom, in-house training programs to directly address the company’s needs and to save money. Many corporate training opportunities seem limited to online videos. Alternatively, I invest in my own career and have spent personal money on interesting training programs that fit my career vision. And, as a bonus, I meet other professionals from other companies. I hear their perspectives as part of the training class and often add these individuals to my networking base.

Seek broadening job assignments with an element of career risk

Avoid vertical promotion strategies. Do not wait for your supervisor’s job to open up. There is little learning in that approach. Be bold and seek different opportunities that will accelerate learning. More than once I have accepted jobs that were considerably different from my then-current role. And, those jobs were not always promotions. I looked for opportunities that stretched me and challenged me to learn something really different.

Be Ready When Change Happens

Samuel Johnson originated a generally quoted aphorism. Warren Buffet often uses it in his public speaking. The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.This certainly applies to breaking traditional career chains. Chaining yourself to traditional career strategies may seem fine until the day you need to change. However, you may find the chains are too strong to break just when you need to break them the most.