The agile career of today

Our monthly speaker blog series picks up on themes that were discussed at our Cluster networking events. This month Shary Vargo from Vargo + Lewis shares her insight into agile career paths. 


In days gone by a career path was linear, there was a hierarchy to work your way up and a perceived sideways or backward step could be seen as a failure. Today careers are varied and ever moving, what we like to refer to as “agile”. The hierarchical ladder is less common; instead, we look at acquiring experiences for career growth and development.

So often we see technically brilliant people move into management or leadership positions because that’s the road most travelled, whether they have the desire or skills to fulfil that type of role or not. As we experience skill shortages in New Zealand smart leaders are addressing the need to challenge staff by matching their motivated skills with development opportunities that meet key business objectives as well as staff future aspirations.

An agile career path is about uncovering opportunities that will help you towards your goals in a less linear fashion. Ideally, these will also benefit the business you’re working in as opportunities are identified and proactively pursued.

When considering career steps, it is important to think widely about the options. Here are some options to reflect upon.


Current Role: remain in place

For now, your current role gives you enough growth opportunities to remain fit and challenged.

Realign: move down

Personal priorities, health and other work-life balance issues may require considering contributions to your organisation that demand less responsibility – short or long term.


Enhance: grow current role

This option involves growing your key skills and interest areas by taking on more of what positively challenges you and negotiating out of tasks that no longer motivate you.

Relocate: move business unit/area

Uncovering options in different business areas that will use or build upon your current skills and knowledge base. It may be this shift provides increased future career opportunities. This option may require a geographical shift.


Vertical: stepping up

Seeking roles or functions with more responsibility, directed towards your career path.

Redirect: uncover a new path

Changing career path with your current employer may involve utilising your industry knowledge base within a different field. This option is likely to involve re-training or seeking new qualifications.


Explore: look around

Involves seeking opportunities within your organisation to test out areas of interest that fit your profile. These may include project work or a secondment that give you the freedom to try without commitment.

Propose: create new horizons

After consultation with decision-makers, submit a business case for creating a new role or function that fits you and benefits your employer.


Lateral: step across

This option gives you an opportunity to extend your current skills and knowledge base within a new role that is at a similar level and responsibility.

External: move out

Seeking a better career fit outside the organisation or an entrepreneurial opportunity that fits your desired future.


As an individual considering the next step in your career, take time to reflect on what you really enjoy in your work and what you want to do less of. Look for options outside the traditional and be agile, creating connections to new experiences and growth opportunities that pave the way to that career designed for you, by you. The support of an objective career coach can be hugely useful in the pursuit of these plans.

Has your recent engagement survey revealed staff want more support with career development? Or maybe you’ve discovered the need for career development conversations in retrospect when a valued team member has already made a decision to leave your organisation?

Career planning and development conversations are critical, yet managers often avoid them due to a lack of expertise in facilitating such a conversation. Experienced leaders use career planning to help retain talented people who want to progress. Losing talent is costly to the business. Longer term, people may move on but the business has benefited in the meantime plus built a supportive and empowered culture. Such cultures are comprised of agile people who look for ways to achieve business objectives while developing their own careers.

This article was contributed by Shary Vargo of Vago + Lewis. Contact Vargo + Lewis to discuss how they can work with you to provide the essential tools and expertise managers need for taking the lead in those critical career conversations. As experienced career coaches, they provide objectivity, key resources and strategic thinking that benefits both individuals and organisations.

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