Career Change
Why more people are taking a non-linear career path
Careers in Depth
Career Change
Why more people are taking a non-linear career path
Careers in Depth

In a post-pandemic world, many people have taken time to evaluate their work/life balance and consider whether the career path they thought they were on is actually still where they want to be.

Pre-Covid, many individuals were so busy on the treadmill of full-time office-based roles that they didn’t take a moment to stop and think whether they were actually getting sufficient fulfilment from their work or, if instead,they were headed blindly down a particular path perhaps because that’s what they have always done.

Additionally, faced with the prospect of working for longer than previous generations, which can be attributed to a number of factors including better health, an ageing population and the cost of living crisis which is keeping over 50’s in the workplace, it is more likely that people may find it a cause of stress and burnout to remain in the same line of work for what could be up to 60 years according to recent reports than the traditional 40 year average career span.

As such, non-linear careers are gaining favour and not only is the practise of changing direction as part of a career plan becoming more acceptable, it is actually showing signs of developing into being the trend of the future.


What is a non-linear career path

Most people tend to imagine career growth as a linear path that should have a continuous increase of ranks, titles, and scope. This notion, however, can withhold us from assessing the actual growth of a career move, that might be less quantitative and more qualitative - such as a change of context, exposure to more complexity, and learning a new function or industry. Such career moves appear to be lateral, but may actually in essence be growth moves, as they prepare us for bigger roles.

Traditional career paths tend to follow the pattern:

·       Select a subject to study

·       Secure a job aligned to your qualifications

·       Work toward promotion

·       Eventually reach a top position within your field

This is seen mostly in professions such as medicine, law or accountancy but is often also the path that many professionals in other sectors feel that they should follow, sometimes due to parental or societal pressure to choose a ‘stable’ career early on in life. However,this false perception can stand in the way of critically needed development in the long run and as people begin to re-evaluate their priorities and, with workplace happiness now the overriding factor on which people place importance in their career, a non-linear path is fast becoming a fashionable and more acceptable way to approach working life.

Non-linear careers are not just a case of job-hopping from one company to another, they just start out in one direction and change course several times along the way based on discoveries individuals make about themselves and their passions, along with occasional ‘happy accidents’ which can occur through unexpected opportunities or life events.


How easy is it to change direction?

In the majority of cases, a ‘job for life’ is increasingly becoming a thing of the past as the job market fluctuates and people work for longer. As such, employers are now starting to look for transferable skills and innovative ways to fill vacancies with enthusiastic talented employees rather than just those with the right degree and a set number of years of experience.

This trend for skills-based recruitment can provide companies with a wider talent pool and can speed up the recruitment process which also helps to reduce hiring costs, as well as aiding employers to fulfil their commitments for diversity, equity and inclusion, where candidates may have been overlooked in the past for not having the right background or qualifications.

Therefore, people who now arrive at an employer’s door through a non-linear approach can be a far more appealing prospect than perhaps they would have been in the past, often bringing with them self-taught skills,a wide variety of experience and a fresh approach to a role. This of course means that non-traditional career switchers now have greater opportunities to progress and succeed.

In fact, some organisations are even starting to proactively encourage these less traditional paths, by making non-linear moves mandatory for their leaders in order for them to gather critical experiences, that allow them to develop enterprise-level leadership skills.


Risk versus reward

As Mark Zuckerberg said ‘The biggest risk is not taking any risks’.

Following a non-linear path, especially if it is something which you have instigated rather than waiting for an opportunity to present itself, can seem a little daunting. However, following your passions is likely to bring greatly increased job satisfaction and place you in a work environment where you feel comfortable with being your authentic self. This can have a profoundly positive effect on your confidence,ability to build working relationships and your overall performance and success.

Although there is an element of risk involved, and non-linear paths may sometimes require a sideways move rather than a direct promotion, it is important to focus on the gains to be made and also ensure that you prepare sufficiently before embarking on the change.

Before a non-linear move, it is advisable to take time to reflect on your interests, strengths, goals, and past experiences as these can help to identify the move you want to make. You may surprise yourself with how your goals and interests may have shifted over time in response to experiences gained during your working life or you might realise that you no longer enjoy using certain skills which you had trained in.

This heightened self-awareness can reduce the risk and uncertainty in a career change situation, giving you abetter understanding of your own talents and passions before making an informed decision about the direction to take next.

The key drivers for a non-linear career path tend to include the desire to keep learning and growing, to always remain open to opportunities, have a personal growth mindset and aim to take on roles you find purpose and passion in.


If you’re considering a career change you might want to speak to a career coach to help you define your path and identify your skills and passions. At Careers in Depth our expert team of career consultants can assist you with making career change decisions. Get in touch today to find out more.


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