Four Career Trajectories: Linear, Expert, Spiral, Transitory

Kenneth Brousseau

Kenneth Brousseau

Successful careers can follow forms other than “up or out,” according to Decision Dynamics’ Kenneth Brousseau, Michael Driver of USC, with Lund University’s Kristina Eneroth, and Rikard Larsson.

They offered a “pluralistic career concept framework” that classified career “concepts”:

Four Career Concepts

Four Career Concepts

LinearTraditional upward movement, with variable tenure in job roles and motivated by power, achievement and related promotions.
Behavioral competencies include: Leadership, competitiveness, cost-efficiency, logistics management, profit orientation.
This career concept is most seen in tall hierarchies with a narrow span of control.

Michael Driver

Michael Driver

Expert – Little movement and long (sometimes life-long) role tenure due to deepening expertise in a narrow discipline.
Motives include mastery, expertise, and security, and meaningful rewards for this career concept are continued training, benefits, recognition.
Competencies are quality, commitment, reliability, technical competence, stability orientation.
This career concept is most well-matched to flat functional organizations.

Career Motives, Competencies

Career Motives, Competencies

Spiral – Lateral movement to broaden functional exposure, with sever to ten year tenure in role families.
Motivated by personal growth, creativity, and suited to matrix organizations with cross-functional teams.
Rewards include cross-functional lateral assignments and training.
Key competencies include creativity, teamwork, skill diversity, lateral coordination, people development.
This career concept is most often found in loose, temporary team structures.

Transitory – Lateral moves of shorter duration (three to five years) are motivated by desire for variety, independence.
Most often found in temporary team structures, behavioral skills include speed, networking, adaptability, fast learning, project focus.
Meaningful rewards are job rotation, temporary assignments, immediate cash bonuses.

This team’s research was distilled into assessment tools focused on career “fit” with an organization’s structure and objectives.

Timothy Butler

Timothy Butler

A similar emphasis on cultural fit is found in CareerLeader Inventory, based on Timothy Butler and James Waldroop’s research at Harvard Business School.

James Waldroop

James Waldroop

-*Which of the four career trajectories seems most like yours?

-*Which career assessment tools have you found most useful to determine your skills, interests, and best-fit organizational context?

Twitter: @kathrynwelds
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©Kathryn Welds


2 thoughts on “Four Career Trajectories: Linear, Expert, Spiral, Transitory

  1. Pingback: Career Advancement as Contest – Tournament and How to Win | Kathryn Welds | Curated Research and Commentary

  2. Pingback: “Derailing” Personality Measures Predict Leadership Mishaps | Kathryn Welds | Curated Research and Commentary

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