The idea of a ‘career’ as a pre-determined and linear path is being challenged in many areas of working life.  An increasingly common experience is a changing set of mini-careers, like riding a carousel rather than climbing a ladder, where you get on and off at various times of your life.

At one end of the generational spectrum, young people are not staying long in the same place early in their careers (according to the recent McKinsey report).  Itchy feet caused by discomfort with the workplace (crushing hierarchies, lack of instant progression), uninspiring jobs and work environments alongside disillusioned lifers or a heightened sense that meaning matters more than money?

At the other end, older workers who have spent years in the same companies and institutions are either in survival mode, being made redundant or jumping ship into what they really wanted to do when they were younger.

Both scenarios mean coping with or embracing uncertainty.  Working longer or in multiple careers is likely to mean developing your ‘T-shape’ – having a deeper understanding in at least one field, as well as familiarity with a broader range of disciplines.

So if you are a recent graduate finding yourself in a job that bears little resemblance to your degree subject, don’t despair as it might be the best investment you ever make!

Transdisciplinary is the jargon – literacy in and ability to understand concepts across multiple disciplines.  If you follow a transdisciplinary path, prospective employers will…

– Have a candidate who is adaptable and committed to lifelong learning

– Appreciate the broader contribution you will make compared to different job candidates

– Have more options for deploying you

Employers want people who can speak the language of multi-disciplinary teams.  You can develop your contribution to a job by combining different experiences, mindsets, and experiences to create a unique offering.

For example, I know a careers specialist who is an expert in mathematics and this informs his business solution to the marketplace.  Think of a biologist with an engineering background and the potential for scientific breakthroughs.

Your transdisciplinary contribution will help employers…

  • Enhance communication within and between multi-disciplinary teams
  • Gain different perspectives and blended solutions to complex problems

Developing and sustaining your employability is hard and a lifetime’s activity.  To navigate the uncharted waters of the coming decade, you will need to continually reassess the skills you need and quickly put together the right resources to develop and update these.

You will need to be adaptable lifelong learners as many of the jobs of the next few years have yet to be invented.  Today’s global problems cannot be solved by separate disciplines.  Having breadth and enough depth in a range of disciplines will sustain your employability.

What different disciplines have you already studied or experienced?  How can you leverage them to your advantage to give greater meaning to your working life?