Proteus - what’s a Greek god got to do with my career

Adaptability is a prerequisite to sustain on todays’ labor market.

It is unclear how economy will develop in the coming months ahead. The pandemic is not over just yet. It is likely that there will be changing effects onto the labor market with an increasing brickled jobsecurity to even job-loss. Adaptability is certainly a key factor to sustain the current situation. Employability is usually the term used to express an individuals’ capability to seize professional opportunites. A prerequisite is to be technically and professionally up to date and to have a clear idea about your competencies and personal characteristics. 

Proteus is giving a good example of adaptability

Douglas T. Hall, Professor for Management at Boston University, is suggesting to keep it a bit like Proteus to sustain on the labor market. Hall is referring to Proteus a god known from Greek mythology who was sometimes called the son of Poseidon. Unlike other gods like Zeus who could just transform completely into anything or anyone else, Proteus was capable of taking different shapes and forms according to any given situation while remaining himself. People who take it like Proteus are capable to swiftly find their way professionally in a fast-paced environment. They have the necessary traits to pursue a satisfying career. 

This way they take responsibility for themselves and make professional decisions in line with their values, while freedom, growth and purpose of their actions remain highly important. They consider tangible and intangible factors when measuring their own success, but the criteria are rather subjective, meaning that it’s about personal psychological success and lesser about things such as a higher salary.

People with a Proteus’ like demeanour primarily identify with their profession and engagement and secondly with the company they work for. They are psychologically and physically flexible, rather extrovert and good in networking. They are open for new experiences, ready to continuously learn and develop. They have good self-awareness and know their values, goals and decision lines. All of this gives the frame to stay themselves by all flexibility. 

So, it appears that it makes sense to nurture these mindsets und characteristics for a successful career journey but also because they enhance your resources. Gnothi seauton, recognizing and knowing oneself at the core of this idea. 

Limits of a Proteic career

Starting with one of the interpretations of the name Proteus meaning erratic; he really is unsteady and too swiftly changing his mind. So, when going about your career development, it’s still clarity and sense in direction and flexibility we are looking for.

According to Hall the «Proteic Career» also raises questions around self-reliant career management. Positive outcomes seem to rather be correlated with highly qualified and motivated empolyees in terms of a satisfactory career journey. Self-managing ones carrer can be overwhelming for actually many employees. Social responsibility and solidarity are required for keeping ones' place within the labour market. This might be a discussion to be held at another place.

One further problematic aspect of the Proteic Typus is that he/she primarily identifies with his/her occupation but not so much with his/her company. This gives another perspective onto the generational discussion of the preferences of Millenials given that Proteus is a figure of antique greeek mythology. Right, the story about him dates back more than 2'000 years. And yes, I am elaborating on a figure of ancient mythology but I don’t want to iterate the same old ideas of generational challenges. I’m just saying one can learn to move on. After all, it's a bit unfair to say that younger generations have to deal with professional uncertainty at the beginning of their career and then expect them to feel comfortable with the situation. As an employer you want to know that your people are engaged, loyal and actively shape your company culture. Values that are worth to nurish. In other words, we are well advised to support individual responsibility. The challenge here is to balance solidarity, ingroup – outgroup tendencies and the concept of loyalty. Responsibility is distributed on both the individuals’ and the employers.

Our career yourney map framework incorporates some of these ideas and is based on an intrapreneurship model that can serve to people and corporate development.

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