- First introduced by Professor Hall in 1976 in his book Careers in Organisations, the protean career theory proposes that the most successful people are those who are highly flexible and adapt to change. The theory is named after Proteus, a sea-god in Greek mythology who could change shape at will in the face of opportunities and threats.
- The protean theory views a career as on ongoing sequence of events, a process managed by the person rather than by the organisation. A protean person’s own career choices and search for self-fulfillment are the unifying elements in his or her life, and the criterion for success is internal (psychological) rather than external (money and prestige). A career is seen to extend over the whole working life, characterised by change and adaptation, autonomy and self-direction. Determining whether it is ‘successful’ is up to the individual themselves.
- Being protean requires us to equip ourselves for change, to anticipate change before it occurs, and to take action when the time comes. Someone who adopts this approach is committed to their own ongoing personal and professional growth, including the development of interpersonal, communication, and transferable work skills, and views their life and career as an integrated whole.
- It’s possible that there has never been a better time to consider a protean career path. The economic outlook remains pretty bleak, and it’s more important than ever to make sure your plans and portfolio are as comprehensive as possible. A protean view of your career might be particularly appropriate if you feel stuck in a less-than-ideal job, are worried about the stability of your job, or struggle with finding a good career-life ‘fit’.
- To become protean, you’ll need to commit to being proactive, and you’ll need a high degree of self-awareness – a clear sense of identity. Then you’ll be able to exercise adaptability to meet the ever-changing professional and personal circumstances you encounter.
- Ask yourself how you are currently managing and growing your career, and refocus on your central goals and dreams. Make sure your workplace and extracurricular choices support that central vision. ‘Shift’ your focus and adapt if necessary!
- Charles Darwin expressed it well: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, or the most intelligent, but rather the one most adaptable to change.”
Written by Fiona Rom