Intelligent Career & motivation

A shift in mindset from permanent job to permanent value

It was reassuring to see this article from McKinsey which says that in spite of the huge rise in unemployment caused by Coronavirus, the increase in remote working has opened up the global talent pool to businesses and organisations, and that in turn will enable them to respond to opportunities that arise over the coming months and keep their businesses going. 

This is good news for us as individuals because it means there will be opportunities for work in the coming months if we’re willing to expand our horizons.  

For many of us, this may involve a shift in mindset from thinking about having a permanent job to offering permanent value in a constantly changing ‘market’. 

Permanent value is about getting clear on who we are, what we have to offer, and why we want to offer it.

It’s also about getting clear on the sort of people/organisations to whom we want to offer it. And then taking steps to connect with them. And it’s about keeping an eye out for opportunities, being responsive to need, learning & adapting. This is what Professor Michael Arthur & colleagues refer to as an ‘Intelligent Career’ in their book of the same name (2017). 

Having an ‘Intelligent Career’ means using our intelligence to pursue our careers

It’s an idea that’s been around for a number of years (and in fact has its origins in the world of business rather than careers), but it’s especially relevant now, and a helpful one for thinking about how to respond to what’s happening. 

Someone who pursues an ‘Intelligent Career’ needs self-awareness in relation to three areas of ‘knowing’:

  • their motivations to do what they do (Knowing-Why)
  • the expertise they bring to the table (Knowing-How)
  • the people they share their expertise with and the relationships that enable them to do that (Knowing-Whom)

A Career Investment Portfolio

These areas of ‘knowing’ can be understood as competencies that help us to make our professional contribution. 

We can also view them as investments: behaviours, relationships and beliefs in which we’ve invested time, energy and money over the years thereby building up a pot of career ‘capital’.  

Taking the financial analogy a step further, we can think about our  career ‘investment portfolio’ and ask ourselves these questions:

  • which investments do we want to grow moving forwards?
  • which ones do we want to shrink?
  • are there new investments that we want to introduce to the portfolio?
  • and how might these changes increase the overall value of the portfolio, both in terms of return on investment for ourselves, but also in terms of the professional value we bring to others?

Creating value with the right talent

McKinsey’s article talks about the importance now for businesses and organisations of getting the right people into the right roles to create value and not leaving this to chance. Our talent is viewed as a precious resource – without it, businesses cannot rebuild. 

The authors say: “Everything else—such as technology, access to raw materials, intellectual property, and customer relationships—is fleeting and the only sustainable advantage is rooted in harnessing the passion, skills, capabilities, judgment, and creativity that people bring to work.”

Now is the time therefore to get clear on the passion, skills, capabilities, judgment and creativity that you bring – your unique and valuable ‘talent’ package. The Intelligent Career framework can help you organise your thinking in relation to this.

If you’d like to find out more, please get in touch.


Arthur, M.B., Khapova, S.N., and Richardson, J. (2017). An Intelligent Career: Taking Ownership of Your Work and Your Life. New York: Oxford University Press.



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