We have all heard about bell curves. Especially during a performance review! But bell curves are used to understand a lot of other topics like product lifecycle, marketing, quality control, statistical analysis, and so on.

Applying the bell curve to a career lifecycle, it consists of the following phases.

Entry Phase: The first phase is the entry phase and it could be long one. During the entry phase, the growth or the sale of the product is difficult to pick up.

Growth Phase: In a short period, growth picks up very fast. The rate of increase in the growth phase is much more than the entry phase. During the growth phase, there is tremendous demand for resources, human efforts, etc.

Peak or Saturation Phase: At some point in time, the rate of growth may start to decrease and stall till it becomes a plateau.

Decline Phase: Unless a new strategy or tactic is adopted, or the product is reinvented, it may get into a decline. Eventually, the product may start losing its popularity. The technology may start getting older or obsolete.

Death Phase: The popularity of the product will go on reducing, which may lead to a slow or sometimes sudden death. The product becomes outdated for several reasons and production is discontinued.

Career S Curve

Let’s apply the same concept of the bell curve to a career. In this case, we don’t want a situation where we get into a decline phase or the death phase.

Entry Phase: Your entry into your career. It could be a long period with minimum growth.

Growth Phase: Your growth as a professional in that career. In this period, the rate of growth will increase, and in a small amount of time lot of development is achieved.

Peak or Saturation Phase: The rate of growth will reduce and probably become flat unless checked and may go into a decline.

Traditional Careers

  • Many professionals are at their peak when they retire. For example, some professionals retire at the peak of their careers. This may also mean that it has taken them their entire career to reach the peak.
  • A typical traditional career life span was about 35-40 years.
  • Retirement at the age of 57-60 years was typical.

New Age Careers

  • Speed of life has increased because of mobile, Internet, and other technologies.
  • It does not need 30-35 years for the professional to reach the peak of their career.
  • A career may just be over in 15-20 years.
  • Due to increase in life expectancy and cost of living, you will probably have more time resulting in multiple careers that may last 50 years.
  • As your career reaches the 20 years stage, remember that you may still have 30 years ahead of you. So after 20 years, you would probably be getting into another career. So, the total career life span may actually be extended from 35-40 years to maybe 50 or even 60 years in some cases.

Combinations of New Age Careers

There could be a different number of careers, maybe 2-3 in one professional life span. Based on that, there could be various combinations of S curves possible.

Combination 1

As we don’t want to see the decline of career 1, it is wise to start your second career before the first one declines. Similarly, before your career 2 declines, career 3 should start.

These can be said as three cascaded careers.

All careers may not be equal in length. It is possible that 1st career was 20 years, 2nd was 15 years, and 3rd was 10 years.

Combination 1— Example 1

Navjot Singh Sidhu
Career 1 – Cricketer – Successful.
Career 2 – Commentator/TV Anchor – Successful.
Career 3 – Politician – Still developing.

Combination 1— Example 2

Arnold Schwarzenegger
Career 1 – Body Builder – Successful.
Career 2 – Actor – Successful.
Career 3 – Politician (not as successful as 1 & 2.)

Combination 2

Two Parallel Careers – Career 1 & 2.
You may simultaneously be working on two careers.
This is rare, but definitely possible.

Combination 2— Example

Justin Randall Timberlake
Actor – Dancer – Songwriter – Successful
Record Producer – Successful

There is a lot more time available to him to develop his career further.

Combination 3

Two Parallel Careers – Career 1 & 2.
Career 1 & 2 are developing simultaneously.
Career 3 Starts after Career 1 & 2 have ended.

Combination 4

Two Parallel Careers – Career 1 & 2.
Career 3 Starts after Career 1 Ends
Career 1 maybe the stepping-stone career for Career 3.
Career 2 maybe the transition or back-up career.
Career 3 may be the Dream Career.

Combination 5

It is very rare, where one career is going on for an entire professional lifetime— from beginning to end.

Career 1 is Primary & Long-term Career.

Career 2 and Career 3 are short-term, intermittent, fulfilling, or rewarding careers. They can be to fulfil your desires or passion and can be truly satisfying.

Career 2 and Career 3 may be complementing to Career 1.

Combination 5— Example

Amitabh Bachchan

Career 1 is Acting – Successful
Career 2 is Film Production House Owner – Not Successful
Career 3 is TV Anchor – Successful

Career 1 & Career 3 have merged and are moving forward together  

Points to Ponder

  • One S Curve could be a job whereas another (and maybe parallel) S Curve maybe a business (can also be part-time.)
  • Some careers were born in the last two decades – they will become stronger. For example, Technical Writer, Instructional Designer, and so on.

These careers have not reached their peak yet. This means a career itself may have an S Curve.

  • For example, you may continue with your career as a Technical Writer, while one of your earlier careers comes to an end.
  • Some are newborn careers – they will emerge or grow in a few years. For example, Social Media Planner.
  • Raising a family is also an S Curve.
  • Some careers will end because those jobs themselves will become obsolete.
  • S Curves may get morphed – Some careers will be entry point for subsequent careers. Some careers will start when the previous careers have saturated. We know a lot of people who have got into one particular career then moved on to another career, and then changed the career to move on to something else altogether.
  • Some careers are going to need training. Shifting from one career to another may not be very easy. You may have been educated for the first career, but have you prepared for the second one?

Ongoing training may be one way to make up for this deficit and improve a career’s long-term prospects. A lot of courses are available in the market that can develop your skills to help you build the second or maybe the third successful career.

Have You Ever Thought!

– Where are you in your career? Are you at the entry point, growth phase, or saturation?
– Are you prepared for an unsuccessful career? Maybe the decline has started, and you are not aware of it. And it may come as an unwanted surprise.
– Are you prepared for premature termination of your career, owing to external factors? It could be the technology, society, lifestyle, etc; becoming a threat to your career.
– What is your next likely career S curve?
– Do you think you are ready to move on to the next career in your professional life?
– Are you trained for your next career S curve? Professional training can help you get out of the entry phase and get into the growth phase very quickly. It will take your career to the next level. Continuous learning is mandatory for any professional career today.

Have you identified the next training that you want to undergo?