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What is Career Mobility and Why Students Should Know It

Photo by Sora Shimazaki

Career mobility is the movement of workers across positions (be it vertical or horizontal) or a change in job altogether. Vertical career mobility occurs generally through promotions, while horizontal mobility could refer to departmental rotations or change in responsibilities while maintaining the same level of seniority.

Career mobility can happen by choice of the employer or the employee. For instance, an employer can decide to promote or transfer an employee as a result of their performance review. Additionally, an employee may request for a transfer to another department or a promotion. On a higher level, career mobility can also happen due to company merges, acquisitions or restructuring.

Why is Career Mobility Important?

Generally, career mobility allows for job advancement or career development for employees. Often, companies that limit career mobility find themselves with low employee satisfaction, high turnover rate and low productivity. 

Changing jobs or moving to a different department allows employees to explore new roles and gain new skills, knowledge and experiences. It also helps them improve communication and build a stronger network of coworkers.

Finally, career mobility also allows employees to ask for better salaries when they take on new roles or get promoted.

Career Mobility Trends

In the past, workers valued job security and companies rewarded employees who stayed loyal to the organisation. This means people used to stay in their jobs for decades. 

However, due to the internet and recent trends, the job market has opened up. You could search for available jobs at your fingertips and employers begin to value experience over certification. Because the job market is increasingly complex and versatile, it has become easier for employees to ‘job hop’.

‘Job hopping’ enables employees to seek better opportunities, ask for an increase in salary and change job titles. When this happens, some companies attempt to retain their staff with a counter-offer, giving a salary increase or performance bonus.

Today career mobility is seen as the movement of employees that lead to better career outcomes for both employees and employers.

Internal mobility

In order to retain workers, companies are implementing mobility initiatives that allow employees to move within the organisation to explore new roles and expand their experiences. This can happen through team member rotation, on a project basis, or permanent transfer. 

Internal mobility allows employers to make the most of their internal talent pipeline by searching for talents within the organisation. This helps the company save time searching for new talent, onboarding them and training them. 

Moreover, internal mobility also prevents employees from feeling stuck and bored performing the same tasks within their roles. Staff can understand how other teams operate and expand their skills and knowledge. This also improves interdepartmental communication.

Why students should be aware of career mobility

In this time of VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity), the job scene has become a melting pot of personalities, skills and experiences. Companies no longer only look at candidates’ education, technical skills and job titles, but also culture fit, personalities, performance characters, values and work styles. Employees are also considering various factors when choosing a company to work for.

The nature of jobs today may also drastically change in the near future. Hence, students may not end up working in the field they graduated from. A recent study by Intelligent found that 54% of 1,000 American graduates do not work in the field of their study.

Therefore, it is vital that students gain awareness of themselves, reflect often and understand their personal and professional values. This helps them develop adaptability and resilience in their careers. Knowing and being honest about your own values, skillsets and experiences will work well when deciding on a suitable career path.

Overall, mastering career mobility helps students understand how to navigate the ever-changing world of jobs without being swayed by trends or settling for a job they are not happy with. 

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