The “Hybrid Career” – where individuals move in and out of working relationships, developing broad and varied skill sets – is something that has emerged over the last decade and has started to become the norm of today’s workplace. This unique model works because it allows for flexibility and enlightenment in a time when people are demanding such. But this is a huge paradigm shift from the linear career paths of past generations.

Nonetheless, the “hybrid career” isn’t going away. Work culture is evolving and this career model continues to be supported by major shifts in culture like the increasing use of temporary staff – freelancers, gig workers and subject matter experts. For example, Gen Zers are starting work earlier and are changing jobs more often. A recent  study found that some 40% of younger full-time workers also now work part-time in “side-hustles.”  One research report also found that 60% of today’s teens anticipate having multiple careers by the time they are age 30.

Another shift in culture that supports this is model is the fact that we are living longer and healthier lives, so the concept of retirement at age 65 no longer applies. AARP reports that between 2014 and 2024, the number of workers between the ages 65 and 74 will increase by 55% while the entire workforce will grow by just 5%. 11% of AARP respondents say they expect to keep working into their 80s or beyond.

LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman has coined this fluid, hybrid exchange of skills and labor in a career model as “tours of duty.” This representation is prompting progressive company leaders to design their organizations differently, assuming that people will only stay a few years. This will require new definitions of flexibility and reliability for all involved.

Here are three examples where you can make a difference in your own “hybrid career”:

Offer on-boarding processes that expedite trust and productivity.

As a new team member, ask to receive reading materials that you can review prior to your first day of work. If possible, call into a team meeting to get a feel for the team interactions and communicating style. Doing this will allow you to understand more about the workplace culture before you officially begin. In turn, you can more quickly achieve trust and value from those that you will be working with.

On-boarding for traditional staff members is somewhat expected, however with hybrid careers, individuals will move in and out of roles more quickly. Short-term assignments will become more commonplace and it is these short-term roles that are often not included in the on-boarding programs offered to traditional staff roles. In Deloitte’s 2018 Human Capital Trends Report, only 45% of the HR and business leaders’ respondents said that they provide contractors/freelancer/gig workers with training, and only 54% offer formal onboarding. Taking a best practice from the early days of outsourcing: Treat your outsourcing resources as partners, not vendors; they are a critical part of your team productivity.

Having been a Cultural Scout at sparks & honey for short stint, I was familiar with the way the company operated and their process for delivering their output to clients before I even stepped foot in the office. This was critical to my successful assimilation into the company culture.  

Respect institutional knowledge and leave a useful trail for others to follow.  

This fluid career path will further disrupt access to what is referred to as institutional knowledge. This is the understanding of the organization that an individual develops through their work experience. The longer the relationship, the more detailed and relevant the history is likely to be. Share your experiences and best practices freely in a professional and measurable fashion.

As work roles become that much shorter and more output-focused, companies will have to rethink how the institutional knowledge is shared within their ecosystem. Recording a journal of one’s learning during their work term can be helpful. Equally important is to ensure that there is a conscious effort for management and staff members to share this learning on a regular basis. Reinforcing what is working, while being open to piloting alternative suggestions, can keep the institutional knowledge current and relevant.

During my personal Apprenticeship experience, we kept a journal of our observations. More than once, our peers told us, that the experience of familiarizing us with industry software, enriched their own approach and efficiency in using these data science tools. In turn, onboarding tools have been improved for the next hire.  

Share ideas and resources in real time.

A fluid work environment necessitates that data and ideas are shared and are accessible in real time. RIP the siloed organizational structure. RIP individual files kept on a desktop. Learn how to use Google files, Slack and internal database programs.

In a lean and flat organization where everyone could express an opinion and take ownership of a project, I was able to take part in the evolution of a thought-leadership project called The Future of Work 2030. I learned new skills and taught at the same time, drawing from my experience and expertise.  

A traditional career no longer has a common definition; the “hybrid career” will allow a variety of personal and professional experiences to become integrated into the workplace. To make the most of this evolving workplace environment, it is imperative that individuals be open to learning as much as possible, as quickly as possible – and that we effectively contribute to feedback loops that will make it easier for ourselves to move forward in our own hybrid career journeys.