Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Defining Career Continuity

When this blog started out the posts were a lot more frequent (Apologies), as was my reliance on the dictionary.

Don't worry, this isn't another one of those articles about how things were better in the past (How the sun shone longer, confectionery was virtually free and there was no street crime, etc, etc.) but I do look back sometimes and think how much the dictionary helped.

Getting to grips with the words we all use to describe our relationship with work, our careers, what motivates us and so on, was a real eye opener because it turns out that plenty of these words have more than one meaning.

As a result - you guessed it - these important words could mean one thing to you and something completely different to the person next to you.

In anyone's book that can lead to trouble communicating.

(New English Dictionary - not the most precise definition in this case)

As the dictionary definitions came thick and fast - OK, in truth there was only really a handful - it became apparent that some of these words had meanings that took on a new relevance and importance within the world of work and careers.

Explorations into our individual relationship with work brought changes so the language people needed to express themselves had to change too.

It's been a while but these changes in work, and in the language used to describe it, have caused me to re-open the dictionary and offer a new word and a new definition today. That word and that subject is, 'Continuity'.

The idea of continuity in careers is definitely changing. Continuity in the past (you might prefer the word stability, or theme, or consistency, or something completely different but I like continuity) was mainly spoken of in terms of employment. "How many years have you been in continuous employment?" is a question you might recognise from questionnaires and forms.

Now and in the future, 'career continuity' can also mean something different. It has taken on a new meaning that goes beyond employment and refers to an individual person and the life-span of their career too.

As you can see below, I have borrowed from the style of a dictionary - Yes, Dictionaries do have style! - to try to expose a little more of this new 'career' dimension behind the word 'continuity'.

Take a look and see what you think...


noun ( pl. continuities)

1 the unbroken and consistent existence or operation of something over a period of time : you can find a new continuity behind your career choices

a state of stability and the absence of disruption : your career experiences demonstrate a continuity that goes beyond employment.

(often continuity between/with) a connection or line of development with no sharp breaks : learning more about your individual relationship with work will help you discover a new sense of career continuity

2 the maintenance of continuous action and self-consistent detail throughout your career

the linking of career items with a common theme and through all forms of communication (spoken, written, electronic, etc.)

ORIGIN late Middle English : from Old French continuite, from Latin continuitas, from continuare ‘continue,’ from continuus (see continuous).

I'll admit that the above definition only really makes sense if you can experience the difference between a lack of career continuity and possession of it. [or in the absence of possession, an understanding of career continuity at least.]

Without a sense of continuity, there is a good chance that your career can feel lost at times (e.g. if you are out of work for long periods).

With a sense of continuity that stays relevant to your career whether you are in work, out of work or facing anything else, you can never feel lost in the same way.

In other words, the feelings of being lost (or finding yourself in a place where recovery is impossible) aren't as destructive. In fact, if you can find a solid sense of career continuity, a great deal of power is taken away from difficult career situations and given back to you. The main threads and thrusts of your career remain in your hands.

I hope you don't mind this little trip down memory lane with the dictionary. I'd be very keen to hear your opinions on the subject of career continuity, including what your own definition of career continuity might look like!

All the best for now,



Here are some more dictionary definitions that have appeared on work/life fusion in previous posts:









  1. Thoroughly enjoyed this post, Paul. And if I may, would love to add my own take on continuity...

    I have a smorgasbord of a resume with stints in various fields at various levels, much of which could seem disconnected. The continuity for me is that I was always fascinated by the reasons I enjoyed or didn't enjoy my work and by the organizational behavior all around me. Wait...before anyone says that's not continuity, it's the reason I decided to become a work/career coach. Now I can use all my successes/ missteps/ doubts/ triumphs/ observations, etc. to help others - clearly connecting all the job dots for me. ;-)

  2. Hi Ronnie Ann,

    It's fantastic to hear that you have made this decision for your career!

    In the context of this post and your comment, I would argue that it is this sense of continuity you have discovered in your own experiences, that qualifies you to help others find theirs.

    All the very best as you and your smorgasbord go forward from here! ;)