top of page

Is career agility the new intelligence?

In a fast changing and uncertain world of work, career agility is a ‘must learn’ competency.

This guest blog for Membership World explores career agility, portfolio careers and shares some practical tips and self-reflective questions.

Impact of Covid-19 on the world of work:

  • Multi-faceted impact

  • Forced change

  • Severe disruption

  • Digitisation

  • Innovation catalyst

  • Accelerated change

  • Need for agility

  • Fast decision making

  • Less hierarchy

  • More human

“When the winds of change blow, some people build windmills, others walls.” – Chinese Proverb.

What does career agility mean?

  • “The ability to move quickly and easily”

  • “The ability to think and understand quickly”

  • “The skills of pivoting quickly”

Source = Dictionary definition.

What does career agility mean at a practical level?

  • Technological agility?

  • Political agility?

  • Skills and knowledge agility?

  • Career pivot agility – in response to trends?

  • Career choice: Portfolio career = agile career

  • Thinking agility as a competitive edge?

  • Career plan ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’?

  • A type of intelligence?

  • Something else!

What’s your view?

5 career adaptability competencies

Interesting research by UKCES/The University of Warwick in August 2011 about career adaptability, defined 5 competencies, the ‘5 Cs’: Click here

The 5 Cs of career agility

  • Control: being proactive, decisive, and taking responsibility for your career.

  • Curiosity: broadening your options by seeking options, possibilities and knowledge.

  • Commitment: passionately pursuing and taking action to move to the career direction of your choosing.

  • Confidence: belief in yourself and that you can achieve your goals.

  • Concern: having a positive and philosophical attitude to mistakes or rejection.

How can you develop career agility?

These are career agility behaviours:

  • Consistently respond to not resist change.

  • Rotate your career from your interests + drive.

  • Create opportunities around your skill sets + motivations.

  • Be adaptable and flexible with change.

  • Possess/cultivate curiosity + resilience.

  • Take responsibility for your own career.

  • Follow/leverage trends – stay ahead.

  • Seek formal and informal advice/mentors.

Is a periscope useful for career agility?

Why a portfolio career is useful for developing career agility

Every portfolio career is unique. They are a changing mix of part-time employment, self-employment, volunteering, study, travel and rest.

A portfolio career helps you develop career agility because:

  • It is always changing.

  • You’re always learning

  • New challenges keep you on your toes

  • It ensures you are agile

What do people say about career agility and portfolio careers?

These are extracts from ‘The New Polymaths’, an Energise white paper about career agility which included qualitative interviews with a sample of 30.

“Career agility means giving yourself more than one career option – a career plan ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’.” Elizabeth Rimmer, CEO, LawCare.

“Career agility must mean flexibility in terms of outlook and expectations, and also attitude.” Stefan Stern.

“A portfolio career ensures that you never stop learning.” Sally Penni, MBE, Barrister, founder of Women in the Law.

“Career agility is ‘the proactive investment in continuous learning.” Maggi Evans, author, conference speaker, consultant and psychologist.

“There was a time when careers moved in a linear direction, with few or even just one employer in your working life, and a focus in just one working area. This situation no longer applies, which means that job and career decision making has never been more crucial and has become more complex than it has been for previous generations. We must be mindful of the impact we make (or fail to make) and how it might affect any future decisions at work and in our lives.” Peter Wilford, Career coach and job search specialist.

“Career agility is about taking action when necessary or appropriate to craft one’s own future direction, willing to take calculated risks and not being limited by career choices taken previously; taking a positive stance and constructing a future forward path when faced with unforeseen circumstances.” Evelyn Davies-Jones.


So IS career agility the new intelligence?

  • Intelligence = “the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills.”

  • Agility = “the ability to move quickly and easily”, “the ability to think and understand quickly”, “the skills of pivoting quickly.”

What is your view?

Key points

  • Increased agility is essential in the digital age with change accelerating.

  • Agility IS a type of intelligence – faster thinking.

  • It is also a mindset.

  • Agility can be developed, it is not always innate.

  • 5 career agility competencies: Control, Curiosity, Commitment, Confidence, Concern.

  • Setting CPD goals ensures career agility is developed.

  • A portfolio career is a smart choice for the digital/knowledge age ensuring career agility.

  • Horizon scanning – it is essential to keep a close eye on trends, in a fast changing and uncertain world.

Is a telescope useful for career agility?

A portfolio career:

  • Prevents complacency, creates growth

  • Broadens your career horizons.

  • Career agility behaviours are developed naturally.

  • Enables you to pivot in different/new directions.

  • Forces you to do marketing and networking.

  • Gives you more options/reduces career risk.

  • Makes you look at changing trends.

  • Career resilience builds – keeps you on your toes!

  • A portfolio career is like taking out ‘career insurance.’

  • A portfolio career helps you to acquire and apply knowledge and skills.

4 tips to build your career agility

  1. Choose 1 of the 5 career adaptability competencies and block out 20 minutes each week to develop this career adaptability ‘muscle’.

  2. Keep a learning and mistakes diary each week, and review it once a month, highlighting the key development areas.

  3. Seek the advice of respected recruitment agents to gain their perspective on what employers are looking for.

  4. Draw a line graph for your career showing the ups and downs and reflect on insights at these times to inform your future choices.

7 Self-reflective questions

  1. How could I develop a growth mindset?

  2. Who in my network could I proactively seek feedback from to develop my self awareness?

  3. What 5 emerging specialisms in my area of work would enable me to build my career agility?

  4. When, where and how can I develop my career agility?

  5. How would I score myself against the 5 agility competencies?

  6. What is the best way for me to explore if a portfolio career is for me?

  7. What CPD would help me to develop my career agility?

About us

If you want to find out more about ProAge, visit our website

Rachel Brushfield, ProAge, Age-Inclusion at Work LinkedIn: Web: E mail: M + 44 (0) 7973 911137


bottom of page