The rise of the protean career

The rise of the protean career: utopian ideology or logical solution to the future of work? Enate's Digital Content Manager, Catherine Grayson, explores the shift. 

The corporate world has changed and boundaries have shifted – where we work, how we work, who we work with. The future of work is in a state of constant flux. But is that really a bad thing?

Let’s face it, we’ve all adapted to some sort of enormous life changes in our personal and/or professional lives at some point which may have at times felt like a derailing process, only to serve us better, to know ourselves better, and how to manage ourselves better going forwards. That’s life - and it is this adaptability that makes human beings so unique, and resilient. Isn’t it slightly strange, in that case, that despite our personal and professional growth, many businesses are still adhering to the work patterns of the 1950s. Is the 9 – 5 office-based job description still as attractive as it was decades ago?

Perhaps the question to ask is ‘is it still as relevant as it was decades ago?’. With the growth of personal freedoms, equality, inclusivity and diversity, this feels like the last cog in the corporate machine to turn, and it is strange that something like a pandemic has now secured this position far more quickly than had we continued to wait for a ‘tide of change’. This blogger, for one, never understood why employees were given laptops only to have to work with it at an office desk every day, and after a lengthy, environmentally unfriendly commute to work, especially when many of us find it more productive to work from home. I have always wanted to do well in my chosen field and executed accordingly on a daily basis, regardless of my physical location, which has previously enabled me to work in Germany or while travelling to a range of events across London with no business interruption. And in fact, I would be working PAYE for a business one day, and freelancing the next. Crazy or what. The point is, neither were interrupted by me working outside of an office 9 – 5 environment. Welcome to the protean career.

The case of business interruption is a common theme by now, and perhaps, had we cultivated a protean-esque mindset a little earlier it would be less of a climb for so many, at a particularly different and stressful time. So even if a business is currently considering change, or looking forward to returning to the previous normal, consider these points:

Gen Y, or the ‘millennials’, are your employees of now and the future, and this generation is actively evolving the protean career philosophy, perhaps without knowing it. This is in part, because of the open diversity – from orientation to mental health openness – which has allowed a generation to think of a different, perhaps more ‘authentic’ (a term used far more in 2020 than before), route to market.

Environmental issues also remain a key focus for Gen Y. The lockdown illustrated how quickly we can reduce air pollution via less travel. All the campaigns to eat vegan, reuse shopping bags and buy locally may have had a positive impact on the environment, but none as large as travelling significantly less. So, if we are happy to work from home, and can Zoom or Teams call our associates in India or Japan, we can do so knowing that we are pumping far less emissions into the air than we did during the ‘pre-pandemic era’.

And having worked with and witnessed the changes within the LGBTQ+ community’s employment rights, where a same-sex couple (or LGBTQ+ individual) can have a child biologically or via adoption and yet is not entitled to ‘maternity’ leave, while the other parent brings home the bacon, means that the 1950’s model clearly has little bearing on our new future. Where some may have found these changes challenging, others have enjoyed the ripple-effect of further equality as women are no longer seen as a business risk should they leave to have a baby. The ‘risk’ of being in the office or not is now equally shared, and we’re all in this together. As a lifelong lone parent since the 90’s, I could only have hoped for such equality and the removal of unhealthy boundaries.

So why would careers and equality be a topic for Enate? Because we can help businesses evolve, fast. Our technology allows employers to manage its workforce with minimum capex and minimum disruption, enabling the workforce to work in a way that suits their individual commitments while delivering the required business outcomes. Thoughts of old focused around ‘robots taking our jobs’, but recent disruptions have only confirmed that this is not the case, and in fact AI can not only support business continuity in times of crisis, but also enable workers to enjoy their careers knowing that they are getting the job done wherever it is they are working.  Technology like Enate can remove the need to manage mundane processes, which frees up employees to maximise on their talents and ambitions, and grow with the business, while being visible to the business. With mental health remaining an important commitment to every employer as we move forward, this could be a positive contribution to the business for a host of reasons. Bring in AI or remain human-only, the choice is yours, but be prepared.

We are pleased to confirm that we will be discussing these themes in more depth at our ‘Boundaryless working’ webinar, with analysts HFS and guests, in July. Follow us on Twitter or Linkedin to join the conversation and find out more

To find out more about Enate and how we can help, feel free to contact the team directly via



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