The next time you are walking the halls, take a look at how busy your manager is these days. He or she is probably on phone call after phone call, meeting after meeting, answering emails, working across organizational and geographical boundaries, using some sort of technological advance that enhances his or her productivity and performance. However, if you look beneath the surface, a lot of what that manager is actually doing is connecting with a person or people across multiple domains. Bottom line – relationships in organizations are increasingly important for both the work of the organization and the different career paths managers take.

Relationships can enable managers to navigate their careers using those different career paths. Indeed, the structure of a career has taken a dramatic shift. It used to be the case that a person’s career was confined to one or two organizations. Now, careers are built over several organizations, locations, industries, and functions; they are protean and boundaryless. They are protean in that careers are driven by the person, not the organization; they are self-directed and valuedriven, and people take their own initiative to make career decisions. They are boundaryless in that managers today may bounce around several organizations, occupations, and locations, no longer limited to one single organization.

Careers are less seen as “moving up the corporate ladder,” relying on just your boss to help you, and are more likely described as developing in a variety of directions with a variety of people. In a sense, there is now a “constellation” of people and relationships required for career development. These relationships may be “above” or “below” you in the hierarchy, as well as “around” with your peers. They are also not confined to your current organization – career-relevant relationships also happen outside of work.

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