4 P’s of Career Advancement in VUCA times

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Conventional 4Ps of Career Planning

While navigating their careers, I have seen most people worry too much about the 4 P’s of Career Planning (Package, Position, Path and Power). This approach has conventionally served the interests of most people planning their careers in the (relatively) stable times of the 20th century that are now a thing of the past.

As we start to get used to the world of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA), the implications on the canvas of jobs available and skills required are indeed monumental.

VUCA times need a new approach

The conventional 4Ps approach has a narrow focus and is likely to miss the bigger picture in the VUCA times and it is time for a fresh approach using the new age 4 Ps of Career Advancement:

  • Passion
  • Persistence
  • Purpose
  • Perspective

4Ps of Career Advancement


Let us examine why each one of these Ps is critical for long term success in times of sustained economic and demographic turbulence.

#1 – Passion

Follow your passion! It is not possible to consistently keep re-inventing yourself (as the VUCA world will require you to do), unless you have a passion and love for what you are doing. If you have the passion, things will automatically fall into place, as the external environment keeps evolving.

The most wonderful thing about the knowledge economy and the SMAC (social, mobility, analytics and cloud) revolution is that opportunities abound for everyone, as the internet is a great leveller!

#2 – Persistence

The least glamorous of all attributes and yet one of the most potent success factors is Persistence. I continue to be amazed with very smart and intelligent people completely failing to recognize that there may be a time lag between efforts and outcomes and failing to persist with the good work that they are capable of.

Instant gratification is great, but if it doesn’t happen, why not think of FAIL as “First Attempt In Learning” ! If that sounds cheeky, just remember Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours Outliers theory !!

#3 – Purpose

This may not make much sense in the early stage of most people’s careers. However, if there is a single factor that differentiates success (by empirical observation, not research based statistical analysis) it is the purpose that has driven people along.

Very often, the people going after the conventional 4Ps such as Package and Promotion and unable to connect to a larger purpose find themselves at odds whenever there are changes in circumstances. The key is to connect to a larger purpose beyond chasing tactical pecuniary goals and gaming / achieving the performance metrics !

#4 – Perspective

The final word, literally and figuratively is Perspective ! This is the biggest change required in managing careers today as compared to the 20th century. One needs to constantly put everything in perspective, especially since core aspects such as industry dynamics, nature of skills required, geographical dispersion of global workforce, etc can change very rapidly. These need to be overlaid on top of conventional individual specific factors.

The short term and conventional 4P goals of Package, Promotion, Path and Power certainly need to be pursued and can’t be ignored. However, the new age Golden 4Ps should help us keep an eye on the bigger picture so that we don’t miss the woods for the trees !

Persistence is the key and the initial focus must be on learning and building skills, capabilities and expertise. The rewards will follow you (not the other way round) and 4 decades of working life is a lot of time to reap the rewards!


If your career planning has revolved primarily around the conventional 4Ps of Package, Promotion, Path and Power, I would urge you to take an introspection time-out ! Reflect on the new 4Ps of Passion, Persistence, Purpose and Perspective and navigate your career through the volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous journey that awaits all of us !


NB: An example of how the 4Ps applies to IPR (Intellectual Property Rights) professionals is available here

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