Career portability. A lesson from the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (Seriously)

Career portability. A lesson from the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (Seriously)
Career Portability

By Jorge Davalos | Alder Koten

From September 10, 1990, to May 20, 1996 Will Smith was incredibly successful as the lead of the television sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. When the series ended Will did not follow the path of many others eternally buried by their successful television characters. Think Joey from Friends (Matt LeBlanc), or Willis from Diff’rent Strokes (Todd Bridges). I could probably fill pages with sitcom actors that never shook the characters they played. Will Smith, however went on to continue his successful career as a singer/rapper and movie star.Will-Smith—Fresh-Prince-of-Bel-Ai

When interviewed on the BBC One’s The Graham Norton Show earlier this year Will recalled how his co-star Alfonso Ribeiro encouraged him to name his character Will so that people would remember his name and avoid forever being labeled as the character of the show.

“He was so right,” Will joked with others on the show. “When we go out together, people are like ‘Will! Will! Carlton!’” You can add Carlton to the list above with Willis, Joey, and many others.

You might be asking: What does this have to do with my career if I’m not planning on being a TV sitcom star in the near future?

It’s simple: Make sure your brand is defined by you; by what you do and what you’re good at. Not just by your title and the company you work for. In other words, make sure you are portable and can be equally successful in another organization.

Portability comes in a delicate balance. As Boris Groysberg points out in his book Chasing Stars: The Myth of Talent and the Portability of Performance, “No one works alone”. Boris challenges the notion that outstanding performance is simply the result of a combination of innate talent, skills, competencies, and good educational preparation. Groysberg identifies outstanding performance as heavily dependent on an organization’s culture, resources, networks and colleagues. Some of those elements are portable some are not.

So as you plan your career and make decisions ask yourself the question: How portable and independent am I? Can I be equally successful in another organization or position? Am I worth what they pay me in the open market? Be brutally honest with yourself. Identify the gaps and make sure you’re portable.


About Alder Koten

Alder Koten helps shape organizations through a combination of research, executive search, cultural & leadership assessment, and other talent advisory services. Our recruiters and executive search consultants bring to the recruiting process an in-depth understanding of the market conditions and strategic talent issues faced by clients within their particular industry. Our leadership consultants provide advisory services that are crafted to be collaborative, responsive, pragmatic, and results oriented. Focused on expanding the capabilities of the organization through talent.

Jorge Davalos’ work focuses on helping clients acquire, develop and transition leadership talent through a combination of research, executive search, cultural & leadership assessment, and other talent advisory services.