The way in which we view our careers is changing, in fact it needs to change if we are to survive. In the past, it was normal to consider career planning and looking ahead for the next 20 or 30 years, deciding where you want to be and how you are going to get there, but, as the following article shows, careers are now much shorter. We might be in one career for only a few years before moving on to something different. The recent article, The Career Of The Future Doesn’t Include A 20-Year Plan, explains the situation in detail, with examples:
Adam Hasler looks like a footloose millennial. He’s worked as a model, waited tables, and lived all over the world. But at 28, there’s more to his résumé than meets the eye.
He earned a dual degree in history and international relations at American University. After graduating, he and two partners–boosted by a $10,000 stake from his parents and an investment from a local restaurateur–took over the coffeehouse where he had worked since age 19: Modern Times, inside the Politics and Prose bookstore, a beloved Washington, D.C., institution. “I was 22 and naive,” he says now. “We got our asses handed to us.” Still, working 16-hour days for weeks on end, “living on cookies and beer,” Hasler and his partners increased the shop’s revenue in three years from less than $200,000 to $500,000.
Then Hasler got restless. He started a personal project, writing his own history of the entire Western arts canon, from music to architecture. He began to conceive of software that might allow him to visualize the connections between artworks, but he lacked tech skills. So at 26, he left the coffeehouse, paid off his investors, and plunged into Washington’s media-arts scene. He taught himself programming. He wrote case studies for Innovations, a journal of international development founded by Phil Auerswald, a professor at George Mason University who was also a regular at the coffeehouse. Then it was off to Buenos Aires for a year, where he created an apprenticeship at an interactive media-arts lab called Estado Lateral. “My first job for them was literally folding electrical cords,” he says. In his spare time, he traveled the country playing polo.
The particulars of Hasler’s young career can appear exotic and, yes, flighty. But his essential experience–tacking swiftly from job to job and field to field, learning new skills all the while–resembles the pattern that increasingly defines our careers.
As we are faced with economic crises, recession and redundancies, very few of us can enjoy the luxury of job security, the articles continues:
Shorter job tenure is associated with a new era of insecurity, volatility, and risk. It’s part of the same employment picture as the increase in part-time, freelance, and contract work; mass layoffs and buyouts; and “creative destruction” within industries. All these changes put more pressure on the individual–to provide our own health care, bridge gaps in income with savings, manage our own retirement planning, and invest in our own education to keep skills marketable and up to date. Financial commitments like homeownership or starting a family are a much tougher proposition when one, you can’t expect to stay in a place for long and two, you can’t expect to ever earn more in real terms than you do at age 40, as recent surveys at Payscale.com suggest.
Companies are also recognising the need to change their approach to hiring and firing:
Even as individuals like Hasler are adapting to new career paradigms, so are large companies–but on a scale of tens of thousands of employees. They have to hire people for jobs that don’t exist yet, spot the dynamic shifters while screening out the dilettantes, and clear paths for high performers so they can find enough variation within the corporate confines.
If you are thinking about changing career or forced into a change of career by circumstances beyond your control, such as redundancy, it could be time to think very differently about what a career really means and how you can use the changing dynamics of the economy and job market to your advantage.