Jobs and career paths have always (when you think about it) symbolized the beliefs of the persons who choose them.
For example, people in 1960 were considered much more conservative than people in 2021. As a conservative person in 1960, the preferred career choice would most likely need one key ingredient to make sense – LIFE-LONG STABILITY.
In fact, you can almost tell who a person is by the type of career he’s having.
Life-long stability may have seemed like the most important thing to consider before choosing a career path in 1960 – but, in 2021 – it has fallen out of fashion.
The world now finds a thirty-to-thirty-five-year experience developing in the same job – boring and unexciting. The worker in 2021, especially the younger generation, would rather have a work experience that is filled with adventure, learning, and flexibility.
This “short” theory explains, in some way, the evolution of a career in the 21st century. In this article, two things will be discussed; the difference between the old and the new and why we all need to evolve.
The “old” career perspective vs The “new” one
Defining, charting, and planning a successful career used to be a not-so-difficult task. The career trajectory of a successful career person was easily predictable; get a college degree, get a job at a corporation, start at the base and slowly climb your way to the top.
That was the old version – the traditional version.
This traditional view of a career contained three elements:
- A career represents a person’s identity – That the choice of a career is what defines us for the rest of our lives. A person interested in saving lives would choose to work in a hospital and never take work anywhere else.
- A career is like a structure that needs to be built for a long time, subject to occasional important renovations.
- A career is the ultimate source of income – financial and emotional.
Most people working and living in 2021 are very likely to disagree that the above elements adequately describe a career. As many experts have explained, this difference in perspective is strongly connected to the generational differences between millennials and baby boomers.
Millennials (people born between 1981 and 1996) are the present and future of the world’s workforce and to them, a successful career is made up of very different elements.
New age workers view a career quite differently. The ability to learn and grow, value alignment, flexibility in work, culture fit matter much more than anything else. One major example of this divergent career perspective is evident in the need for flexibility, with millennials considering flexibility of the utmost importance to a successful career.
In the new world, the ability to switch jobs, responsibilities, and career direction matters more than stability.
The need to evolve
There are many reasons why we need to start redefining the meaning of career – or better still, accept that the redefinition has already happened.
Despite how cliché this may sound, the impact of technology on work is highly disruptive. It is because of technology advancements that several jobs are continuously being updated or even being phased out. According to a detailed Mckinsey report, over 400 million jobs will be out of fashion in 2030. When these jobs get displaced, where do those who have invested their whole lives in “stability” go.
But the technology argument is not the only reason to evolve.
The fulfillment perspective offers a much more compelling reason. It is no longer sufficient to choose a stable career, especially if there is no sense of fulfillment there. The workforce is prioritizing happiness and fulfillment – even above money.
What is fulfilling to a person is malleable and since this sense of fulfillment plays a key role in the choice of a career; the choice of a career itself becomes subject to as many changes as is going through a person’s mind.
Just as important as the technology and fulfillment reasons, is the financial angle. More often than not, the financial success of a person depends on how well career growth is happening. Especially because of the pandemic, people have started to realize that having multiple income streams can be life-saving.
By deploying any number of skills, individuals can leverage the things they know and want to know to make more money. This is the basis of the gig economy – an economy projected to be valued at 450 billion dollars in 2023.
In the gig economy, you have a situation where thousands of people offer different services based on any commercially viable skill(s) they possess. People who have “traditional” careers like lawyers, store managers, business consultants are also – in the gig economy – freelance writers, web developers and online tutors who make a lot of money.
Such a multi-faceted modern approach to career makes much more sense and opens the pathway to a stronger sense of purpose than a one-lane traditional approach.
Survival in this new age of work will require reskilling, retraining, and reorientation. Tapping into the new meaning of career requires a global understanding which can only be possible through global communication. The new career person should be able to use the power of language and globalization to merge with tech, find fulfillment and earn more money.
In summary, the new meaning of career differs significantly from the old. Less attention is paid to stability and rigidity while more attention is given to flexibility and fulfillment.