The New Career Cycle Is Here…And It Looks Vastly Different. Ready?

Depending on where you are in your professional journey, you may still be invested in a traditional career — one that begins with intensive training or education, and then progresses to accepting an entry-level job, climbing the corporate ladder and eventually retiring after building up enough years of service.

Perhaps along the way, there will be an unexpected layoff or a career gap to care for family, or a few years pursuing additional certifications or a Masters’ degree in the evenings to supplement your skills.

Although this used to be the standard model, many things have changed in the last two decades. In fact, many things have changed in the last two years.

These shifts can be exciting for some and terrifying for others depending on your point of view. And, while 2020 has forced many to examine their careers and look at their professional trajectory differently, if you’re still wondering what changes lie ahead in the marketplace, here are a few you can expect:

  • There are multiple paths to entry (not just a 4-year degree). While more than 6 million jobs have “upcredentialed” (added a degree requirement that wasn’t necessary for the role previously), if you ask most employers why a degree is required for a specific role, it’s unlikely you’ll receive a relevant response. It’s just a way to reduce the workload (aka, number of applications that make it through the Applicant Tracking System) based on an incorrect assumption that degreed implies qualified (and vice versa). Many savvy employers are realizing that marketable skills can be built in a variety of ways. Google, IMB, Hilton and Apple are a few companies that have abandoned the degree requirement. If you’re looking to reskill, your options are limitless now, so don’t just rely on old stand-bys.
  • Education is ongoing. Even if you did spring for a degree earlier in your career, you’re not done learning just yet. In fact, you’re not done learning until you’re done working. Whether through certifications, MOOCs, internal upskilling, OTJ apprenticeships or formal degrees, plan on continuous long-life learning being a regular part of your career. And if your company doesn’t supply it according to Michelle Weise in her book “Long Life Learning” 44% of employers offer zero upskilling or reskilling —plan to do it on your own. The marketplace won’t wait for you to catch up, so keeping up is critical (and another reason you may not want to spend your education dollars all in one place).
  • Tenure is shorter. Have you been the recipient of an award for 10 years of service in a company? Me either, and those service awards are likely to become rarer as workers will commonly have 20 or more careers in their professional lives, with some futurists predicting up to 40 for today’s youth. Sure, some of these positions might be internal moves, but many include switches in industry, specialty and geography. Expertise has a shorter shelf-life than it once did, so even if you love what you do and have no plans to make a change, progress and automation won’t allow you to remain stagnant. Now is the time to create a plan.
  • The world is changing. While the pandemic is the most top-of-mind event around the world currently, global warming, racial and political tensions, homelessness, and technology breeches are just a few other growing problems creating the need for new businesses, decimating outdated industries and ensuring there will be a lifetime of novel problems to be solved. While it may feel challenging to keep up, it’s also an opportunity to potentially build a meaningful career with greater psychological rewards.
  • Hybridity is common. The lines between roles are blurring and it’s rare to see a job posted in any field without an associated need to be tech savvy and understand data analytics. Sarabeth Berk, author of the book “More than My Title: The Power of Hybrid Professionals in a Workplace of Experts and Generalists” speaks about hybrid titles, which are becoming more common in the workforce. With over 738,000 unique credentials, job postings just seem to be getting longer. Companies are currently in the mode of buying talent to fit their exact needs versus training their people, but hopefully this will shift with emerging companies such as Hitch, which helps organizations understand and scale their internal talent capabilities.
  • Your colleagues are machines. It’s predicted that “between 30% and 80% of all the jobs that exist today will disappear over the next 10 to 20 years as they are replaced by smart software, automation and robots.” Your future colleagues will be machines. Not actual robots sitting in the next cube (although perhaps), but rather the person who used to create your monthly accounting report is no longer needed. Founder of Working Nation, Art Bilger discusses how marketing departments of 10 will become a department of two because of data and analytics. Learning to work seamlessly in these settings, while developing more “human skills” (those that can’t be done by a robot), will be an important focus.
  • Job structures are morphing. Although a favorite 80’s classic, Dolly Parton’s hit “9 to 5” has become very dated. Remote working, portfolio careers, side gigs, contract work – these are the work structures of the future…and the future is here. Companies are hiring for projects versus to fill headcount because business needs are shifting so rapidly. Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn, writes about “tours of duty” where lifelong employment is replaced with two to four year contracts between the employer and employee. While job security was always a myth, this solidifies it. We all need to become the CEO of our own careers, which can be scary, but also empowering.
  • Retirement is delayed (or gone from the cycle altogether). People are living longer, the world is getting more expensive and financial retirement benefits aren’t what they once were (or at least they won’t be in the coming years). People are working longer, which means more job changes and new skills to learn in order to remain employable. Long-life learning will no longer be for hobbyists, but rather a survival skill in the workplace. While the great news is that experienced individuals are benefiting from the alternative work structures that allow for flexibility in encore careers, the sad news is that ageism is rampant and effective solutions are few.
  • Outplacement is reskilling. Anyone who has experienced a layoff is likely familiar with the concept of outplacement — a service to help displaced workers transition to their next job. Although many feel unnecessary shame over being impacted by a restructuring or downsizing, in a marketplace where expertise has a shorter shelf-life, “tours of duty” are standard and business strategies are constantly shifting, this will become commonplace. The good news is the perception will eventually shift and professionals will view a transition as an opportunity to reskill. Companies like FutureFit.AI are developing programs that make career transitions part of the norm versus the exception.

So now that the new career cycle is in full swing, the next move is yours. What step will you take NOW to reinvent yourself for the future of work?

Happy hunting!

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