The old employment system was a cradle-to-grave model. Get with a good company, grow with them, then enjoy your retirement funded by your company pension. The school system supported this by training graduates for a single career, too often with classist distinctions in program design and availability: we had pathways for laborers, line workers, for technical professionals and Subject Matter Experts (SME), and for the management class.
An employee’s career path started in the proverbial "mail room." Entry-level employees and college graduates started at the bottom, working in a department where they got to know the business and the other employees. Over time, they would progress through the organizational ecosystem based on the relationships they made, the limitations and constraints of their career pathways, their interests and drive, and their talents. This dynamic informed where a person spent the majority of their career – in one company. The company provided training, benefits, retirement, and loyalty, and employees were loyal to their company.
In the early 1990s, organizations began practicing "Business Process Re-Engineering." This practice helped keep companies competitive by realigning the resources (employees) toward to their core competencies and rapidly changing goals. Individuals were no longer tracked upwards in their careers; they now had to map their own career pathways. The pace of acceleration increased with re-organizations every six or twelve months. Organizations began to eliminate their pension plans around the same time, instead donating to employee 401k plans. This reduced benefit costs for the organization and put responsibility for career and retirement planning on the employee.
They supplemented their workforce with "contingent" employees who were not paid benefits and could be terminated without cause or when their projects finished. Loyalty between organizations and the workforce declined. As a result, the prospect of hiring and retiring in the same company became obsolete. Workers started building their careers by moving between companies for job opportunities that met their own long-term goals.
The current reality is that we are all now in charge of managing our careers.
The result of these shifts is that to keep competitive and grow your career, the average employee changes jobs and career every three years. Career alignment is all about “Fit.” If what you have to offer to an organization is a fit for their current needs, and if the work being offer is a fit for your career goals, then we have a match. But the inexorable drive of competition, of changing market dynamics, and of changing technologies forces us to keep learning, to keep growing.
What happens if we fall off the pace of change? We get misaligned with our job and organization. We get laid off at the next re-organization. We get disillusioned with our careers because we are out of alignment with our talents and goals. Some stats:
· In America, 73% of us are in different careers than our college majors, and 31 Million between 44 and 70 want a career that combines personal meaning, continued income, and social impact (Designing Your Life, Bill Burnett / Stanford).
· As a result of the pandemic, 25% - 40% of workers are actively planning career changes. Organizations are re-engineering to balance hybrid work schedules, faced with life threatening situations, employees are seeking greater wellbeing in their lives, and lowering housing costs (Forbes, May 2021).
· Gallup reports (July 2020) a “historic” drop in employee engagement, with only 31% of employees engaged int heir work, and 14% actively disengaged – these employees spread their misery to their colleagues, undermining your organizations.
· The emphasis on individual tracking and performance has contributed to an epidemic of Loneliness: 22% of Americans are chronically lonely. Chronic loneliness is a higher predictor of early death than obesity and smoking (Together, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy)
There is good news and bad news in this. The good news is that if you actively manage your career, you can establish yourself as a professional in demand, a thought leader, an SME. This means that you need to stay up on your profession, keep networking, be ready to take advantage of opportunities, and get the right support with a group of your peers.
This is what we do at the Career Storybook Academy: Career Develop programs with highly qualified coaches and thought leaders, working in peer-based mastermind groups. If you’re ready for a career change, if you are ready to have a more meaningful career, to live a healthier life in a healthier world, consider our Life Champion Career Development program.
Michael Freedman - Founder & CEO - Career Storybook Academy