As our world becomes more mobile and transient, so too are our working lives. Some sources are now suggesting millennials change jobs four times before the age of 32.
Living through the GFC, sustained low wage growth, increasing cost of living and housing affordability has all made my generation skeptical to the preached benefits of a conventional career. Now I hate complainers, so I’m not going to rant about how easy the baby-boomers had it, and how they’ve riddled us all in debt with their luxury cruises etc etc. BUT, there is no denying technology today is being advanced at an exponential level, the likes we have never seen before. What you knew 18 months ago, is likely irrelevant or at risk of being irrelevant. In the 19th Century it took the richest man 50 years to become a billionaire. Today it can take only 2 years.
This acceleration has created new opportunities and careers in various industries that many millennials are now seizing.
Picture this – you are a business owner with declining revenue and a shrinking customer base. An opportunity arises and you realise pivoting your product has the potential to reverse the situation; would you embrace it? Of course you would!
The above analogy is similar to one many millennials now face. Slowing wage growth, rising rents and debt – you really have to re-evaluate whether continuing along this trajectory will yield a good financial or emotional return. This is why much of the workforce today has had to shift between jobs (and even sometimes industries) a few times before finding the right fit. It’s not only a reflection of the economic reality, but also a way that may fast-track career progression.
As discussed in the book Smartcuts (Great book btw), some of our greatest leaders and influencers did not climb the career ladder from bottom to top. Rather they jumped ladders and took smartcuts (a career shortcut). Instead of patiently working their way up the ladder, they were able to skip rungs entirely, saving themselves years and even decades of their time.
Think of President Lincoln, Eisenhower and Reagan. Each of these men jumped ladders from different careers and were able to bypass the conventional route to make it to the top. They were each able to seize the opportunity by borrowing credibility from their respective professions; lawyer, Military General and Actor, to transition into Presidency. This principle can be applied beyond the white-house, and is even more prevalent today. The internet has turbo-boosted ladder-jumping.
Take Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com, do you think he would have become one of the most influential men of our time, had he stayed in Wall Street working as a Fund Manager? Why do you think some of most prominent Venture Capitalists in Silicon Valley are literally paying smart kids to drop out of college?
Many millennials are no longer seeing the benefit in working excessive hours to climb the corporate ladder, with some of the best and brightest transitioning into startups and tech.
The conventional career will always be around, no one is denying that. But it’s golden age is already coming to an end. The workforce is waking up to the diminishing return convention pays in today’s environment.