When I started working in HR, if a job applicant had moved jobs every few years, they were considered to be someone who had an issue. A job for life was the normal career path and no one would question if you worked in the same job for 15 years.
Fast forward to 2016 and the nature of work has changed a lot. Technology has disrupted the need to be sitting at a desk from 9 – 5, 5 days a week. We live and work in a global economy. Unnecessary middle management is almost extinct. Organisations have flat structures and to move up, you usually need to move out.
Now when employers receive a resume, if the applicant has been in the same job for 10 years, they will ask why? What is wrong with them?
What is the new ‘normal’?
The current environment has opened up career options like never before. An individual can choose to shape their career to fit their lifestyle and this becomes their own version of a ‘normal career’. I recently heard 2 stories that illustrate this.
I was chatting to a masseur about how he came to be working in this field. After a career as a top chef in high end restaurants, he now had a young family and the hours were no longer working for him. After a car accident, he found that massage was effective in his treatment. He knew that he needed a change and this inspired him. So he went and studied massage and supplements that income working a few days a week with a builder as he also enjoys working with tools. His work life was his own creation and he loved it.
At a recent seminar, Jonathan Lui, founder of the Airtasker app, told a story of a handy man earning up to $20,000 a week. He was doing odd jobs that he found listed on Airtasker. His wife looks for the jobs and he goes out and performs the work. He chooses when and where he works. He had created a job that not only earned him great money, but was completely flexible.
But what about the idea of building a ‘successful’ career?
I was listening to a podcast on the topic of Success (episode 3 on the Let It Be podcast, highly recommend it). The hosts Brooke and Kelly raised the idea of defining what a successful life looks like to you. They discussed the concept that there are seasons in our life. What success looks like at different times varies depending on what stage of your life you are in.
It really made me think about how that applies in our working life. When I am talking to my Career Counseling clients, I ask them to think about what is really important to them. What does a successful life look like to you? And who says that our individual working life has to look like someone else’s?
There are so many options out there. What sort of hours do you want to work? Do you want to be an employee or work for yourself? In an office, outdoors or from home? Do you want to be flexible or work traditional hours? There are many combinations available.
I believe that when you are looking at what you want to do next with your career, the biggest trap can be worrying about what other people think. You need to stop comparing yourself to what others define as success or their expectations of what your life should be. What is important to you must drive your decisions. And it may not be what has traditionally been seen as a ‘normal career path’ or how our parents worked.
Now I completely understand that the majority of us need to earn a living and sometimes purely having a job that pays a living wage is the number one priority. But that job can be what allows you the means to start the process of planning for a career that you don’t just cope with, but one allows you to get what you want out of life.