These are career bending times.
A fusion of forces in the forge and furnace of the future that reshape many fundamentals of our careers.
Whether we are early or in the middle or more senior in tenure.
Whether we work for a small, medium, or a large firm.
Whether we are self-employed, a free-lance or a “full-time” employee.
Regardless of our industry, our country, or our expertise.
There are six forces each of which might have changed the contours of our career which are all occurring at the same time, are intertwined with each other, and are becoming increasingly powerful.
1. Demographic Change: Four generations at work. Major mindset differences between youngest and oldest generations. Aging and declining populations everywhere but Africa. Today the largest increases in working populations are over 60 years old. And 62% of Gen-Z have a side- gig, side-hustle or passion project while working full-time!
2. Technology: 5G, Blockchain, AR/VR, AI, Biotech and much more. Today AI and its impact are resonating everywhere but make no mistake while it might be the “Next New Thing” there is much more coming.
3. Multi-polar globalization: Globalization but with different centers of power including China centric, India centric, Euro centric and US centric zones of influence and virtual borders versus a seamless connected world.
4. Unbundled and Distributed Work: The world of five days in an office will be the minority of service jobs leading to new questions about culture, management, career growth.
5. Work/Life Reset: One long term impact of the 2020 to 2022 trauma was as someone wrote: “And isn’t this the whole point, post-Covid: to actually live your life? ” Many people who believed work was life now believe work is an important and key part but just one part of a well-lived life.
6. The melting, decaying, and liquefying of industry shapes and boundaries: With Apple offering 4.15 percent interest on a FDIC insured savings account up to 250,000 dollars that you can fund with one click and loaning you funds from their balance sheet with their Buy Now and Pay Later program they are for all purposes a bank. Walgreen and CVS are shape shifting into not just providing pharmaceuticals but health care. How long before “The New York Times” discontinues its slogan about “all the news fit to print” because it is increasingly a multi-media everything brand which might soon stop printing newspapers?
Each of these forces are intertwined with each other. Modern technology and marketplaces allow for side-gigs and side-hustles and unbundled work. AI powers Biotech and re-configures jobs. New trade barriers move jobs and manufacturing to different countries as does the rise and fall of population.
The Career Implications.
While the future is often hard to predict one can be quite sure that in the next few years the current waves of change will grow into a tsunami, and everybody will be impacted in some way or the other.
1. We are now going to have 50-year careers: Extended life spans, limited government pensions, incentives for elder people to stay in the workforce, machine enabled work will have us working for multiple decades versus a 30-year career.
2. Life-Long Training and Education: Even three decades into a career well into the 50’s one may need to go back to school, re-skill and re-tool. And the days of saying “We will be retired before all these new things happen” will not be realistic. Investing in continuous learning will be key to stay relevant.
3. We will increasingly be working like gig workers and there will be many other changes to the design of organizations: A job will not be a title, a position and a static role but a constantly changing number of tasks, outcomes and deliverables In a globalized and connected marketplace of unbundled and distributed work we will all become gig workers even if we spend long time in a firm since all firms will become increasingly agile and connected, looking to put the best people on the most appropriate tasks very much like the way Hollywood or TV production works.
4. We will be work in tandem with machines: Almost every job will become AI or Web3 immersed or infused with some other technology. The productivity increases of modern technology will mean no one without modern technology will be able to compete.
5. We will work in smaller and delayered companies with many of us operating as “Companies of One”: a) AI software, b) Platforms that enable access to marketplaces and talent ( Shopify, Fiver) , c) a need for shapeshifting agility as categories re-invent themselves ( Finance, Auto, Healthcare, Education at a minimum which account for half of US GDP), d) a demand for flexible cost structures in a high velocity world, e) a work-force where free-lance workers are greater than full-time workers (2025 in the US) and f) scar-tissue of over hiring (see tech and media companies today) will significantly reduce the size of most companies, eliminate multiple layers and focus on experts and deliverables versus generalists and process.
6. Leaders and Coaches and Learners versus Bosses and Manager and Know it Alls: In this new world people will likely value, ask for and measure three things:
a) what does an individual help make, build, ship, change or impact?
b) what value do we add to the machine or how do we collaborate with other people or plug into a role on a project so that 1+ 1=3 ?
c) what creativity, vision, empathy, or imagination do we bring to inspire and grow people and business?
The key will be how one can lead, train, and grow talent to unleash their potential.
The big corner offices, the gauntlet of handlers, receptionists, and other awe-inspiring fear mongering scaffolding of the pre-2020’s will all be seen as the crutches of the insecure and the fearful causing most talent to rapidly re-route around such blockages and blockheads.
People’s “zone of influence” and “zone of impact” will be far more important than our “zone of control” or “size of kingdom”.
Re-inventing and Staying Relevant.
A complete re-imagining and re-thinking is underway which is why all of us feel some combination of fear, challenge, excitement, and even horror!
The drumbeats of a changing reality are beating in the marrow of our blood even if we do not wish to listen to their forceful thump-thump…
We will all need to bend ourselves into new forms, skills, and shapes.
A few keys to remaining relevant will be:
a. Plan for the long term: Plot careers over phases recognizing different eras as well as our own differences as we age with a look both ahead and behind. Read 12 Career Lessons a distillation of my learnings on re-inventing over time.
b. Build expertise. Hone a craft. Be known.Learn and earn a niche or niches. Have a voice and learn to tell a story. Read Career Turbocharging for an exercise if you are looking for a job, thinking of switching jobs or re-inventing yourself and a job.
c. Do not outsource your career growth to anyone else:Be responsible and control the upgrading of your mental and skill operating system to keep on learning.Here is one way: Learning to learn.
And here is one page with thoughts on a dozen topics to thrive in the future you may wish to bookmark. Look at Section 8, 9 and 10 in particular.
It will be a career bending time.
Which is far better than a career ending time!
Photography by Alex Timmermans
Leading from the Front: What can business leaders learn from military leaders? In the latest episode of What Next? Colonel Kevin W Farrell, PhD, (USA Retired) shares his learnings about the advantages of Back Briefing, Red Teaming, and what it’s like working with Brad Pitt!
Rishad Tobaccowala helps turbo-charge companies, teams and leaders growth by helping them see, think and feel differently. Forty years of experience delivered fast and flexibly with no muss, no fuss, no BS and no handlers. For more about Rishad Tobaccowala click here.