Here we stand, staring straight into the new millennium, in the infancy of the Information Age. How is it, then, that you’re still managing your career like it’s the early ’80’s? Many of the assumptions and values around your career, which made perfect sense in the Industrial Age, have been outdated for years now. The changes yet to come are guaranteed to come hard and fast.
Your career success depends on whether you surf the waves of change, or just stand on the beach, small and incredulous while they crash down on you. When you’re considering your career in the future, it may very well be useful to keep the image of a surfer in your mind while I explain a few of the changes and how they affect you.
The early years of any era are invariably dicey. The rules change quickly as we all struggle to get on the same page. As we leave behind the Industrial Age, we are forced to leave behind its paradigms surrounding careers. The American Dream is no longer attained by the old formula (four-year degree + “good company” = career progression).
Remaining frozen in fear, complaining, or ignoring change will not make it go away. Running around in denial looking for an old-style job at a “good” company will not save you. Staying in college longer won’t save you. Even starting your own company won’t necessarily ensure you a lifetime career, although the mindset involved in self-employment will be helpful throughout your career. As an example of how things have changed, know this: it’s no longer sufficient to get a four-year degree at the beginning of one’s career and call it good. Advanced degrees and ongoing attendance in focused technical programs throughout one’s career will be the norm for those who seek above-average earnings.
Darwin would say that what’s called for here is adaptability. The ability to stay abreast of constant, significant change is the key to your survival. Looking forward to the future, finding the good in change, and taking control of your own career development are steps in the right direction. Striving to truly understand the changes to our economy and the impacts of newly emerging technologies will help you accept and anticipate the changes that directly affect you. In an Information Age, it is deadly to your career not to understand the big picture and where you fit in. The good news is that, in an Information Age, it’s easy to find the resources you need to stay one step ahead.
Just like the surfer, in order to do well you’ll need to remain fit. In the career sense, fitness means continually defining and developing your unique skills as well as adapting them in an instant to satisfy a new and urgent business need. Make sure you’ve got a line between you and your surfboard …plan for the big spills and the changing tides that may leave you temporarily unemployed. This means having a solid financial plan rather than living two paychecks away from insolvency as most Americans are rumored to.
So what can you do right now? As you think of your career in the new millennium, keep the notion of the surfer firmly in mind. Keep your attitude young, hip, and healthy. View your time with each employer as a surfer regards a particular wave. Make the most of it, ride it as long as you can, and have fun. But if you want to keep going, be looking for the next wave to ride after the one you’re on subsides.