A recent Fast Company article coined the term “generation flux,” used to describe a generation and workforce defined by its ability to move from job to job, even switching careers entirely, without blinking an eye.
The fact is, there’s nothing really particular about this state of affairs. Generation flux isn’t a generational or endemic. Career paths at all levels, from interns to CEOs are now changing. Constantly. People start out doing one thing and get bored or find new opportunities and move on. Welcome to the postmodern career.
Why postmodern? Because this catchall phrase, with all its associations of instability, contingency and change, is now a perfect way to describe the state of careers across the board. And very likely your career.
A little context. Globalization and successive shifts to labour markets overseas started to destabilize long term, unionized manufacturing work in the 70’s. This well-known history of neo-conservatism will be familiar to anyone who’s read Naomi Klein’s No Logo.
Generally less attention is paid to the way corporate careers have changed. Shifts over the past 15 years have seen boom-and-bust cycles in the technology sector and a dot-com bubble that left brilliant minds looking for new opportunities. This resulted in many in the “knowledge economy” either building on entrepreneurial aspirations with their own companies, or entering otherwise staid corporations with vision for change. Both of these scenarios brought a new flexibility that shook up business as usual.
Even public sector positions that used to last a lifetime and carry a happy pension are eroding as governments try to cut ballooning deficits.
The result is that both young, energetic professionals and older workers are looking for new opportunities. Whether by choice or necessity, all types of jobs and industries have been affected.
The good news is that the postmodern career can be a positive and rewarding path. It means shaking things up ever few years, having fun and seeking out passion in what you do every day. People are starting to realize that contingency and instability can mean opportunity. Careers are now an accumulation of skills, projects, contacts and positions over a lifetime; they’re no longer 30 years spent on one floor.
Inspired by the innovative workplace cultures of Silicon Valley, many employers are trying hard to build creative, flexible work environments. Virtually all companies with a robust HR department have made placement on Canada’s Top 100 Employers an official goal. They want to empower employees to do their best work while they’re with them. At the same time, most companies know that their best employees probably won’t be with them forever.
Have you checked your Linkedin lately? Headhunters are constantly on the prowl, happy to offer the change many workers are looking for.
Closer to home, the GTA is a prime breeding ground for postmodern careers. With a robust start-up scene and connected networks of socialized professionals at every turn, it’s never been easier to find new opportunities. The postmodern career thrives in exactly this kind of environment because its essence is entrepreneurial. People aren’t satisfied filling roles; they want to create and build things from the ground up.
The result of all this is workers with an unprecedented diversity of skills, experience and ideas. A postmodern career path to match a postmodern economy. The idea of slaving away at a job you hate for the rest of your life is dead. It’s safe to say there’s a good chance what you’re doing today won’t be what you’re doing a decade from now. Remember that girl from The Wonder Years? She’s a mathematician and best-selling author now. I can’t think of anything more postmodern than that.