A Lean Career
When I first started out, people spent a few hours, tops, speaking to parents / school career advisers prior to hopping on the appropriate academic conveyor belt. If you managed not to fall off, you were transferred onto a career conveyor belt (more or less guaranteed). If you played nicely and were not incompetent, you would get to stay on the upward-climbing conveyor belt for the duration of your career.
In the course of this journey you would acquire rewards such as increasing income and more status. However, at a certain age, you would come to the end of the conveyor belt, located just outside the factory wall, overlooking a skip labelled ‘retirement – not for reuse’.
Domesticated animals bred for their meat come to mind. Despite the pleasant living conditions, it was always going to have an unhappy ending. Unlike farm animals, we knew the ending was always going to be undignified, but that was the price we paid for having a ‘career’.
Today is much different. The conveyor belts are being dismantled. They are being replaced by much shorter belts, where what lies beyond them only becomes apparent when you reach the summit. There are more belts than ever. But they can only be seen by those who have skills appropriate to the digital economy and have an ‘eat what you kill’ mind-set, always on the lookout for opportunities.
Today’s careers require more than just a few hours’ consultation with your elders at the outset prior to making a decision. Today’s career need to be managed in real-time. Each day we need to re-evaluate what the market wants and whether we have the delivery capability. Thus we have to run our careers as if we were running a lean start up enterprise.
21st Century careers will no longer be pre-built, requiring the worker to simply hop on the belt and be competent. Uncertainty will reign, and remarkable delivery will define our career paths. The term career will likely become a misnomer in that we are more likely to have multiple careers, some of them in parallel.
But there is good news. As the architect of your career, it doesn’t have to end in the retirement skip, at a point in time defined by an employer, or a government. With great responsibility comes great freedom.
It’s time to take control of your career, rather than gripping desperately to a crumbling industrial-era conveyor belt.