When I compare the job market today with 30 years ago, I am amazed how much has changed in such a small timeframe. When I was a student, I had two choices. Become an apprentice, learn a skill, find a job and make money straight away or go to university, study, and hope for a better job. Either way, the idea was to work for 40 years in some organization or company until my pension age and then relax for the rest of my life.
This doesn’t sound very exciting, but it gave most people precisely what they needed: stability, direction, and security.
There were a few out-breakers, so-called entrepreneurs. These were the ones who managed to create a business out of small labor jobs, like gardening, building work, cleaning or similar. These were usually one-person set-ups, but some led to established amazing companies. However, most people were looking for a secure job.
With the computer and internet age, we started to see a shift in the job market. A few so-called nerds managed to become very successful and created enough motion for others to get attracted to the Information Technology market. We all know the stories.
In 2000 the IT market had its little crash, but this didn’t stop the flow of people wanting to get involved in IT. Because Information Technology was such a new area, only a few companies existed, and jobs were challenging to come by. It caused more and more young people to start their own business. It was exciting, new and different and that in itself created a magnetic field that attracted more and more young people to get involved. The number of small companies involved in the IT sector did sky-rocketed. It went from 0-100 in only a few years. You didn’t need a degree in science to develop webpages, and there was no need to be an electrical engineer to build or repair computers. For many, that was the opportunity they were looking for.
I remember it well; I was part of this movement.
IT had the most significant impact on society after the industrial revolution last century. We should call it the IT revolution. It has not only changed the job market but almost every aspect of life in nearly all parts of the world. Everything changed.
Then in 2008, we had the banking crises. Many people lost their jobs and savings, and most pension funds went down, leaving the investors with none or very little money. It caused a massive outcry in society, and governments were pushed to find solutions to this dilemma. This last crisis showed how fragile the idea of stability, direction and security really is and more and more people don’t trust the system anymore.
The result of this is what I call the Short-Term-View of life. Because our future is so uncertain, we try to avoid looking too far ahead. Working with many student organizations in Europe, I find that most students think within a 5-year timeframe. While 30 years ago people were looking forward to their pension, today young people don’t even want to think about it.
Of course, it affects the job market as well. Everything has to happen in 5 years or shorter. If a student today wants to become successful, he is not thinking about a 40-year plan. He wants it now, as quick as possible. Most aim for the result and not the process, putting a lot of pressure on themselves to make it happen or to fail.
This has caused most careers to be project-driven. Instead of one career, we think in short steps that we call projects. A project in its nature has a start and an end date which fits perfectly into the new thinking model. But it does not fit into the structure of most organizations or businesses. Also, our legal and social setup is not supporting this way of thinking. Most companies cannot just employ someone for 2-3 years and then fire them when the project is finished. Our legal system requires them to provide long-term stability.
Currently, we have this split, where the older generation is still looking for the security and stability while the younger generation is looking for the new, the excitement and the variety. This puts governments and businesses in a difficult situation. Someone had this idea of promoting entrepreneurship as the solution to this dilemma. But whoever came up with this hasn’t thought that through. The problem is not solved, just shifted. In most countries in Europe, you can’t just start a business and stop it whenever you want. The legal and tax system are laid out for the long term, and it isn’t cheap either. Additionally, if it doesn’t work, you can’t go back into the system like any other employee and apply for unemployment money. Especially in Europe, you are treated as an outcast and support is zero.
Another challenge is the location. It has never been easier to travel the world and to settle wherever you want for whatever period you want. You can live anywhere in the world, and as long as your job does not require you to be physically at a specific location, you can work from anywhere. It is not in the future, it’s Now. This makes borders irrelevant for the individual, but governments and our legal systems are not aligned with each other, and that causes friction. We can see how complicated this process is in Europe right now. Think about the Brexit, and you get my idea.
Some countries identified this issue and are coming up with ideas in the right direction. Just look at countries like Estonia, which embraces IT Technology. Or some of the Scandinavian countries which always come up with new ideas to support that change and test things out. They all step out of their box-thinking and explore new areas and create progress.
If I speak to students about their future possibilities, I always advise to use some entrepreneurial thinking and start creating their future. I am not suggesting everyone should run his own company, but everyone should run himself. Don’t look for a job and don’t just start a business. Look at what it is you want out of life. Set yourself some high-level goals you want to achieve on the long-term. When I say high-level, I mean the person you want to see. Who do you want to be and to be seen as?
Then set yourself a low-level goal. Something you can achieve within the next five years and then start looking for the best way for you to make it happen. This could be as an employee or as an entrepreneur with your own company. Whatever works for you is great. Important is that you enjoy the process and that you keep growing and keep improving yourself to become the best you can be. Doing it this way allows you to adjust to the constant change while being stable in yourself as a human being.
Work with people who respect your point of view and support you on your path. It doesn’t matter if they are business partners or employers.
I genuinely believe that this is the only way for all of us to enjoy our life, have the careers we want and get the results we seek. It allows for change and does not force anyone into a specific box.
The future jobs are not created for us but created by us.