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 organisation 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 exactly 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 businesses out of small labour jobs, like gardening, building work, cleaning or similar. These were usually one-man set-ups but some managed to created 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 into the Information Technology market. We all know the stories.
In 2000 the IT market had its own 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 very difficult to come by. This 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 rise of small companies involved in the IT sector sky-rocketed. It really 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 electric 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 largest impact in society after the industrial revolution last century. We should really call it the IT revolution. It has not only changed the job market, but almost every aspect of life in almost 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. This caused a huge outcry in society and governments were pushed to find solutions to this dilemma. This last crises 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 organisations in Europe I find that most students think within a 5 year timeframe. While 30 years ago people where looking forward to their pension, today young people don’t even want to think about it.
This of course 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 which 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 organisations 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 into a difficult situation. Someone had this idea of promoting entrepreneurship as the solution for this dilemma. But whoever came up with this hasn’t really 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. Specially in Europe you are treated like an outcast and support is zero.
Another challenge is location. It has never been easier to travel the world and to settle wherever you want for whatever period you want. You can literally 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. This is not the future, this is 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 difficult 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 really 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 advice to use some entrepreneurial thinking and start creating their own 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 5 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 truly 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.