Modern Career Paths Are Changing Fast and In Unexpected Ways


Gary McCauley


January 4, 2019

Traditionally people had a career for life. They began working for a company in their twenties and could stay for perhaps thirty years, building their pension and their savings methodically. But with the rise of flexible labor laws and the ever-changing demands of the modern economy, those days are gone. Today’s workers are entering a very different labor market, one in which they are expected to adapt to new requirements at a moment’s notice.



Modern Career Paths Differ Wildly From The Past

In the past, a “career path” usually referred to the somewhat linear process of working for many years in the same organization and waiting for the inevitable promotions that came with experience. People quietly worked their way up the ranks with the most talented and cunning gained coveted positions in the C-suite, board and senior management. However, that’s all changing. Modern career paths are far more circuitous, with people moving across both jobs, roles, and industries in search of better opportunities. The 21st-century career path is anything but a straight line to success.

Why this is happening probably has something to do with how economic conditions shape different generations’ attitudes to work. Millennials in the workforce, or people born between 1981 and 1995, grew up during a period of relative economic prosperity. The 1990s, especially under the Clinton and Volker leadership, saw impressive rates of growth and two conventional recessions - the recession of the early 1990s, and the dip that followed the dot-com boom in 2001. Things, however, were very different for generation Z, or those who grew up during the hardships of the financial crisis and subsequent Great Recession in 2008 and 2009. People in this age group learned that the economy wouldn’t always provide work in the traditional sense: a job might not always be for life. The fact that the economy doesn't always work meant that many would choose to go out and make their own opportunities, changing labor market behavior.

Companies Facing Higher Turnover

Employee turnover is a significant issue facing firms today. High turnover in small businesses is costly, especially when that turnover involves highly-paid and talented individuals. The administrative burden alone is a big problem, let alone all the recruitment and search costs to find replacements.

What many companies don’t yet realize, though, is that the modern labor market is changing in ways that actually benefit them in the long term. Companies that can adapt and then leverage high rates of turnover will find themselves gaining vis-a-vis their competitors and getting the talent they need to continue their operations.

Freelance work, for instance, is booming right now. The so-called “gig” economy - one in which workers sell companies their labor on a per-job basis - is growing at double-digit rates. Although there is some bad press about some aspects of the gig economy, the reason it’s growing so fast is that it’s a win-win for both employers and workers. Workers get to enjoy flexible hours, be their own boss, and only take on the jobs they want. And employers don’t have to go to the trouble of hiring people, with all the associated costs and regulations. Firms can get the talented people they need as and when they need them and don’t have to pay people to sit idly when they’re not required.

Voluntary Unemployment Is At A Record High

Ever since the industrial revolution, the number of hours that people have to work in a week has been on the decline. During the 19th century, many working people worked from dawn until dusk and didn’t take the weekend off: they couldn't because they didn’t have the income. Then, as society became more productive, the working week shortened. Saturday and Sunday became days off, and most people began working less than 50 hours. With continued improvements in productivity and economic output, more and more Americans are choosing to live off pensions and investments, with more than 6.1 million now voluntarily unemployed.

Real-time economics are now so good that a lot of these people choose to work the hours that suit them. It’s also great for firms: they can access a vast pool of talented people without having to go through all of the expense of hiring somebody outright. With the rise of platforms, such as Field Engineer, it’s never been easier for companies to find the people they need for the work they need doing.

It’s time to leverage your business’ turnover and step into the future of work. Sign up for free and hire talented engineers today!



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