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In future there will be no jobs, only careers

Some people say: ‘Careers are dead, we all just have jobs now’. But the other day, commenting on the disintegrating job market in the recession-hit West, someone made this striking comment to me: ‘In future there will be no jobs, only careers’.

So what is a career?

A few years ago, careers – mostly for men – were about a chronological progression from education into work, then progressing up a vertical hierarchy and finally retiring on a fat pension (all-too-frequently collapsing with a heart attack shortly afterwards).

I don’t think there are many people who view careers like that anymore, especially amongst younger workers. They’ve redefined the word around their own experience and expectations: Comfortable moving between employers, educated by their parents’ best and worst experiences, and fuelled by their aspirations for work-life balance or entrepreneurship. Careers are now less like a ladder and more like a lattice, matrix or – as Peter Hawkins puts it – ‘crazy paving’ (lay it yourself).

So I think it’s the pundits and HR professionals who have the biggest problem with the word ‘career’, realising that the traditional career deal has been broken so many times by employers failing to be honest about what they can offer. In their attempts to avoid the word, they’ve ended up expending a lot of hot air and cold ink on ‘Talent Management’ instead.

For most workers and managers, the word is not a problem but an opportunity to define the kind of career they really want. Here is one definition we have developed at Ci:

“A CAREER is the evolving sequence of a person’s work experiences over time, which allows them to explore and fulfil their sense of identity, purpose and calling.”

That leaves plenty of room for each of us to define the kind of career we need and want, and to negotiate that with the those around us. Today there is not one kind of career, but many.

What does the word ‘career’ mean to you personally? I’d love to hear…

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