Career Development: What the Millennials Can Teach Us
It’s a celebration of our diverse landscape and history. It’s a much-needed rest after a busy start to the year. But for many people, Australia Day is also something of an annual career introspection.
Most professionals have returned to work after the New Year, and the extra public holiday is a chance to ask themselves an important question or two. Am I heading in the right direction? How does my current job fit with my long-term goals? Could there be something better out there, something that represents real growth?
Anyone who is serious about their professional life should not let these questions fade away, or settle for vague answers. Instead, they should take a good look at what effective career planning looks like today. Doing so can help clarify one’s professional direction, and inspire real action toward definite goals.
The unique challenges presented to Millennials are perhaps the best measuring stick of modern career development and where it’s headed. These folks (born in the early 1980s up to the early 2000s) are now entering the key years of their professional lives—and by 2020 (yes, that’s next year!), they’ll account for something like 40% of the global workforce.
The career development of Millennials is different from that of previous generations for two important (and related) reasons. First, Millennials have a different outlook on success. Their definition of a good career trajectory is inseparable from lifestyle, diversity of experience, and overall health. It’s more about living well during one’s busiest professional years, rather than working now to enjoy the fruits later.
The second reason is the mercurial nature of modern business. Never before has there been so much information, so many connections, and so much change—not to mention competition! As the success of individual companies and ideas has become more variable, the recipe for career success has changed.
So—using Millennials as a base, here are three factors that I think every professional should consider as they evaluate their career plans this coming Australia Day.
1. Being Passionate is a Valuable Currency
Tangibles like salary, benefits and job security have long been the priority for most professionals, while loving what you do is a secondary luxury. But the metrics of success, on both individual and organisational levels, are understood differently now. More and more companies want talent who are fully engaged and forward-thinking. Why? Because they know the value such professionals will bring.
So how much passion can you offer? If the answer is “not very much,” then your current trajectory may not offer the kind of growth you want. Here’s a mental exercise: Forget about the “safe path” for a moment, and focus entirely on the other aspects of what drives you as a professional—leading, teaching, innovating, or excelling in a given field. When you put happiness and passion in the foreground, you’ll at least gain some perspective. At best, you’ll discover where the most fertile professional ground actually lies.
2. Adroit, Adept and Ready for Change
The traditional model of spending your entire career with a single company has its own advantages—but it’s fast becoming an exception to the rule of change. This doesn’t mean that always scanning for new job opportunities is the way to go. Instead, professionals across many fields are focusing on 1) constantly educating themselves and 2) networking. These things have never been easier to do, and they help create career growth organically, in a way that follows the “current” and creates real opportunities.
In other words, actually changing jobs may not be the immediate answer to career growth. It may be three or four steps away. But there are always measures you can take to stay abreast of change and be a part of it, rather than watching it happen around you. Many professionals find that taking a more proactive approach to education and networking causes doors to open right where they are, in their current job.
3. Tangible Goals Never Go Out of Style
Since every career path is different, I don't think there’s one perfect recipe for career planning. Every professional must decide for themselves what they really want, and what path can take them the farthest.
Having said that, it never hurts to set concrete goals and work toward them. Once you’ve identified what’s missing in your career, and what kind of growth you’re looking for, a plan of action should never be far away. It may involve education, a meeting with a career consultant, an interview with a certain company whose ideals you connect with, or even working physical health in order to perform better at the workplace. Millennials may be showing the way forward in terms of how careers are developed in the modern age, but setting and keeping goals is truly a perennial practice.
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