Navigating the Perpetual Job Market —
A Life-Long Journey
Dear reader, since the Fall 2022 Hap Klopp and I have been conducting a Master Class Series on topics which are not readily taught in traditional business school programs. Each Master Class (MC) has a companion paper distributed to the MC participants. These papers are now published here making them available to my blogpost readers and also available at our 3 Amigos website.
Navigating the lifelong journey of the ever-changing job market can and will be a daunting task for many individuals. The job market will be in constant flux with new technologies, industries and trends emerging at a rapidly accelerating pace. This will result in individuals holding numerous jobs over their lifetimes requiring widely divergent knowledge, skills, and training. Choosing the right career path, as highlighted in the chart below, has always required the delicate balancing act between the individual’s aspirations and objectives with the existing job market. The new, accelerated environment job seekers face dramatically increases the number of times that the balance will have to be addressed and exponentially increases the decision-making matrix over a job seeker’s career. The resulting immense challenges for an individual will require re-skilling, up-skilling, and the continuous augmentation of one’s education via certificates, seminars, and specialized degrees. This sort of evolution isn’t totally new, but the speed and magnitude of the change is exponentially faster than what society has experienced before.
The delicate balance between the skills, aspirations, and career goals of an individual with the job market opportunities will be broken often, at an accelerated pace.
“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning is young.” — Henry Ford.
The good news for job seekers is this ever-changing landscape is equally challenging for Firms providing a myriad of opportunities for the well-prepared job seeker. Companies are already asking themselves how to find human capital that is day-one-job-ready requiring less and less “on-the-job” training. Furthermore, enterprises, large and small, need to constantly upgrade their technology base to meet the rapidly evolving market needs, to increase the caliber of their teams to maintain or better enhance their competitive posture.
While many moving parts of the enterprise are changing, there remains the culture of the firm which needs to be kept. The forces affecting organizations may result in a fertile environment for future opportunities, are listed below:
- Proliferation of startups: a global phenomenon and its high mortality rate,
- AI, robotics, digital transformation, and many other technologies which replace and upgrade predictable and routine tasks,
- Decrease of the average tenure of the employees in the firm,
- The need to change the human capital/knowledge pool due to new technologies emerging and a an increased pace,
- Performance and competitive pressures,
- Access to global talent increasing job competition,
- Increased need for agility to meet new market demands,
- The talent mismatch (inside the firm) and the talent shortage (outside the firm)
- New emergence of a new work environment: remote, diversity, equity, environmentally sustainable
Some of the specifics below clearly point to future opportunities for business. One doesn’t have to be a great futurist to realize the wide-ranging impact this is having on society and extrapolate it to what this will mean in the way of the future of jobs and business opportunities.
What has changed at the macro level:
- The expected lifespan of companies is dropping significantly (i.e., S&P companies have dropped from 67 years to 15 years over the last 80 years)
- Global population Is significantly increasing exceeding 10B people by mid-century (i.e., today 8B, 2030’s 9B, 2050’s 10B)
- Technological advances, including the digital transformation of society, is accelerating the obsolescence of products, services, and companies.
- A new generation of “digital native” employees is entering the job market.
- More abrupt and faster market changes, due to “black swan” events, is occurring (i.e. climate change, water pollution, pandemic, wars, and financial crises)
- Globalization and democratization of markets is leading to significantly Increased competition.
- Artificial Intelligence (AI) is impacting society and businesses in multiple ways eliminating many jobs, modifying the rest and creating new careers and opportunities which we were not even aware that existed.
These macro changes have led to new work paradigms summarized in the chart below:
The work paradigm has been shifting to a new model and the pandemic has enabled and accelerated the transition.
“You need to think and act like you are running a start-up: YOUR CAREER” Reid Hoffman
What has changed at the specific personal level:
- Consumption aspirations of the emerging global middle class are creating new demands on markets and governments,
- We are shifting from a product-based economy to a service economy => knowledge economy
- There is an increasing educational demand for skills, not just knowledge.
- Demographic shifts, including the “inverted population pyramid” dilemma, where less and less younger generations need to support an increased number of older people, are being faced by almost all advanced economies.
- Nontraditional careers are increasingly diverse and prevalent and more and more project-based freelance and independent work is on the rise,
- Individuals may maintain several jobs simultaneously (i.e., a portfolio of professional activities) working simultaneously for multiple firms,
- The increasing life expectancy (i.e. 2 to 4 years with every passing decade) => leading to a natural postponement of the retirement age and increasing the number of working years of the individual
These impacts at the personal level have led to new career paradigms summarized in the chart below.
The personal outlook of an individual’s career is shifting to a more pro-active and self-reliant paradigm
Cultivating a growth mindset is a key strategy for navigating the job future market. This means adopting a mindset that embraces learning and personal development as a lifelong journey. It requires individuals to be open to new ideas, experiences, and opportunities and to continuously seek out ways to improve their skills and knowledge.
Staying informed about the latest trends and changes in the job market is essential. This can involve keeping up with industry/trade publications, attending professional conferences and events and networking with colleagues and industry experts. Informed individuals can better identify emerging opportunities and make better informed decisions about their career paths.
To maximize one’s effectiveness it is important for individuals to be adaptable and flexible in their approach to their careers. This may involve being willing to take on new challenges (sometimes at lower wages), pivoting to new industries or roles, and developing skills in new areas that are suddenly in high demand. Being adaptable and flexible also means being able to embrace change and uncertainty, and to navigate challenges with resilience and creativity.
Suffice it to say, this environment can be off putting to many individuals and the confusion it presents can lead to counterproductive paralysis. Those who wish to maximize their success in this environment will have to rely upon important internal traits—remaining true and consistent to their core values, trusting their gut instincts, and leveraging their E.Q.
Developing a strong Personal Brand is a key strategy for navigating the job market. This means developing a clear and compelling narrative about your skills, experience and expertise that sets you apart from other candidates. It involves creating a strong online presence through social media and professional networking sites as well as building a portfolio of work that showcases your skills and achievements. Keys to doing this include:
- Keeping your brand current,
- Making sure your skills are competitive,
- Building and managing your personal reputation,
- Spending time on enhancing your community standing.
For more on Personal Branding, we refer you to our Master Class #1: “Personal Branding: The Key for Lasting Success.”
“Those who develop the ability to continuously acquire new and better forms of knowledge that they can apply to their work and to their lives will be the movers and shakers in our society for the indefinite future.” Brian Tracy
Networking is also an essential strategy for navigating the job market. This involves building relationships with industry experts, influential contacts, mentors, and colleagues who can offer advice, support, and opportunities. Networking can take many forms, from attending industry or networking events and conferences to joining professional organizations and online communities. The key to utilizing networking most effectively for success in the ever-changing business world is to focus networking efforts on the opportunities in front of you.
- Identify emerging new and/or adjacent sectors of business,
- Identify hot companies well positioned for the future and some of their key executives,
- Identify geographies of opportunity—both domestic and international,
- Look for areas and job titles most rewarded from the compensation and career growth potential.
Depending on the construct of your network, the impact on your future is going to vary dramatically, a shown in the chart below:
For more on this Networking, we refer you to our Master Class #3: “Networking: It’s who you know, not just want you know.”
It is essential for individuals to take a proactive approach to their career development and positively and proactively deal with the ever-changing business landscape. This includes, but is not limited to, setting clear objectives, and developing a plan to achieve them. It will often involve additional education or training and in the future will include the acquisition of both certifications and additional degrees. Likewise, it will require taking on new roles and/or responsibilities within the various organizations one might get involved in.
Tips for those who want to get the best jobs at every step of the professional journey.
First and foremost, you need to follow best practices for perpetual career preparation, such as:
- Career growth mindset to foster constant learning,
- Engage in continuous self-directed learning,
- Continuously develop and enhance “soft skills.”
- Develop and enhance your personal brand,
- Engage and connect with learning communities to exchange knowledge and build social capital,
- Document and reflect on your experiences, for constant improvement,
- Curate and document evidence of new and demonstrable knowledge and skills,
- Showcase and market personal brand.
Second, it is hard to make it alone: establish close bonds with a core team which will include colleagues, mentors, advisors, etc. Your team will amplify your abilities in multiple ways:
- Represents extra pairs of eyes and ears on market movements and pivots,
- Helps you evaluate your own skill set vs. emerging market demands,
- Facilitates relationships and networking,
- Can share timely tips and informational sources,
- Keeps tabs on the pulse of the job market.
Of particular interest are colleagues in prior jobs who know you well. They may have moved on to other companies/industries/geographies, and their experience is of particular interest because they know you better than most and can provide an excellent perspective as well as a source of introductions.
Finally, keep your recruitment support materials current (see Appendix) as you will never know when you need them.
a. Keep separate facts from aspirations,
b. Create a portfolio of work products, including videos, multi-media productions, and social media presence.
Navigating the lifelong journey of the ever-changing job market requires a combination of skills, strategies, and attitudes. By cultivating a growth mindset, staying informed about the latest trends and changes, being adaptable and flexible, developing a strong personal brand, networking, and taking a proactive approach to career development, individuals can stay relevant and successful throughout their entire career.
The labor market will continue evolving at an accelerated pace. We will observe in front of our eyes how many fulfilling and well compensated professions disappear, while others emerge in timid ways. While there is no certainty of which of those new emerging careers will lead to growth fields, certainly some will become well compensated opportunities. The good news is that historically every disruption created far more opportunities than jobs it destroyed in the prior technological incarnation. While these transitions are uncertain and intimidating, embracing them by far outweighs the certain professional death of a dying technology and/or a well-paying job in an obsolete firm becoming irrelevant.
From the firm’s perspective, to thrive, they must constantly reexamine their talent pool of current and future workers. Retaining current workers, where possible, is essential not only due to high replacement costs. The firm must measure the performance of these workers using the outcomes based on their skills, interests, and potential, not just their past credentials and job history. And, it must also be based on acquiring adjacent skills, not just the current skills. This will give workers opportunities to grow in new areas (adjacent or otherwise), building on the skills they already have. This approach will be extremely beneficial for them and for the employer. To maximize effectiveness, current workers will need to be augmented by new recruited workers who will bring new perspectives, knowledge, and skills unavailable in the current workforce. The constant balancing act of the firm’s human capital will enable to retain the firm identity and culture while maintaining the competitive edge and keep their products and services fresh while protecting the flanks of organization’s emerging markets which will need to be ‘served with new technologies.
Every job seeker’s goal in the future will require positioning oneself as the right candidate in the right place, at the right time, with the perceived right skills and knowledge ready for the next step in your professional journey. The key is to make that person YOU.
Until our paths cross again — Carlos B.