Not long ago, I was reading one of the many, many articles about Millennials. It was stated that Millennials will change their careers at least four times during their work lives. That seemed pretty significant to me. Until I thought about my own career path.
While my corporate career was always in semiconductor businesses, I reinvented myself many times — Engineering, Purchasing, Sales, Marketing, and Operations. The common thread was semiconductor technology, yet I had to learn new skills for each of those different disciplines. And, within each of
those disciplines, I had many different jobs and assignments.
People seem to agree that a career is a series of connected employment opportunities. A career is a long term endeavor. Many of my engineering friends changed employers to follow their love of a certain technology — for example a particular processor architecture. Their profession was in microprocessor architecture and design engineering. They changed employers to gain more knowledge and perhaps more salary, but they stayed within their profession.
I also know that purchasing agents are sought after talent and will often move to other employers to further their purchasing skills. But again, they stayed within their purchasing discipline. I am sure you can think of similar examples from your own experiences.
A job is short term and usually doesn’t directly affect careers. Folks tend to use jobs as stepping stones on their career path. The job is for the paycheck and for gaining new skills. I think of the job as a particular goal and careers equate to the vision/mission.
The reason that Millennials will need to change careers is that so many jobs are expected to be automated in the future. I think the author of the article mentioned above felt that people will have to stay one step ahead of the robots and AI by changing their career to one that is less automated at the time. Or perhaps change to a career where they can work with intelligent machines.
Perhaps my surprise at the article’s suggestion had to do with my thinking of my own career as being in Technology rather than Engineering, Purchasing, Sales, Marketing, or Operations. Yet that view isn’t accurate since technology comprises much more than just semiconductor disciplines.
I have come around to the point of view that technology and AI have begun to greatly affect the way we look at our professional employment path. We will definitely need to reinvent ourselves more often than we have in the past. This of course begs the question of how we will change education to prepare our young folks for fluid careers. And how will we as business leaders continue to provide what Daniel Pink calls Mastery for our employees?