Choices in a Modern Career

Zurich, 01 December 2016, Sylvia Beasley-Suffolk

There is a lot of talk about the way we will work in the future and that “traditional employment will eventually become a minority pursuit”. When I reflect across my network of family, friends and acquaintances, I observe the “standard” corporate ladder climbers already seem to be in the minority. Indeed, it appears almost standard to take a so-called “alternative route.”

What paths will people stick with?

Over the last 10 or 15 years in my network, I see there are those who have taken periodic sabbaticals as they ran themselves down in intense jobs; those who have changed careers for reasons of purpose, passion and / or family; and those who are so far staying in their initial professions, yet often in jobs that enable a more balanced work-life integration than the ones in which they started out.

The predominate theme, especially once kids appear on the scene, seems to – fundamentally – be a question of sustainability, pace and quality of life (for both women and men!).

Are our modern careers sustainable?

Life expectancy is increasing and few would argue that along with this evolution, the pension age will continue to rise.

As Jill recently posted to her “not a backpacker” blog, INSEAD Professor Herminia Ibarra shows strong research among investment bankers to suggest that “work pressure demands more downtime than a fleeting week off.”

It begins to appear that, in light of longer lives, some traditional jobs feel almost punishing in their demands and unsustainable over years, let alone decades – or at least incompatible with interests outside work.

In parallel, we read about increasing evidence that less can be more when it comes to our working practices.

Where does that leave us? Will people have to take periodic sabbaticals, simply to be able to cope? Or will we find a way to adapt our working practices to make our “100 year lives” sustainable again while fully contributing to our respective companies and their strategies?

I will be curious to see where Jill’s not a backpacker journey ends up fitting in on that scale.