How to approach a long life of employability
With an ever increasing life expectancy comes an ever increasing lifetime of employment. How do we approach this and maintain a lifetime of employability?
We live in uncertain times, both economically and politically; of course, this can be problematic for our careers, but this isn’t new. We’ve been living with uncertainty for one reason or another, forever. It’s time to get used to it and stopped using ‘uncertainty’ as an excuse for not managing our careers.
So what changes do we need to navigate next?
In the developed world, we are living for longer. In the news this week, we heard that life expectancy in the UK has dropped for the first time in a decade, even so, 50% of babies born in 2007, in the UK will reach the ripe old age of 103 and their Japanese counterparts will make it to 107.
This fact alone should make us stop and think about careers; as lives get longer, so too, the working life must extend. In their book ‘The 100 Year Life’, Gratton and Scott talk about the traditional idea of ‘lockstep’; throughout history our lives have been organised into 3 stages, education, employment and retirement with ‘age’ easily relatable to each stage. Living for longer, with an extended work-life will eventually bring about the end of lockstep, age and stage will no longer be synonymous as we choose different pathways to suit the ‘current’ time in our lives.
We’ve already seen an increase in young entrepreneurship with the millennial generation and we’re starting to see changes in attitude with generation Z. With a 50 to 60 year working life ahead of them, our youngest generation is already more predisposed to exploration before committing to their first ‘career’. At the same time, in the CDS career coaching practice, we’re seeing an increasing number of what would traditionally be ‘retirees’ choosing to work for longer, exploring portfolio careers, as well as making career choices which allow them to focus on what they really enjoy doing at a time when promotions and greater responsibility have diminishing appeal.
We’ve been talking about the end of ‘a job for life’ for virtually my whole career (over 20 years) and yet there has been little progress in developing company cultures where we feel comfortable helping colleagues manage their ‘lifetime of employability’ along with their current employment.
So what can we do differently to focus on a lifetime of employability?
- Equip for Transition; as life expectancy and working lives extend, we will face many more transitions, not just from one job/employer to the next but potentially from one career to the next, through different phases of education and through periods of intense personal development interspersed with times of reflection and re-creation. The ability to manage transition (planned for and imposed) from a leadership and individual perspective is critical; our relationships should be such that we can talk about long term career implications and focus on the now. Achieving this requires a focus on feedback, self-awareness and flexibility.
- Focus on Strengths; all too often we think we are helping our employees when we highlight and focus on developing their weak spots. If we are to live and work for longer and enjoy it, wouldn’t our energy be better spent building on what they’re really great at? People with the opportunity to focus on their strengths are six times as likely to be engaged in their jobs and the link between productivity and engagement is long proven.
- Network; In a life with more transitions, building and nurturing a genuine network is paramount. Creating opportunities to use strengths in cross-company project teams is one way to build internal networks, sitting at a different table for lunch is another! We should also be building confidence in external networking, to draw partners and customers closer to us as well as for personal growth. Create formal and informal opportunities for networking as an opportunity to learn and grow.
- Be career conscious; when your star performer resigns out of the blue it’s a crushing blow. The easiest way to avoid this is to have regular (career) conversations, this way, you’ll still eventually lose your star performer, but you will have played an important role in helping them shape their career decision and will have had time to think about succession planning. They will remember you as the great manager who helped them manage their career and they might even return at some point in the future, having developed their strengths, to add more value to your business.
“While no single conversation is guaranteed to change the trajectory of a career, a company, a relationship or a life – any single conversation can”
– Susan Scott, Fierce Conversations
As ever, my views are my own. I would be intrigued to hear how you are preparing yourself and your colleagues for a lifetime of employability.
Sources for statistics, etc. below.
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Originally posted in Pulse LinkedIn