Gen Y

Parallel careers

Is the idea of a career path dead?  Not yet, but for some of us who talk with people in transition every day, it sometimes seems so. 

There are still people who will begin their career in a carefully chosen field or profession and slowly work their way up the ranks, earning promotions, greater responsibility and higher pay.  The difference today vs. yesteryear is that you can no longer count on this certain future.  To many people, having to veer off the predictable path is a scary prospect.  But there are some to whom the idea of staying on one path their whole lives is less appealing than snacking on a handful of crushed glass.

A colleague of mine recently spoke on the topic of generations in the workplace.  She described a concept on the rise in the employment market being led by Gen Y: parallel careers.  As a part of Gen X, I always expected to have multiple employers and multiple jobs, but in succession, not at the same time.  Simply put, parallel careers means having more than one job at a time.  

Now, there have always been people who have more than one job at a time out of necessity.  What we’re talking about here are most often young professionals who also run businesses on the side.  In many cases these are busineses made possible by the Internet.  The barriers to entry for microbusiness are lower than ever now thanks to the web, smartphones, social networking tools and other advances that did not exist a decade ago.  This generation is a creative, entreprenerial generation that sees no advantage in putting all their eggs in one basket just to have the basket taken away suddenly in a corporate reorg.   My friend Jason Alba blogs about the idea of personal income security instead of job security on his website  Check it out on my blogroll.  It’s a perfect example of the way the younger generation is thinking now (though I confess I don’t know if he’s Gen Y or Gen X.)

The cool thing is that Gen Y may be leading the way but they are not alone.  Other generations are getting on the bandwagon.  More Baby Boomers are taking advantage of the financial freedom that comes with having a liveable nest egg, cutting back on big corporate jobs, and starting businesses.  They are finding they value the same things the younger generations do – quality of worklife and more freedom and control over their future.  

Imagine that – together the youngest workers and the oldest workers are changing the face of the employment landscape and the idea of career path as we know it.