One of my favorite topics to discuss is that of life paths — how we take a stand on them differently generation by generation, and what different assumptions we’ve made when thinking about our careers and other major life choices.
In the Western world there’s a consensus that from a classical point of view we are set to first go through a several-year-long learning path, which then transitions to employment in a field we have been studying towards. It’s not that rare to come across people who’ve been working in a company for decades. These types of paths are slowly becoming increasingly rare as more modern cultures are starting to prevail. One could argue that essentially anyone who’s working in a modern work environment knows that long-term career forecasting is becoming more and more abstract in a constantly developing labour market.
Instead of settling into a job for long periods of time, people are confronted with much more complex roles, whose relevance in the coming years is difficult or even impossible to foresee. New professions, such as E-commerce Data Scientist and Growth Hacker, have only emerged in the last few years but are rapidly becoming more common roles, while older ones are making room for them by going extinct. Employers are slowly moving from hiring well-educated to hiring well-learning. Having a university degree will be a good starting kit but carries us an ever shorter distance in terms of our careers.
Towards a more fragmented way of learning and living
People will have more diverse roles that overlap with each other and also evolve according to the currently dominant need. At the same time, education in the more traditional sense, is starting to merge with work by adapting models that enable us to learn by doing. Learning becomes a lifelong path as we encounter change increasingly often. Of course many of us have already been learning our whole lives in different fields, but this kind of change will be more of a built-in, across-the-board way of thinking in our culture — less steered by the pressure of a competitive labour market. Learning itself is becoming decentralized — here and there, people are absorbing an article, a lecture, a podcast, a book and an online course on a wide variety of topics that may have nothing to do with each other. And yet it's all paying off. If not now, at least in the unforeseen future.
All of this change can be simultaneously exciting and terrifying. Excitement of confronting the new and moving forward — or fear of mistakes and uncertainty. But if we start going towards a direction based on what we find ourselves to be passionate about, the odds are we are going to find more happiness in the long term.
Text written by Janne Valtakari, a TEDxOtaniemi volunteer