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Forget about a job for life; today’s workers need to prepare for many jobs across multiple industries

By Ruchi Sinha
Image: iStock/alvarez

Both my parents worked for 30-plus years for their employers – they had lifelong careers at a single company. Growing up, they taught me the importance of “loyalty” and “commitment.”

But in a rapidly changing world, the concept of a job for life has become as rare as a dial-up internet connection.

This shift from stable, long-term employment and single-employer careers to a world where frequent job changes are the norm comes directly from globalization, rapid technological advancements and the changing ideas about work.

Why such rapid change now?

Globalization has turned the world economy into a giant, interconnected web. This has made job markets fiercely competitive and talent and opportunities in the labor market more diverse and digitally accessible.

Jobs can be widely publicized and explored online and are no longer tied to your city of birth. Add to this the rapid technological progress. We now live in a world where the skills you learned yesterday might not be enough for today’s job market.

The job market is transforming, with new careers emerging as automation and artificial intelligence (AI) advances. Risks and price policies can be efficiently assessed using AI, making insurance underwriters redundant while advanced software in banking and finance mean data analysis can be automated.

Online booking has reduced demand for travel agents and desktop publishers are being replaced by user-friendly software, which allows people to create their own materials. These changes highlight the need for professionals to update their skills and adapt to a technologically evolving job market.

As a result, career paths have become fluid and multi-directional. It’s no longer just about climbing the corporate ladder and getting a regular paycheck; it’s about exploring different paths, switching jobs and industries and sometimes even venturing into freelancing and the gig economy.

Workers’ priorities have been changed by the pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown this trend into overdrive. It has highlighted the need for workers and employers to be flexible to adjust to remote work, evolving job demands and uncertain prospects. Many people have reevaluated their career choices. They want greater work/life balance and adaptability in a changing world.

Increasingly, many workers are developing a personal brand, which involves building a narrative based on their individual skills. This is enriched through online education and skill development courses which makes them stand out in the workplace and more likely to access better opportunities.

But if employers don’t provide opportunities to use these skills, employees might decide to look elsewhere.

Does moving jobs equal disloyalty?

Loyalty is defined as an employee’s commitment to their organization and its goals. It means a willingness to put in extra effort and to uphold the company’s values and objectives. Loyal workers often identify strongly with their workplace, are reliable and view the organisation positively, even during tough times.

When long-term employees change workplaces, it does not mean they are disloyal. It signifies a change in priorities and a redefined loyalty bond. Employees are loyal to their employer and its interests while working there. But they also seek mutual growth and expect to be recognized and rewarded.

Career paths are now a kaleidoscope of experiences and opportunities. Instead of a career identity being about a company brand, it is about skills, experiences and the meaningfulness of the work. This transformation means career decision-making is more intricate, considering personal aspirations, market trends and family considerations.

How are employers coping with this shift?

Employers are rethinking strategies for career development with emphasis on providing diverse and flexible career opportunities, supporting continuous learning, and acknowledging unconventional career paths. This approach is not only in response to the changing nature of work but also a strategy to attract and retain talent in a highly competitive job market.

And for the individuals stepping into the workforce, the message is clear: take charge of your career development. Be proactive, embrace change, continually update your skills and be ready to navigate through transitions and uncertainties. In these dynamic career landscapes, adaptability and resilience are your best allies.

The ability to adjust quickly to new roles, learn new skills, and navigate uncertain job markets is essential for career success in the modern era.

In summary, the career landscape is evolving as is the nature of commitment. The new mantra for organizations and individuals is adaptability, continuous learning and resilience. As the world of work evolves, the key to success is embracing change and crafting a fulfilling, meaningful career that aligns with personal interests and life goals.

Ruchi Sinha is a Senior Lecturer, Organizational Behavior & Management at the University of South Australia.

The Conversation is an independent and nonprofit source of news, analysis and commentary from academic experts.

© The Conversation

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

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But in a rapidly changing world, the concept of a job for life has become as rare as a dial-up internet connection.

We briefly pause to consider a little reality.

The Gallup Organization issued a report about five months ago over if and how workers felt “engaged at work;” meaning whether workers felt they were “involved in and enthusiastic about their workplace.”

As contained in their report, only 5% of Japanese workers reported feeling engaged at work, while 73% of workers believed that they were not engaged at work.

Comparison purposes: Workers who felt engaged, the global average was 23%, and 18% among fellow OECD member countries. With the global not engaged was at the global rate of 59%.

A fluke? Well, no. Japanese worker engagement has remained consistently low; fluctuating between 4% and 8%. – next to numbers from other nations - since 2009, the first year data was collected.

It didn’t stop there.

Gallup also asked workers if they enjoy the work they do every day. The majority of Japanese who are employed for an employer -- 76% -- say they do, but this ranks Japan in the lowest third among 142 countries surveyed, and lags behind all other G7 countries.

Many individual respondents told Gallup that what they would like to see is more recognition, opportunities to learn, fair treatment, clearer goals and better managers.

Gallup explained:

[E]mployee engagement is strongly connected to people’s wellbeing. Those who are genuinely engaged are thriving at work and playing a key role in driving the organization toward its goals.

Conversely, not engaged employees are those who are investing time but not energy or passion into their work. They put in the minimum effort required and are minimally productive. They are more likely than engaged workers to be stressed and burned out.

While all of these are likely related, enjoyment is specifically how someone feels at work; satisfaction is how content they are; and engagement is how involved and enthusiastic they are with their workplace.

In the words of Jon Clifton, the CEO of Gallup: "What can leaders do today to potentially save the world? Gallup has found one clear answer: Change the way your people are managed.



0 ( +2 / -2 )

Forget about a job for life; today’s workers need to prepare for many jobs across multiple industries

Forget about that in Japan, most of Japanese worker stay in same company until retired or karoshi.


-6 ( +1 / -7 )

Slightly odd to read this on the JT site, as Japan is one of the countries where you are still most likely to meet people who have spent decades at the same employer.

Oh, and governments have been deglobalising us back to our tribes for a few years now.

Not sure workers' priorities have changed much since the pandemic. People need to pay the bills and it is harder now. If anything, folk are not changing jobs but adding a side hustle to stay afloat.

quote: Employers are rethinking strategies for career development with emphasis on providing diverse and flexible career opportunities, supporting continuous learning, and acknowledging unconventional career paths.

On what planet is that? It sounds nice. Companies only stick with WFH so they don't have to pay rent and heating bills on an office. They are widening employment nets out of desperation as governments repatriated migrant workers at Covid and then locked them out by changing the rules. Sneaky rascals, weren't they?

Perhaps academia is running a bit behind the rest of us.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

But that modern working style doesn't work too, because if you now have a lot of several or different employments in your CV then the next potential employer chooses someone else with less ones, thinking that you are kind of unstable character, are not interested in a longer career, aren't fully engaged or standing behind longer term company goals and such. Even if getting such a next job you surely will get quite less wages and are of course more suspicious and under bigger monitoring for those named reasons. Let us say it in other words, whatever you try they find the way for you will partially fail. Either you come from one long employment, then you are considered inflexible, inexperienced, not abiding to new modern world's style etc. or you have already too many former employments then you face the other problems already named. You don't have any chances, so use them anyway.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Focus on your skills, network and health and you will always be alright.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

A job for life is a misnomer,

To “win” a job for life, the luck of a draw, is akin to a “tombola”,

A lottery that places you in a moment of time within a company that is able, though its market control and leverage to offer “white/blue collars”  a placement to sit in splendour and comfort without the need to excel, just systematically work out a defined duty competently.

They are still spottable in Japan local municipal bureaucracy, holding, moving fistfuls of paperwork.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

The so-called 'Great American Dream'. It doesn't truly exist anymore, it went out with those wretchedly godawful 'Dick and Jane' books used in elementary school.

Then again, maybe it's been a fairy tale all along. The past few years have shown that generations of Americans, incl. mine have been lied to and raised in a social and educational structure that doesn't work anymore. It's 2024, not 1964.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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