Leading-Edge Graduate Career Advice for Today’s Fluid Career CultureDec 01, 2020
I remember when my AP U.S. History teacher told my class how in middle school, she and her friends stressed about picking classes because “it affects your high school classes, which affects the college you get into, which affects your job, which affects your whole life!”
My classmates (the stressed, over-achieving kinds, naturally) nodded heartily, but my teacher countered, “It’s not REALLY like that!” Looking back, I find that she was right.
My APUSH teacher’s middle school stresses epitomize how we tend to visualize the career journey with the “corporate ladder” image, where we scramble to the top on each other’s heads in a straight line. When we were kids, adults asked “what do you want to be when you grow up?” and expected a single answer, a single ladder we wanted to climb.
After all, that’s what they and their parents did: picked a career in their 20s, worked in it for 40 years, retired with a pension (Scott). Graduate career advice has relied on this ladder image for years.
A Brave New World—and How Classic Graduate Career Advice Is Irrelevant
Whole industries—and the jobs they comprise—rise and fall faster than ever before as time, technology, and current events march on. Companies are innovating new work solutions to fit the changing times: hiring more part-time workers and contractors to reduce training costs and liability, diversifying remote work options, and more. Typical 9 to 5 jobs are dwindling. If you put all your skills eggs in one career basket, one quick change in the industry could leave you with a lot of eggshells.
New graduates may see this world in flux and wonder where they fit. If traditional graduate career advice grows increasingly irrelevant, how do we know how to navigate this new career landscape? With the right tools, guidance, and introspection, we don’t have to be afraid of this new career paradigm.
This liquidated career world invites us to take a fresh look at our own career journeys. We can be more flexible and creative with our resources than ever before.
Shifting Your Perspective
Lily Zhang says, “Career success depends not on one big decision in your 20s, but on relentlessly learning and trying new things” (Zhang). The corporate ladder prioritized committing your time and energy into the same field for decades, but the career world now rewards adapting your skills and past experiences to help you flourish at each new turn.
Working many kinds of jobs can also broaden your skills and help you get into more diverse opportunities than ever before. Natalie Jesionka points to these benefits of the new multi-job landscape:
- Building a strong, well-rounded skills foundation that can help you in many more kinds of jobs.
- Opening career doors in more fields than before.
- Pursuing unique interests and integrating different passions into a new career niche.
- Creating opportunities to take your career to different countries, where cultures respect professions differently (Jesionka).
These new possibilities give us the chance to own our careers in ways that previous generations could only dream about.
Jenny Blake suggests visualizing your career journey as a smartphone instead of a ladder—a tool that you personalize to fit your needs, professional branding, and personality (and I’m betting you’ve used your phone a lot more recently than a ladder!) (Career).
The goal of a ladder is to arrive somewhere; the goal of a smartphone is to have it do what you want. You can download apps (skills, experiences, and education) to help you feel happy and fulfilled. You can learn a lot about a person by looking at what’s on their phone, and your career journey should say just as much about who you are.
But how do you decide what apps to download on your career phone? Your career-building options may number more than the apps in the Google Play Store, but first, here are some starter tips for narrowing your options down a little bit.
Narrowing It Down; Getting the Right Tools
Caroline Beaton suggests first narrowing down what you don’t want to do with your life, and then identifying what you know you’d regret not doing in your 20s and 30s (Beaton).
If you still find yourself with too many passions, we live in a world where you can combine them and create your own niche! Love bird science and map-making? Start making maps of bird habitats and migration patterns! Consider starting a blog, a YouTube channel, or a small business—if you’re passionate about it, chances are that others (including future employers and clients) are too.
All these possibilities may leave you wondering how you can make the best decisions possible in the direction(s) best suited for you. Career Cram provides tools to help best light your path, like:
- Branding advice
- Networking help
- Professional development
so you can see best where you want to go.
Seize the Day!
Times are uncertain, but now more than ever, we have the power to allow our career path to organically adapt to us instead of us to our career path.
Your career doesn’t just have to be a way to make ends meet, but a way for your unique personality to flourish. And Career Organic is here to offer you the best graduate career advice and help you thrive in this shifting career world.
Contact Career Cram and start exploring the fullest potential of your career journey today!
Beaton, Caroline. "The Too-Many-Passions Problem: 4 Tips to Help Millennials Choose a Perfect Career." Forbes, 29 Mar. 2016, www.forbes.com/sites/carolinebeaton/2016/03/29/the-too-many-passions-problem-4-things-you-can-do-today-to-choose-your-perfect-career/#2dc20d4a29af. Accessed 28 Aug. 2020.
"The Career in the Age of the App: Jenny Blake at TEDxCMU 2011." YouTube, 12 May 2011, youtu.be/5oZI9Qtymfg. Accessed 28 Aug. 2020.
Jesionka, Natalie. "Embrace Your Paths: Why Having Multiple Jobs Is a Good Thing." The Muse, www.themuse.com/advice/embrace-your-paths-why-having-multiple-jobs-is-a-good-thing. Accessed 28 Aug. 2020.
Scott, Terri. "Career Options: The Viability of Choosing Not to Choose." Bidsketch, www.bidsketch.com/blog/everything-else/choosing-not-choose/. Accessed 28 Aug. 2020.
Zhang, Lily. "How Careers Have Changed (and How to Manage Yours Accordingly)." The Muse, www.themuse.com/advice/how-careers-have-changed-and-how-to-manage-yours-accordingly. Accessed 28 Aug. 2020.
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