What Will Your Next Career Look Like?

Thinking of retiring? If pundits are right (and it certainly looks that way from here), the concept of ‘retirement’ has been put to rest – permanently. Take a look at the recent history of employee benefits. Pensions were the first to go. They relied on a continuous growth model that has since proved to be unsustainable. They were replaced by IRA’s and 401K’s. How are yours doing these days? At the same time, employers woke up to the fact that, with mushrooming costs for medical care, insurance companies were continuing to hike the cost of corporate health insurance. To survive, even the most generous of employers had no choice but to cut benefits, increase co-pays, and reduce the percentage of insurance costs they would assume . . . very often down to 0. Many cut out corporate medical coverage entirely. Of course, there’s always Social Security and Medicare to fall back on . . . for now. And, incidentally, with what kind of life would those benefits provide you?

If you want my recommendation on the subject: forget about retiring. Regardless of whether you’re currently employed, facing a layoff, or already ‘semi-retired’, there’s a very high probability that there’s yet another career in your future. Do you enjoy and want to continue in the career you currently have? Again, that’s a nice thought, but chances are that’s not going to be a viable option forever. Look behind you. What do you see? There’s a hoard of younger, better-educated, more tech-savvy, cheaper applicants chasing after your job. If you’re in a highly-paid career, it’s also highly probable that the demographic of all those who are hungering to displace you from your position has changed enormously. Look carefully now! What do you see? That’s right: they’re mainly women.

Why are women starting to take over the higher-paid, more responsible careers? There are two fundamental reasons. First, 21st Century careers openings in the best areas generally require a lot of education. According to the latest information in Les Krantz’s Jobs Rated Almanac, here are the top ten jobs:

1. Web site manager

2. Actuary

3. Computer Systems Analyst

4. Software engineer

5. Mathematician

6. Computer programmer

7. Accountant

8. Industrial engineer

9. Hospital administrator

10. Web developer

Now, here are the ten worst jobs:

241. Seaman

242. Roofer

243. Taxi driver

244. Sheet metal worker

245. Dancer

246. Cowboy

247. Construction worker

248. Fisherman

249. Lumberjack

250. Roustabout/Oil field laborer

The point to notice here is that nearly all the 10 worst jobs are either exclusively male, or male-dominated. We can gather from these statistics that the best jobs (regarding environment, income, employment outlook, physical demands, security and stress) were the ones where women were either dominant or becoming so. The most desirable jobs require education and, in many cases, advanced training.Women are outpacing men in school. The Horatio Alger Association studied the most successful students and found that 63% were female, only 37% were males. Not surprisingly, in a study of disillusioned and demoralized students, nearly 70% are males. Two out of three of the people vying for your job in the future will be women.

The second factor that’s making your career more difficult for you to maintain derives from the nature of the 21st Century workplace. As Marshall Goldsmith wrote, “What got you here won’t get you there.” You may well be unsuitable for the temperament that your next step up will require. With every passing year, the aggressive, competitive ‘hunter-gatherer’ approach of the men of the last generation becomes less and less well-suited for the contemporary workplace. What’s needed are social connections and cooperation. How well are you culturally suited for engaging in these typically ‘feminine’ interactions?

You had best not wait until your next pink slip or company closing to start thinking about your future: not just your exit strategy, but also your re-entry strategy. What changes are you going to have to make to be competitive? How are you going to go about getting in touch with your deeper needs as a person so that your next career does more than just pays the bills. There’s a name for people who do meaningless work that they despise just to make money, and it’s not a complement. Especially if you’ve been in your career a long time, you have the opportunity now to reinvent yourself in a meaningful way. So, what will your next career look like?