The Road to Success: The Death of the Single Career Path

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For baby bloomers and much of Generation X, your generation has been engineered to think a certain way about everything – dressing, slangs, opinions, bigotry and, of course, career choices. You went to school if your parents could afford it, graduated and got into the labor market. With your degree, getting a job really wasn’t that hard. Besides, you probably wanted that job since you were a child. Then you stay with that one job in sickness and in health, until retirement do you part. And why not? It pays well, you can afford to provide for your family and take vacations twice a year. A monotonous 9-to-5 job is just a price you have to pay to live the standardized American dream. In this dream, there is a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage. At age 65, it is time to retire because any younger and you’re lazy and ay older… well, let’s just say a machine can easily replace you.

Generation Y has a set of completely different rules. Education, though still important, has become an expectation, and now almost everyone who has the desire to can go to school. If your parents can afford it, great. If not, you can find scholarships elsewhere, your government can help you out or you can apply for financial aid from your school. This results in millions of fresh graduates worldwide all competing for the same jobs across different industries. You go back to school for your master’s (because your résumé cannot survive without it) to learn skills, perhaps including a new language or familiarizing yourself with updates in technology. You take the first job offer you get, because your parents strongly encouraged it and you didn’t have any options. It’s a 9-to-5. You dive in, get a taste of it, and realize it isn’t for you. You hop into another and it doesn’t satisfy you, then others – law, engineering, economics, medicine, etc. your only desire is to make a name for yourself by singing depressing songs about the crappy boys in your life and make money off of your heartbreaks.

Gallup recently produced a report on the millennial generation, “How Millennials Want to Work and Live,” which “reveals that 21 percent of millennials say they’ve changed jobs within the past year, which is more than three times the number of non-millennials who report the same.” The study concluded that many millennials put neither energy nor passion into their jobs.

After obtaining his degree in marketing and finance from the University of Essex and having completed his Masters at the University of Warwick, Gbolahan Olatunde proceeded to work at the United Bank of Africa (UBA). Two days into the job, he realized, “it wasn’t for me. I can’t do a 9-to-5 job. I don’t like routines.” Olatunde later tried the music industry getting over 4,000 views on YouTube for his single “Confam Girl,” before entering the media industry. “I now talk for a living; I’m a media personality, a comic, an actor, an MC and also a TV presenter. I don’t have a typical day – I wake up not knowing how the day is going to be or what I’m going to be doing.” By following his passion for comedy and diversifying into different businesses, Olatunde is able to perfect his skills. A LinkedIn study also showed that job-hopping is most popular among people who work in media, entertainment and non-profit organizations.

The Gallup report also reveals that only about 29 percent of millennials are really engaged at work, while 16 percent are actively disengaged in their jobs and the remaining 55 percent are not at all engaged. Bernardino Koku Avle is one of those millennials who are really engaged at work. He holds a first-class degree in economics (a path he has chosen to desert) and has worked as a journalist for the last 12 years. He hosts the ‘Citi Breakfast Show,’ a daily program on Ghanaian radio and is also the Director of News at Citi FM, where he supervises news strategy for both the radio station and its online platforms. Avle is so passionate about his job that he claims he would “do it for no pay.” But, of course, he’s part of a minority group, showing that not every millennial hops from one job to another.

Greg Harris, the CEO of Quantum Workspace, wrote a piece for Entrepreneur magazine in which he asked, “What if the root of the problem isn’t millennials? What if it’s actually employers who are failing to create a workspace that meets the needs of the generation? So they go from one company to the next, looking for an organization that can fulfill them professionally.” In the Harvard Business Review the authors of the Gallup report noted that for a company to maintain millennials, it needs to understand them – what motivates them, what doesn’t and the “delicate balance of the two.” David Cruickshank, global chairman of consulting firm Deloitte, also added that although salary is important when choosing a job, “it’s clear that millennials won’t stay with companies for money alone.”

Guy Berger, an economist for LinkedIn, analyzed the career trajectories of three million college graduates. According to his research, “a college degree used to slot you into a 40-year career. Now it’s just an entry-level point to your first job.” And, sometimes – as in the case of Sam Tucker – even a degree in marketing isn’t enough to pursue a career, or at least enter into an industry in which the degree will be useful. Having graduated from the University of Bournemouth, Sam could have been a marketing executive for a highly rated company or worked in advertising or public relations. He left the corporate world to pursue a career as a pastry chef in Switzerland and currently works at a seafood restaurant in Paris. Sam believes cooking to be an art: “I get to see the finished product straight away, not marketing projects that go on for months.” Degree or not, some choose to follow their dreams.

Habitualization, as described by 20th century Russian critic Viktor Shlovsky, “devours work, clothes, furniture. One’s wife and a fear of war.” This is the same technique Generation X has been taught to associate with success – a 9-to-5 – office job with a monotonous lifestyle. Generation Y disagrees. We choose to pursue careers based on our passions, interests and, in some cases, beliefs. In the words of the English spoken word artist Suli Breaks, “There is nothing wrong with making an honest living, but – be honest – are you honestly living?”



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