Once upon a time a person found a job (or position, if you wish) in a particular company and stayed in that system (hopefully with some promotions) for forty plus years then retired. I think it is pretty evident that is no longer the reality in which we live. Most people change not only their jobs but their careers several times in their lifespan, and the frequency of this is increasing.
The number of career changes one can expect is unclear and some of this is based on definitions but the figures generally range from three andseven times in one’s lifespan. By my personal estimate, I have had five careers—U.S. Army officer, campus minister (in three locations), denominational administrator (in two different settings), educator, and life coach. Granted that I would consider most of these under the overall theme of Christian ministry, the responsibilities, preparation, knowledge, and skills for each is different enough to classify each of these as different “careers.”
I think that the average person can expect to have a number of jobs and/or vocations in the 21st century. Even if you have the same position (which is unlikely), your responsibilities will change with the needs of the organization and your developing abilities.
The challenge of the 21st century is that most of the careers or positions available now did not exist even ten years ago. Some of the titles of new positions assembled by Fast Company magazine are interesting and exotic. Here are some samples: Director of Emerging Thought, Chief Imagination Officer, Visual Executive Officer (VEO), Minister of Enlightenment, Insight and Futuring Manager, and Chief Academic Officer (of a business). Social media consultant Randy Schrum offers the following: Social Media Consultant and Services, Google Listings and Mobile Web Ranking Services, and Online Reputation Management Services.
Of course, most positions will not be as unusual as these, but there are some interesting new positions in fields we encounter daily that are created as various disciplines intersect. For example, in health care there are positions that link statistics with health, biological studies, and pharmaceutical research. There are career counselors that work especially with people who have disabilities. Physicians, physicists, and engineers are working together in new ways that are sure to produce new job specialties.
Even in the church, we can expect to see some creative expressions of ministry both within and outside the local church. Many ministers with an entrepreneurial spirit are developing new combinations that link social service, worship, counseling and Christian formation.
How does one prepare for this dynamic future? No matter what happens, I believe that there are certain skills that will serve a person well as they adapt to career change.
First, each of us should cultivate our communication skills, both written and oral. Granted that much of the Internet culture is based on images and texting has set accurate spelling back a hundred years, the ability to put together understandable sentences and paragraphs to convey ideas is still important.
Second, the greatest challenge that many face today is to develop and practice good relational skills. This should be attributed entirely to the Internet and the online gaming culture. Too often organizations have adopted a “silo” approach that has isolated people and made them experts in their own areas with little need for others. Even introverts can and must learn to work well with others.
Third, a person needs to be able not only to read but to comprehend, analyze, and apply. Books are plentiful and written material is readily available on the Internet, but one must be able not only to read the material but to determine its accuracy and usefulness. Just because it is in print does not make it a fact. No matter what your job, the ability to understand and critique written material will be vital in an age of information overload.
Fourth, everyone needs some basic organizational skills. I will admit that this does not come naturally to some people, but being able to pay one’s bills, find important papers and keep appointments makes life easier! Perhaps the most important of these organizational skills is personal time management—learning to put time into those things that are really important to our overall health and happiness.
Fifth, although some will not want to hear this, a person will find it difficult to function in today’s society without some digital skills. Using computers, Smartphones, and Internet-connected devices comes easier to some of us than to others, but if one fails to learn at least some basic skills in using these tools, he or she will have a difficult time pursuing any profession.
Although the job situation will continue to evolve, the person who identifies his or her abilities, develops appropriate skills, and persists in the search will be able to find useful and remunerative work . . . or create their own!