We’ve all been there. Sitting around a dinner or lunch table somewhere, probably still a teenager, and a family member – mum, dad, aunt, second-cousin twice-removed – wants to know: what do you want to do with your life?
One of the bigger of the big questions, asked with the same casualness that a person might use to ask you to pass the salt. To answer it, you have to know all kinds of things you don’t yet know. Like what interests you, what kind of life you’d like to have, what jobs pay how much, how to get into the field, whether you’re any good at it, whether you’re ready. No easy feat.
But unlike our parents or our parents’ parents, pursuing the one career and sticking to it for sixty-odd years is no longer the only accepted route.
A recent survey by LinkedIn found that 56% of Australians – nearly 3 in 5 – were seriously considering changing employers in 2023. And the Australian Bureau of Statistics found that the younger you are, the more likely you are to move around from job to job, with workers in professional roles even more likely again.
And while certain Armenian-American billionaire moguls might have you believing that nobody wants to get up off their [redacted] and work these days, the changing face of careers and our willingness to just work might reflect a deeper and more meaningful shift in attitudes towards work.
Between the changing cultural temperature on traditionalism and duty, job markets that are more competitive than ever, and the popularisation of side-hustle girl boss culture, it’s no wonder younger people are less and less interested in working a job they hate, for a boss that doesn’t respect them and a wage that might never support a mortgage.
So, what’s the upside of this drastically changing culture of work?
Your career can look like anything
These days, we’re often invited – even encouraged – to try our hand at many different skills. So why not imagine your career as an endless piece of string; looping and diverting and doubling back?
You might return to uni mid-career to try your hand at a master degree in management in order to gain more stability in your role. You might change your mind about your design firm role and realise you’re a business owner and a little too good at baking to not turn it into something more.
Remember that whatever you choose to do, that doesn’t have to be the last decision you ever make about it.
The more skills you learn, the more invaluable you are
It sometimes seems like industries intersect more now than they ever have. Engineering intersects with cyber security. Architecture intersects with environmentalism. And those of us in the workforce with varied disciplines are more valuable than ever, too.
So while what you study or what you choose to do with your work should probably be based on what you enjoy, you can rest assured knowing that you’ll likely become a more valuable asset to employers or your industries with a few skills on your toolbelt.
Your life will never be boring
When you welcome change and growth as part of your career path, you won’t just be more valuable, or more in charge. You’ll probably enjoy your work life more, too.
So, will you have multiple paths? Multiple skills, some intersecting? Will you study twice, thrice - one degree, one graduate diploma, and one Certificate of Late-Night Googling?
It’s your career. Not your parents'.