I don’t know if this is true for any of you but when I left school the job I have now didn’t exist.
In 2006 there may have been marketeers but there were certainly no social media managers. I didn’t have Facebook and Twitter didn’t enter into my scope of vision until I had travelled halfway around the world and back on my gap year and was a good two years into university.
What’s more, I was convinced that I needed a career that would last my entire life. Looking back it seems so naive.
The world of work has changed so much in the last ten years, especially when it comes to tech-based professions, that knowing where we’ll be in another five, let alone ten, seems almost impossible.
According to a study in The Telegraph from 2014, Generation Y (or Millennials or Snake People or whatever you would like to call them/us) can expect to have nine different jobs over the course of their working life. If that’s the case then, at only 28, I have already fulfilled my quota!
It’s something that is increasingly difficult to explain to my parents generation. My dad is in the process of retiring from being a consultant paediatrician. Definitely a career path that you set yourself on at a young age and doesn’t vary greatly as you walk down it. It is also a job that is, for all intents and purposes, pretty much the same now as it was twenty years ago.
My mum had a similar, if slightly more varied, working life, moving from midwife to mother and part-time bookseller and now she teaches biology to trainee midwives. Some variation, but again roles that haven’t changed greatly over the past couple of decades.
But today, the working world is different. And I think that when you are working with ever evolving tech, it’s always going to be different. It’s one of the things that I love about it and find it so exciting.
In my experience, a lot of the people I know and work or live with or hang around with are not looking for lifelong careers. It no longer seems a feasible ask. There are obvious exceptions, but even those exceptions are becoming fewer and fewer. And I love that.
Work is no longer dedicating yourself to one role for the rest of your life. It’s more exciting than that. Work has become something you do that (ideally) interests you, (hopefully) pays the bills and that you are (probably) good at. In my interview with Rosie Bennett, she described following the path into tech “because it felt like a bit of a wild west frontier”. And I feel the same way. Not that tech is as much like the wild west as it was, but that it offers a challenge and a risk that are exciting and worth chasing.
So, if I could talk to my 16 year old (or even 22 year old) self who was so worried about “figuring out what to do for the rest of my life”, I’d tell her not to panic. The job I want to do may not exist yet. And when it does it may be that I only want to do it for a short amount of time. There is no way you can know what you’ll be doing further down the road. For me, the key is to learn and enjoy as much as I can in the present, so that when I see the wild west beckoning, I can slap on my stetson and ride off into the sunset.