The New Resilience

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Gen X and Gen Y -- How They're Driving The New "4.0" Career

Members of Gen X and Y are transforming the workplace in ways the older generation doesn't understand Read More

Rude Awakening

Generation Y's are in for a rude awakening. What they will find is that there are a small number of careers/jobs that will meet their needs for self-actualization (actors, athletes, high-tech phenom's, CEO's, etc.). For the vast majority of us, work is still about survial - getting food, paying for shelter and other bills. The average salary in the U.S. is only around $45,000 (not a lot left over to finance that "meaningful" personal life when you have thousands of dollars in student loans). Most of us still do the 9-5 prison-like thing (how many careers can you really do from the flexibility of your own home?). Most have only 2-3 weeks per year of vacation time (not a lot of time for all that fabulous travel). Most of us have not found a happy balance between family & work (has anyone noticed how expensive child-care is?). Like in China, we have raised this generation to feel like they all are "Little Emperors" and that their work world will somehow revolve around their needs. But we all know that there can only be so many spots at the top and that we are the ones, ultimately, who will be adapting to the needs of our employers (the vast majority of employers are not Google and won't allow their employees to wear flip-flops or bring their dogs to work).

When I read articles like this that only reference upper-middle class students/professionals who live in places like NYC, LA, or Chicago, I have to remember that this is only a very small percentage of the people in this country. The "grunt work" of society will always need to be done, and most of us are doing it. It's not always glamorous, but it is essential to our survival as a society.

Perhaps if you read my

Perhaps if you read my previous post on the evolution of career orientations, that will clarify the context of your observations, re the struggles that many people face in their working lives. My current post about the role of the younger generation in the ongoing evolution of what people seek from their careers is not limited to upper middle class professionals - the data suggest that it's a growing shift in mentality, overall. And that's what will continue to influence management cultures over time.

Making meaning vs. making money, passion vs. pragmatism

The response by "Anonymous" seems to be common, especially among those who are members of generations preceding Gen X (and Gen Y). I do think that younger people generally tend to be overly optimistic ... but also think that older people generally tend to be overly pessimistic about the generations that follow them (every generation seems to think they are "the great generation", even if they don't write a book about it). Personally, as a member of the pre Gen X group, I hope that younger people will always be idealistic and optimistic, and if they can adopt / maintain that perspective in the current economic climate, more power to them!

This article offers a number of great resources that corroborate the main points. I wanted to briefly share two additional data points. Back in 2004, I wrote a blog post about Socially Responsible Investing: Making Meaning vs. Making Money, which includes links to a number of [now] older references about meaningful investments of time and money, including a idealistic / pro-meaning argument by Paul Hawken of the Natural Capital Institute and a pragmatic / anti-utopian perspective by Joe Keefe of The Calvert Group.

More recently, I posted a review of a recently published book by John Hagel, John Seely Brown and Lang Davison - The Power of Pull: Institutions as Platforms for Promoting Individual Passions - that offers some compelling business justifications for why institutions will be well served to address the needs of Career 4.0 ... which may sway some pragmatic / anti-utopian / pre Gen X folks.

Thanks for those links -- I

Thanks for those links -- I think they are very helpful; right on target about the business need to address the shifts that are part of the younger generation.

Thank you

I was very happy to come across your article and also very happy to see myself in your definition of Career 4.0. I finally felt "Someone understands. Perhaps I haven't lost it after all"... You defined not only what I wanted from work but you got all the pieces together. The Career 4.0 generation (if I can talk from my experience) is not about how we view our work. Yes, work itself is the large part but it is in reality how we view our life as a whole, what we want it to mean and life in general. It is in essence a natural expression of ourselves. I believe understanding that view can only materialize from finding the security within ourselves.

I'm following my own bread crumbs to where I want/need to go for that natural expression to flow-through. It has been a process but I find it's been mostly about listening inwards. In the mean time I will be looking out for more of your articles on this subject. This might be my own short sight by perhaps we need more platforms (aka organizations, jobs, careers, etc…) to address the need.

Thank you for your article and work on this subject.

Your nailed it! Thanks for

Your nailed it! Thanks for your comments and sharing your own experience.

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Douglas LaBier, Ph.D., is a psychologist and the Director of the Center for Progressive Development in Washington, DC.


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