WE used to be advised to plan our careers. We were told to start during the later stages of our education and continue through our working lives. We were expected to work towards one clear goal. Changing career was thought to be "unsound".
Some people still see careers in this way. However, to pursue a single career option for life has always been unrealistic - and has become more so. Had they followed their original career structure, computer company Psion's founder David Potter would be an academic, turkey king Bernard Matthews an auctioneer, author Frederick Forsyth a serviceman, management guru Peter Drucker a banking economist, and David Ogilvie a chef and not one of the world's top advertising men.
Planning for a single career assumes that we set out with a full understanding of our likes and dislikes, what we are good and less good at, and the employment opportunities open to us. There is an implicit assumption that we ourselves, and the jobs we enter, will change little during our working lives. For most people, these assumptions are absurd.
Our initial choice of career path and employer is often based on inadequate knowledge and false perceptions. And with age and experience, we develop new interests and aptitudes. So our priorities change. The structure of the employment market and the content of the jobs within it change as new technologies and work systems are introduced. Moreover, the relationship between employers and workers has changed, and we can no longer develop a long-term relationship with one employer but must face the uncertainties of a portfolio career.
It is clear from the past four decades that we cannot foresee the changes which will affect our working lives. The pace of change is accelerating. Traditional career planning will almost certainly lead us into an employment cul-de-sac.
Career planning must now accommodate a number of objectives and enable us to prepare for each on a contingency basis. …