By Emma Barry, Chief Creative Soul for Good Soul Hunting
The playbook on work and life and work-life went out the window as Covid-19 ran rampant through our world. Today and for many years to come we will realize the breadth and depth of the impact.
Since the first reported case in December 2019, the workplace ecosystem has – and continues – to evolve at pace. But what does this mean for us on our road to success. And furthermore, the deeper question – can we delineate between the two now anyway?
And as for our ‘career-path’, has the road been ripped up, re-routed, or resurfaced? Let’s assess the new terrain and what our journey ahead could look like.
Success in a new landscape
Social restrictions and lockdown measures, drove us to adopt remote working as the ‘new norm’ and at this point, it’s hard to imagine ever going back to the 9-to-5 office environment of a pre-pandemic world.
In fact, the 2020 State of Remote Work report by Buffer and AngelList* concurs, finding 98% of 3,500 workers surveyed would like to work remotely, at least for some of the time, for the rest of their careers, and 97% would recommend remote working to others.
This seismic shift to remote, online working practices has also evaporated the borders of geography. We’ve realized that our internal teams no longer need to live within a commutable distance or even in the same country. Thanks to technology, and some creative time-zone management you can work with whoever you want, wherever they are. There are plenty of coders sitting on beaches somewhere.
Similarly, bosses have had to eat their micro-managing righteousness over staff not being as productive when left to their own devices with lifts in productivity and happiness evident in many places.
Sent back to our rooms, we’ve had time to reflect on who we are, where we want to go, and what success looks like for each of us. For those forced to furlough, or being let go, or suffering reduced hours, not only has it been a process of discovery, but one of survival also.
As an executive search company, we have front-row seats to the show of channel and segment switching; a trend recognized by the Office for National Statistics**, which reported that 6.1% of new employees between January to March and April to June 2020 changed occupation, compared with 5.7% in the same period the previous year. Of those on the move, 52.5% transitioned into another major industry.
Considering whole industries, at every level of seniority, have been hit hard and in some cases become completely irrelevant (just consider the decline of the high-street brands, as the walk-by traffic went to one-click-shop), although this may not be much of a shock to some.
Roles created or accelerated by the pandemic are also massively disrupting the work scene – providing new avenues for job hunters and career-switchers and proving Albert Einstein’s wisdom true, “In the midst of every crisis, there is great opportunity.”
Naturally, there’s always a balance in the universe as some parts die, other parts flourish. Essentially we are living through a digital revolution and at pace. According to data compiled for Tech Nation and the Government’s Digital Economy Council,*** the digital tech economy has increased by 11% in the last two years, with 10% of all UK job vacancies now tech roles. If growth continues at this rate, the sector would have 100,000 job openings per month before the second quarter of 2021.
But don’t fret if you don’t hold a Ph.D. in programming – no problem; around 37% of employees in the digital economy are in non-digital roles – all the usual suspects required to facilitate business-as-usual operations – such as HR, marketing, legal, and compliance.
The question now is, how will you navigate this changing world?
All roads lead to Machu Picchu
With the rewriting of new norms, the establishment of new ecosystems, and the uber-transition to online business; now, more than ever, we need to realize that there’s no set path to success. Our journey to the summit is ours and ours alone.
The road to mastery is accelerating. Ten thousand hours are no longer required to get really good at something. Intentional focus and accelerant tools are shortcutting successes. Just watch kids on TikTok master cooking and dancing and fitness challenges and lip-synching.
We don’t have to walk in a straight line in our careers anymore. The one job our parents held their entire life gave way to the several career shifts we made in ours and the dozens of sprints our children will blow through.
Beating a new path, making unconventional decisions, and chasing passions to unleash massive personal and professional growth – may just trump conventional go-getters as human endeavors fuel the future of innovation and problem-solving.
The perfect book that pitches this approach and is well worth a read is The Squiggly Career: Ditch the Ladder, Embrace Opportunity and Carve Your Own Path Through the Squiggly World of Work. It describes how careers are no longer linear and there’s no longer such a thing as a ‘job for life.’
Instead, we must embrace the idea of the ‘squiggly career,’ where people jump constantly not only between roles but also industries and locations as the new normal.
Of course, you must have goals. Every boat seeks a destination. But, like good leadership, it’s important not to micro-manage the staircase. Sometimes, it’s the steps to the side that bring a fresh perspective, an alternative approach, and the assumption everyone else stepped over.
Financially, it can pay to squiggle, too. Forbes**** reported that “Staying employed at the same company for over two years on average is going to make you earn less over your lifetime by about 50% or more.”
Trusting our souls and super strengths
Hopefully, by now – you’re feeling galvanized and ready to take on your future but you’d be right to question certainty in a world morphing before us and a pandemic yet to show all its cards.
The way to find certainty is to take the journey inside. Much of the way we create ‘certainty’ comes from acknowledging the constructs of our souls: who we are, what we love, and what we’re good at.
There’s no way of predicting the exact shape of work post-pandemic but given the global upheaval, we should assume that our jobs in their current form may not last and our knowledge banks will probably not outlast our careers.
But we must draw strongly on history which showcases how adaptable we are through the ages and trust that we can shift, squiggle, turn, and learn – using our passions, experiences, and natural talents we were blessed with to leave our legacy.
And remember… because of digital acceleration, the barriers we bumped up against in the past will no longer prevent us from flexing our strengths across different segments, roles, seniorities, hierarchies, and jurisdictions, to do good in the world.
There will be, as there always is, a period of operating in the extremes, the “haves” and the “have nots” or the believers and non-believers in technology; both paths requiring us to behave differently in the new world. Being able to self-audit and adjust to the shifting world as the great minds and business leaders do, is paramount. We think in terms of redundant products / brands, Nokia, Blackberry and Blockbuster but this applies to us as humans as well. We are also a product of the system and need to continuously upgrade our own software.
In a world of quicksand where yesteryear slips away, we reach for our purpose, our MO, and, in short, the answer to our eternal question; what sets our soul on fire?
Face the fear to step into success
Success can lurk dangerously close to fear. Fear of the market, our performance, the future, our livelihood, or our ascension can be a
rites of passage as we navigate the turmoil of working and playing out our lives.
Or perhaps you’re worried about the tech-native GenZ who nonchalantly
wanders in, drapes themselves over your beanbag to steal your job. There are enough invisible threats coming, cue the deadly pathogen, let alone the ones walking towards us with a smug grin on their acned face.
Learn to lean into fear. Take AI and machine learning, for example. So many people are scared of these technologies – with visions of turning up to work one day to find the Terminator in our seat. With a little more digging and a curious mind, you’ll start to understand what algorithms actually are and how they become self-perpetuating. But there are a number of things they can’t do yet like problem-solving, and empathy and that is where you should focus. Our fear is alleviated, or at least managed.
Or as self-help author, Peter Mcwilliams puts it, “To overcome fear, here’s all you have to do; realize that fear is there, and do the action you fear anyway.”
Where we must be open is in the assessment of our key strengths. Of the skills I have, how can I alter or evolve them to be even more relevant?
Say a copywriter takes, on average, two hours to write an article; a considerable chunk of their working day. If new software comes along that complies 80 per cent of those articles, they’d be a mug not to take the base and add their flair. The trick is to get over the judgment that a new kid is in town and start sharpening your humanizing tool.
If we spend just an hour a day, exploring our fears and honing the crafts we’re most likely to excel in – learning from the best books, online resources, and experts in those fields – can you imagine where we’d be in the next week, month, year, five years?
Shaken, or stirred?
Some people are born knowing they are here to move mountains and which ones. Others seem to frolic around the foothills barely able to locate their compass, knapsack, and the will to ascend.
Regardless of how we’re hardwired, if we follow our souls, become adaptable shapeshifters and masters of our own squiggle career, leverage our wins and losses, and forge our own paths while laughing in the face of fear, we can each lead a life of utter fulfillment.