Saturday, September 7, 2013

“20 to 30 Job & Career Changes In A Life”

You should have heard the gasp from the audience of parents at Virginia Tech’s orientation weekend when this was said. When the Dean of the School of Agriculture was sharing insights into the Class of 2017 and the work world they will live in.  That this class will see the world in different ways than their parents and their parents parents. They will only know a world where the cell phone and the Internet have always existed.  That these young adults are the most connected generation ever thanks to twitter, texting, Facebook and more. That they see themselves as a “tribe” and if they are forced to disconnect from their network they become frustrate.

She also shared something all college professors check out each year, the Mindset List: Worth reading and thinking about.

While we went from session to session, listening to all the new things our first time college bound daughter Carolyn will be getting to do, experience and live at Virginia Tech (Mom and Dad were a bit lost at times and trying to remember the ancient days when we went to college pre-PC, pre-Fax machine, pre-Internet) I was amazed at all we learned of this generation. She has an interest in engineering, in agriculture, in math, chemistry. The Professors and Administrators shared that within their time the cure for cancer, the ability to feed the world and explore the depths of space (even living on Mars), the merging of people and machines will happen, these and so much more were all within their reality and reach. That boundaries of distance, background and culture are coming down and the search for what next for humanity was all around them.

So in the middle of  all this activity (they split the kids from the parents at the start of everyday) I look over and there is my Carolyn on her smart phone texting her circle of Thomas Jefferson High School friends. They were all at other colleges at orientations doing the same back with her and the others. So I took a picture and posted it on Facebook. Then I adjusted my view and realized there was a sea of kids, boys/girls all doing the same thing. At that moment I got a ping from a friend with  with his son at his new university – and it was almost the same picture of his son doing the same. Wow the Dean was right.

On the 4 plus hour drive home I began to think, what could this mean for Carolyn and her friends? Ideas popped into my head, like:
  1. Associations could grow in importance – many jobs and companies and a trusted few associations: Since who they work for will change so often or shift, it will be more about what you are working on – projects, efforts, results. Staying connected to your industry, having a third party grounding of what you have accomplished and also to always be networking towards the next project or opportunity will be key.
  2.  Always learning, improving and exploring – the world is always changing and so should we: The questions will never stop, the desire to stay current and valuable will go on beyond undergraduate, beyond master or PhD programs. There will be an never-ending need to stay up to date and in the current stream of industry knowledge.  Degrees are less important than accumulating knowledge and experience.
  3.  Technology will become unseen and fully integrated into all we do: Without trying to be too Gene Roddenberry–ish technology is and will only continue to become second nature, part of being human. Not this stand alone, WOW look at that – just expected and anticipated. I remember standing around and looking at the Macintosh and being amazed that we could type a document ourselves AND bold the heading. 

Businesses, governments, industries need to think differently about what career means and how we open up to this more fluid stream of potential. Locked in 1930’s business models and management will go the way of buggy whips and butter churners.  As one way ends un-explored new ways will come forward.

My Dad Charlie Carrithers 1950 with
those "neat follows at General Electric"
Recently I was going through a box of old papers and came across my Dad’s writings and letters. In the mix were two things that jumped out. One was a letter he wrote in 1950 to his Mom telling her about a job he had just interviewed for at General Electric. In it he said “these fellows seem like really neat guys and I would love to work with them on this new X-ray technology…” My Dad’s world was vacuum tubes and mechanical calculators and X-ray was beginning to be used in new applications, was safer and was a new industry. This excitement coming from a kid from Brooklyn who had been a radar technician in the US Navy (another new technology) in WW2. Dad hired on with GE and was there for almost 20 years.

The other was a letter my Dad sent me while I was in college. He said in many words and thoughts that life is about exploration and finding what we are meant to do and bring to the world. It could be business, it could be teaching, or it could be creation of new ideas. That he, Charlie Carrithers at 56 was still not sure what he was going to be when he grew up, but that I should keep my eyes on this thing called computers and where it is going.

So now I look ay my beloved Carolyn and think of what could be for her and all her classmates. What an amazing time to be alive and entering the world of possibilities. I see a spark in her eyes and a drive in her exploration. I feel confident and positive about her time to come. While their will always be issues in the world, it feels like the human potential, the what next is right around the corner. It’s all good.

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