The End of Careerology
April 19 / STEVE MILLER
Having spent most (the first six years I focused on eating) of my life trying to figure out how we best decide what to do for work, I have, fifty-nine years later, developed some opinions about the field of career counselling. A field that is, much like myself and many of my clients, larger on good intentions than results.
This is the first of a series of articles describing why it would help to view the most important decision we make in life as the most important decision we make in life. The tongue-in-cheek tone you will notice of these articles is deliberate in an attempt to portray how information will be passed on in the future – based on solid research along with the very important awareness that said research, and we, may be full of shit.
The field of career development (planning, exploration, decision-making) became outdated on January 1, 1983 with the birth of the internet and the world of work transcending from the Industrial Age to the Information Age. Our unfortunate discipline was short lived, evolving from the Industrial Age’s reliance on people taking jobs, and did not even last long enough to get a decent title (Careerology, Careerism, Careeratics?).
What happened to it? And - is there a need to revive it?
That is the focus of this article.
The 5 stages
What has happened is that our approach to work has evolved through five distinct stages that are commonly identified as: Hunting/Gathering; Agriculture; Industrial; Information; Imagination.
Successfully transcending from one stage to the next involves including all that was good about the previous stage and moving on from all that has become redundant. This causes an acceleration of growth. It took 990,000 years to move from Hunting/Gathering to Agriculture.
Due to the momentum of all that was learned from those two stages, only 11,780 years to move into the Industrial Age. With the momentum of three ages behind us, it was only 203 years for the Information Age to arrive. 38 years later it looks like we are leaving that behind as we, uh, ‘zoom’ into the Age of Imagination. Short descriptions of each of these stages are provided in the following table.
It is important to realize that one age is not better than another but the newer age, dependent on the previous ones, is necessary for human evolution and, subsequently, survival. You can spend the rest of your life studying the accuracy of that previous statement. For the sake of this article, I am asking you to go along with it for now.
Table 1 Evolution of Work
|1 million BC||
Hunters and Gatherers live in a survival mode, roaming from place to place, following their four- legged supplies.
Another method of work begins, and the cycle of the harvest can be relied upon for survival. Security is achieved and there is now a lifestyle, other than nomadic, added to one’s choices. Strategic planning also begins, but it will take another twelve-thousand years for the consultant to evolve
Pressure to produce more goods for more people results in the creation of the world’s first factories in England (burdening the poor English with an inflated sense of self-worth). The concept of ‘job’ – having someone pay you to achieve their goal – arrives. The industrial age not only leads to a whole new system of production but also to a required improvement in social relations – teamwork.
Pressure to produce more goods for more people results in the creation of the world’s first factories in England (burdening the poor English with an inflated sense of self-worth). The concept of ‘job’ – having someone pay you to achieve their goal – arrives. The industrial age not only leads to a whole new system of production but also to a required improvement in social relations – teamwork
|Maybe last week||
Futurists and researchers have been forecasting an imagination-based economy for the last twenty years or so. We are now seeing how the computer technology developed in the information age is being used to present our innate creativity. This involves shifting from external information (what we learn) to internal information (what we know).
|Survival leads to Security.|
Survival + Security leads to Wealth.
Wealth + Integrity leads to……..?
My conclusion, taken from reading my own table, is that matching someone’s personality and interests to a job may have been somewhat useful in the seventies and, of course, 1980 – ‘82, but is completely irrelevant now.
My compassionate, empathic response to people who tell me that is, usually, “Yeah, right.” Who knows, maybe they will find a job that matches their personality even better? The point is – will they being doing work that is improving our lives?
A ‘hierarchically- isomorphic’ approach such as I am applying here to forecasting evolutionary trends focusses on the centre of gravity of each stage. Not everyone did well at surviving the hunting/gathering stage, not everyone achieved security during the agricultural era – those were the goals, the main hope of the time.
As the industrial age moved on and a larger percentage of the population of the western world achieved a sense of security, often from jobs that provided a wage, medical benefits and a pension, the number of people amassing wealth (money over and above that necessary to survive with) grew exponentially.
The infamous boomer generation grew up thinking that wealth is the reason for work. We worked to amass wealth that would provide us with vacations, bigger homes, remote control drapes, etc. "The harder we work, the greater the rewards," was our belief. We did not pay much attention to what our work produced or how it affected others or the planet.
This was great fun for a while but, just like so many great nights out, it hurts when we wake up.
Generations following the boomers were not only provided with the benefits of the Industrial Age (penicillin, insulin, Velcro replacing shoelaces) but also the effects of the hangover (climate change, housing shortages, cheez whiz).
The millennials were the first to ask, as a generation, what is the point of this work? What is its purpose? This created a dilemma – they were addicted to cheez whiz but did not want to work to pay for it. I want to call them the dilemmenia generation, and still struggle to understand why nobody else does.
The dilemmenials selfishly brought integrity into career decision-making and it is integrity that will help our planet last a little longer.
Just as the quest for survival, security and wealth did in the past. Integrity is already motivating us to think about the consequences of what we do for work. In transcending from Wealth to Integrity instead of asking: “Where can I find a job that pays well, suits my lifestyle, and has flex-time?” we now ask: “Where do I want to improve the world and how can I earn wealth from that?” Integrity also prompts us to ask: “How much wealth is enough for me?” “Does my bike rack really need the capacity to hold a small tank?”
Healthy career development evolves in what the American philosopher Ken Wilber terms an ‘actualization hierarchy’. This type of growth is natural: atoms make up molecules, molecules make up cells, cells make up organs, organs make up complex living systems.
What is not healthy are dominator hierarchies where one stage of the growth spectrum attempts to dominate the stages below. In our example if, as almost happened, the industrial age wiped out the benefits provided by the agricultural age then the information age would have never happenned. Nor would you and I have. The industrial age work model of a ‘board and a boss’ with ‘employees’ is an example of a dominator hierarchy that could only last so long.
The common mistake of education programs that teach ‘leadership’ classes to people who haven’t yet learned to be students is another. Providing unemployed individuals with funding to run their own business is an example of skipping a stage in the healthy hierarchy. I could go on, and probably will in subsequent articles.
Deciding between wealth and integrity is the strongest obstacle to career fulfillment at this stage of our cultural development. That is because it is not about choosing one over the other, it is about realizing you cannot have one without the other. Even though we all, at some level of our consciousness, seek integrity we don’t all realize that. Some of us get stuck at wealth, fearing to lose it.
Others ignore wealth and continuously struggle for integrity. An important few realize that by arriving at their own definition of wealth they will move onto an integrity and purpose filled life. The commonly stated excuse of “I want to make a contribution, but I need to make a living,” can now be changed to “I will make my contribution and learn to make a living from it.”
I have never understood the point of making a cake and not eating it
Working on purpose is not a frivolous luxury as so many of my generation seem to regard it. It is simply an individual deciding what impact their work will have on the planet and its inhabitants.
This is what we should do before we decide anything else to do with work – whether that be post-secondary education or simply applying for a job. Working on purpose is not about finding a job or getting into a career and then trying to justify why we are doing it.
If you want, you can consider the purpose of your work to be a grand life-affirming cause or, simply, see it as a common-sense approach to choosing a career. If you have not already, you will find that taking the decision to base a career on purpose is even more fulfilling and provides a bigger hit to your self-concept than what you decide the actual purpose is to be.
To mangle an oft quoted and uncredited axiom about dreaming and action:
A purpose without a plan is a dream
A plan without a purpose is a waste of time
Purpose with a plan will change the world.
We all have a plan whether we know it or not. Your plan is what got you exactly to where you are now. My very strong suggestion, my plea actually, is that you become more aware of your plan, and base it on a purpose to make the world a better place for me to hang out in.
I’m guessing you don’t know what a career plan is. That’s my not so subtle tease for the next article.
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