Many trends are reshaping the world of work—climate change, a growing demand for work-life balance, and the mass retirement of the baby boomers, to name just a few.
Trends are not fads. They affect not only you, but the industry you work in or want to work in, your age group, your community, and so on. Taking these larger trends into account can help you make career decisions that will move you toward the future you want to have.
Keep an eye on current trends
You can also stay on top of trends by watching your news feeds or networking with people in the industries that interest you. Consider influences such as the economy, new technology, industry activity, and social concerns.
The following are some examples of current trends:
- Remote work became a reality for many office employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many employers will allow you to choose where you want to work in the post-pandemic world.
- Contract hiring will increase, accelerating the growth of the gig economy. Employers can’t train their existing labour force fast enough to meet the changing needs of the economy. Instead, they will hire workers or contractors to fill their needs.
- Automation and artificial intelligence have changed the way many routine, manual jobs are done. They highlight the need for transferable, softer skills or hands-on work.
- Increasing concern about the environment and climate change has led to growth in the green economy.
- Alberta’s push to diversify its financial base has meant an expansion of the province’s knowledge-based economy.
- Retiring baby boomers may expect products and services that their own parents never imagined.
Use trends to plan your career
Change is constant. But rather than have it sneak up on you, you can take charge and plan for it by looking at trends and making decisions that take into account your skills and interests. Let’s look at some examples.
Adventure and upgrading during an economic slump
After her boss leaves, Rani slides back into her cubicle, feeling depressed. The economic slowdown means she’ll be stuck in her clerical job at this import/export business for at least another year. She had hoped she would be in line for a promotion despite her lack of Japanese, but now that’s not going to happen. And she doesn’t feel like going back to school for Japanese lessons. Rani knows she should feel lucky that she still has her job, but is she really? She’s young and adventurous. Will she be trapped in this cubicle for the rest of her life?
The cutbacks in Rani’s department show that the economy is getting worse. She may be hoping for a promotion, but in this economic climate, her lack of Japanese will definitely hold her back. Organizations only hire or promote people with fewer qualifications when there are too many jobs and not enough workers.
Rani is bored with her work and knows she should upgrade her skills. Yet she doesn’t want to go back to school to learn Japanese, even though her company does most of its business in Japan. What she really wants is adventure. After some research, she realizes that her options are to:
- Stay in her current job
- Stay in her current job and take upgrading
- Quit her job and try to find something in a tough economy with her current skill set
- Upgrade her skills overseas
Rani discovers that she can combine adventure and learning while she travels, by living in Japan. And because of the slowdown in the economy, her employer might be more willing to give her a leave of absence—it’s one less salary to pay during these cutbacks. Rani will return with enhanced skills, probably just when the economy improves.
Finding opportunity in a demographic trend
Peter can barely reach his wrench from where he’s standing, bent over the car motor. He puts both hands on the car’s frame to take the pressure off his back and tries to stand up straight. The pain shoots through him. “This can’t go on anymore,” he thinks. Even though he has good days, the bad ones are getting worse. He can’t keep making a living this way, but he still has bills to pay.
Peter’s injury is interfering with his work and his quality of life. He does not want to stop working. But he can’t imagine what else he can do with his training in small motor and engine repair.
Peter looks at social trends. Baby boomers are growing older, and people are living longer. The sale of motorized wheelchairs and scooters is booming—and these vehicles need repairs when they break down. Because they are smaller than a regular car, Peter may be able to work on them in a more comfortable position. He could even consider starting his own business and making onsite calls.
He looks at his options:
- Stay in his current job
- Quit and go into debt
- Find or create work that can accommodate his injury
Peter decides on the third option—to keep working, in a way that better fits his needs.
A fresh role in the green economy
Emily signs the registration forms with mixed feelings. Her youngest is off to Grade 1 next fall, and the chapter of her life as a stay-at-home mom is ending.
She’s not sure she wants to go back to her full-time job in wildlife biology. She would like flexible hours because her children are still small. Should she go back to school and try to work in a different field?
Emily has a great skill set with her degree in wildlife biology, but her department has reorganized since she went on maternity leave. Now it relies on temporary or contract work.
But Emily has noticed a new trend: individual companies are paying more attention to how their activities affect the environment. She knows she may not find a permanent job with a single company. But she might be able to find several of these businesses and act as their environmental consultant. In the beginning, with only a few clients, she could even work from home. This would allow her to be around when her children come home from school.
She looks at her options:
- Try to find part-time work at her old place of work
- Change careers
- Create a consulting career with her current skill set
Emily decides on the third option, beginning by offering her services to her old employer. She’ll be using her existing skills, but structuring her work in a different way.
Combining work options to pursue a passion
It’s Friday at 5 p.m., and George’s office co-workers are all heading home or out for fun. But George is off to the custom lumber store where he now works Friday nights and Saturdays. When he saw their “help wanted” ad last winter, the 58-year-old knew he had to apply.
As an amateur carver, George knew he could learn more about woodworking and perhaps develop contacts to help sell the items he was creating. People don’t understand why he would work a part-time job on top of a full-time job that pays well. But George figures he’s sliding into retirement with a polished plan.
George knows retirement is not too far off. He will miss his officemates, but none of them share his passion for woodworking. Now that he’s divorced, how will he develop a social network once he retires?
George is happy to choose the way he wants to work, combining his current full-time job with a part-time job. It’s a great way to ease into retirement and find others who share his interests.
Which trends could benefit you?
Each person in these examples has considered different workplace trends and chosen options that take their skills and interests into account.
You can do the same. By looking at the trends affecting the industries you want to work in, you can find ways to create the future you want.