Coming of age in a dejobbed world

I just finished reading William Bridges‘s Creating You & Co. for my own personal purposes, but it ended up being useful for my Finding Your Calling workshop because the author’s description of how to work effectively in an increasingly “dejobbed” world resonates surprisingly well with the premise of my Coming of Age program.

Bridges’s book was uncannily prescient back when it was conceived in the 80s and published in the 90s, and it continues to send a timely message today. It expands on his argument (first articulated in JobShift) that we are experiencing changes in the way work is organized, and that it is a transformation just as immense, disruptive, and significant as the onset of the industrial revolution. He reminds us that the job as we define it today—something that you “have” that is delimited by a set of tasks and responsibilities, and is usually confined to certain hours of the day at a fixed location—is a product of the industrial age, prior to which jobs were something people “did” according to the need and the season. He then cautions us that jobs as we know it are disappearing, and it isn’t just because corporations can’t afford to pay full-time employees any longer, but that today’s work is qualitatively different. Corporations need to be able to change directions much more quickly than before not only to respond to technological advances and the whims of the mass market, but also to serve a variety of smaller niche markets. A lot of that work is project- or needs-based and is done by temps, consultants, or people whose “job descriptions” are constantly shifting.

As Bridges presents it, this is neither good nor bad news. Career insecurity can be scary, but if we take his counsel, we open ourselves up to great opportunity. Regardless of our level of education or experience, he insists that all of us can adapt to the dejobbed world by assessing our own unique blend of desires, abilities, temperament, and assets (our D.A.T.A.), defining our personal “product” (what we have to offer to others), and finding a “market” for it. It is a very compelling and convincing proposition, and it is in harmony with my definition of growing up, which I see as the process by which we come to know our strengths and use them to carve out a place for ourselves in the world. In a generation or two, Bridges predicts that this will all seem intuitive to our youth. And if so, the majority of us will be able to do work that is really fulfilling and in sync with our personalities and abilities, rather than working at jobs where we have to make ourselves fit assigned positions.

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