The Climbing Wall – A new way of looking at our working lives

Many thanks to Wise Goose graduate Lucy Weldon for this post.  Lucy is a career coach who specialises in the development of sustainable careers.

Have you thought about what living to a hundred will be like?  It will soon be unremarkable to live that long.  Many societies, including the UK, are rapidly ageing.  There’s lots of discussion about the funding challenge but not enough about the decades that precede our twilight years and what we do with our longer lives.

In the book, The 100-year Life by Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott, the authors talk about this extended life and working life as being a gift.  It’s certainly a positive way of looking at it.  However, it depends on your individual circumstances.  If you live in the USA without health insurance or you depend solely on the UK government pension with little personal savings, the extended working life is a worrying and onerous necessity.

We’re seeing already that the simple career path of a ‘job for life’ is losing its currency.  The vertical career ladder of ‘onwards and upwards’ needs to change to what I call a multi-staged climbing wall model.  Now, more than ever, we need to look at our working lives differently and to manage them more proactively.   Luck will always play its part, but it won’t necessarily get you to where you want or need to get to.

My focus with clients is on having a ‘sustainable career’; by that I mean having a working life that brings in the required financial reward as well as fulfilment, purpose and balance.  How do we achieve this?  It won’t just happen.

Here are some aspects of career management to think about.  They are not necessarily age specific.  Responses to them will be rooted much more in life stage:

  • Re-framing the working life. Given extended lives, the potential exists to look at our careers differently.  Experts now talk about the career as being a marathon, a long journey, a series of short sprints with essential holding patterns in between. I see it more as a climbing wall.
  • Multiple careers. Because the choices exist and the imperative is growing, we will have a number of careers or career paths. This will require us to be flexible, resilient and creative. And to keep on learning and investing in ourselves and our working lives.
  • Re-thinking your working identity.  ‘I’ve always been a ……’.  That may change and may have to change.  What you will also need is a clear understanding of your skills and strengths as well as the kind of work that you find enjoyable and stimulating as you go through your working life.
  • Work life balance. It’s critical to talk about work life balance.  Will we be like the Japanese and have a word that sums up the worst extreme of this imbalance?  ‘Karoshi’ is a Japanese word that means death through overwork.  The UK is known for its long working hours.
  • Financial reward to fit your life stage and lifestyle. Unsurprisingly, money can dictate conversations about working lives.  It is an important
  • consideration.  Whilst money can be a short-term motivator, poor financial reward is a sure fire demotivator that sets in quickly.  Establishing what you want and need is vital, and it typically changes with lifestyle and life stage.
  • On-going personal development within your current role and the future direction of your career. Finishing your education in your younger years reflects the old working life model.  Investing in you, your future working life and a different career direction may well depend on a period of acquiring new knowledge, skills, credentials and qualifications.  You can’t teach an old dog new tricks?  Yes, you can!

It’s the ‘whole you’ not just the ‘working you’ that needs to be looked at and considered.  It’s also about making our extended lives more a voyage of discovery than a haphazard, hoping for the best kind of experience.  When you have choices, when you can get on the front foot, why wouldn’t you?

Find out more about Lucy’s work at www.lucyweldoncoaching.com or contact her at lucy@lucyweldoncoaching.com

 

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