Perfect Careers Do Not Exist

perfect careers

Written by CareerNet Nation

September 18, 2023

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CareerNet Nation Members

Perfect Careers, Perfect Career Paths

Do perfect careers exist anymore? How about perfect career paths? The business world is moving fast and with all the available efficiencies, like out sourcing and technology, professional work-forces are becoming smaller. Sometimes for good reasons, more often because companies feel they need to cut expenses to compete. 

A Great Read on Perfect Careers 

We read an article in the Wall Street Journal written by Rachel Feintzeig, “Stop Obsessing About Having the Perfect Career Plan”, page A13 in the September 18, 2023 publication.

There is great value in this article. We know that most of you do not subscribe to the Wall Street Journal so here is a summary with our additional comments noted. If you do, subscribe to the journal, here is a link to the article: Click Here. When we draw directly from the article we do so by direct quotations, then offer our commentary.

On Career Paths to Management

The set paths that used to shape so many careers are eroding fast these days.”

CNation comment: Ms. Feintzeig is correct. Middle management positions, which many people set as a first goal, are usually the first to be cut by companies. While there is no one reason for this, we have witnessed any number of companies we would call “classic office based services companies” try to remove management or in the least reduce management by adding project management or customer relationship SaaS solutions. These companies argue for cost savings, heightened efficiency, and increased productivity.

We would argue that their managers are average to poor and lack the ability to drive better results from their people. They do not know how to manage.

But this is a trend that will not stop anytime soon. It there is any advice to take from this statement, it is this: Do not aspire to be a manager. Instead, aspire to be an expert that brings a particular value to your organization. People who fail to provide value are the first to be cut during a staff reduction. These are generally ineffective managers. They are the first to be replaced by technology.

…companies like Meta are cutting layers of middle managers.”

Career Paths are not the same as they used to be.

“The paths that used to shape our careers are eroding fast—maybe it’s time to rethink our work lives.

Adam Alter, a professor of marketing at New York University Business school and has a Ph. D in Psychology from Princeton University has studied how blindsided we are by change [says we are]

Fueled by our belief in science and medicine, we subscribe to the idea that things just get better if you are virtuous and do the right thing and follow the right path and listen to your parents.

CNation: Much of our staff is made up of these parents. They would agree with Professor Alter. This concept has become a dangerous myth, and some of the ideas that have replaced it are even more dangerous. We’ll address those in a later post.

What you need to know:

  • You are an ever-evolving set of skills, each you need to build expertise in and each you need to be able to communicate properly so that these skills are valued.
  • Valued skills translate into higher salaries, increased opportunity.

Tell this to your parents and your friends too. Just be polite, no one listens to a snarky know-it-all.

The problem is that technology has turbocharged the pace of everything, he says. The rules of success—study this, pitch the boss that—used to last generations.

Now they might last five minutes.

Perfect Careers and AI – Think about it

While we see AI as a tool that will maybe someday improve productivity and product or services quality, It’s not quite ready for this. It is learning. Currently, it is learning what the middle of the Bell Curve thinks about and writes. The AI solutions available to the public return the median. They do not return the advanced. Sure, they are good starting points, but they are not the sentient thinkers everyone fears. This being our current use opinion for HR and Recruiting.

What’s the point? Eventually AI will become valuable as a replacement for many jobs that require writing or editing of anything on a computer. We’d say this is realistically 2 years away. So if you are looking to create a career path or get that perfect career, and the career requires writing and editing, you’ll need to think about how AI can be used by you as a tool for efficiency or a tool to make you better. If it becomes a tool that does most of your work, that makes you replaceable.

As firms invest in AI, their hierarchies flatten, according to a recent National Bureau of Economic Research working paper. They bring on young, educated folks with fresh tech skills, increasing junior roles by 10%.

CNation: We agree with this statement, but this trend is nothing new and has little to do with technology. New hires fresh out of college, graduate school, or high school have a lot going for them. They are enthusiastic, do not bring bad experiences baggage, have lots of positive energy, are willing to embrace training, and are inexpensive relative to their contribution to the organization. From this new group of young hires, the best will be kept and maybe promoted.

Unfortunately, most will be let go or reassigned to another first level position within a year. That’s IF the company continues to grow its revenues. If company growth stalls or even slows its revenue growth all bets are off. We’ve witnessed almost entire classes of top 20 University graduates get cut within year one when the business starts to falter. These cuts have nothing to do with AI, just poor implementation of business strategy by their managers.

“Meanwhile, the technology helps workers at all levels make decisions and seamlessly gather data, leaving less of a need for middle managers.”, says Tania Babina, an assistant professor at Columbia Business School.

CNation: Less of a need for average middle managers. The good ones use any asset to improve the quality and productivity of their team members.  They get raises and stock bonuses.

Expertise is the way to Perfect Careers

Helen Tupper, CEO of Amazing If , a career development company with a terrific set of multi-national corporate clients says the following about building expertise at your career:

“Exactly where [you do this] is less important, she says. Look for not just new roles, but projects that expose you to new people, like sitting on a committee or helping out an international office.”

CNation: Which is great advice if you feel stuck in a role at your company. We’d add that you need to think about how you manage and build your value, reputation and skills at any company or at any level.

But first try and understand what the company values. Revenue? Sure. But how about creative development of new services or creative improvement of existing services.

The Remote Job / 8 hours a day Myth

CNation: In our experience, even full remote jobs are never, really full remote. And, the term Hybrid, really means that “occasionally” you can work from home. Most every job requires that you will spend most of your time in the office – until you have established your expertise and value to your company. Then, maybe, sometime in your 30’s you’ll be in a Hybrid work environment that requires a day or 2 in the office a week.

Do not expect more days home than that.

8 hours or less a day? It rarely happens. You never really stop thinking about your work to do list. It pops up when you are exercising or walking your dog on a Sunday, right? You can’t shut it off entirely. That’s life.

This is why you must be interested in what you are doing. If you are not, the job will begin to weigh on you. You will begin losing your discipline. Your work quality will suffer.

Conclusions

“The set paths that used to shape so many careers are eroding fast.”

CNation: We agree. Because this is happening, there is no perfect career plan. We would argue that you may have periods of time when your career is perfect, but that will be in hindsight, something like “When I think back on it, that job, at that company was perfect.”

But be careful, those conclusions will only be a snapshot of what that perfect job was. Like a perfect career selfie. Like a balance sheet. It’s a moment in time and therefore can never be the goal. Think about all the forces shaping the world’s economies at any minute and how your company, or any company has to react to them.

We close with the following:

Your skills and experience are your value.

Your ability to communicate is your competitive advantage.

It doesn’t matter where you earn them, waiting tables, operating a POS, retail, construction, having a job is a skill in itself and shows your ability to be responsible, to work with new people in a team environment, and manage your schedule. These are skills that companies look for in entry level hires.

Here is even more to think about when start a career

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