Young people

How many jobs should you expect to hold in your lifetime?

Written by Peter Harris
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Long term employment with one company (or even in one industry) has become a thing of the past. How many jobs have you had so far? (If it’s none, here’s an article I wrote recently on landing your very first job. Good luck!)

I am mid-career, and I’ve had seven so far. That’s seven professional jobs in my field, it doesn’t count the multiple farms, factories, and warehouses I worked at to pay rent and tuition while I was studying.

Which is about the number I should have at this point.

By analyzing 7,000,000 work histories in the Canadian resumes in the Workopolis database, we were able to discern an emerging trend in career changes and how many jobs the average Canadian can expect to have. We estimate that working aged Canadians will likely work roughly fifteen jobs throughout their careers. And the younger you are, the more job changes you will probably have.

Generation X spends over 20 percent longer in each job they hold than Gen Y does. People who graduated university in 1992, Gen Xers, worked an average of 3.2 jobs in the first 12 years of their career, staying approximately 41 months or 3.4 years in each job.

Just ten years later, the cohort graduating in 2002, Generation Y, held 3.9 jobs over their first 12 years on the job market, with a shorter tenure of 32.5 months or 2.7 years in each job on average.

Gen Y changed jobs 22 per cent more often over a 12 year period than Gen X did.

Contrast that with the job longevity experienced by their parents. According to Statistics Canada, two-thirds of Canadian Baby Boomers entered their fifties in long-time employment – holding down jobs they had been in for at least 12 years with the same employer. In fact, more than half had worked for the same firm or organization for far longer — often 20 years or more.

Noted futurist Rohit Talwar told a group of educators this week that children today can expect to hold 40 different jobs in ten completely different career paths in their lives.

Talwar is the head of Fast Future – an organization that advises companies and governments on how to prepare for long term social, economic, and demographic changes.

In his talk on the future of education, Talwar theorized that between 30% and 80% of all the jobs that exist today will disappear over the next 10 to 20 years as they are replaced by smart software, automation and robots.

He predicts a “portfolio” model of employment in the future, where people work at multiple contracts and jobs simultaneously. “You might be driving Uber part of the day, renting out your spare bedroom on Airbnb a little bit, renting out space in your closet as storage for Amazon, doing delivery for Amazon or housing the drone.”

Of course, even some of those options can quickly become obsolete. I spoke with economist Dr. Rick Miner recently, and he predicted that the biggest disrupter looming over the economy of the very near future would be the self-driving car. (Which puts the whole taxi vs. Uber dispute into perspective.)

Here’s what we found out about the current situation from surveying 4,000 Canadians. Only 6 per cent of people have held just one job in their career, while 44 per cent said that they had already held more than five.

How many jobs have you had in your career?

    1 – 6%
    2 – 8%
    3 – 14%
    4 – 15%
    5 – 13%
    Between 5 and 10 – 28%
    More than 10 – 16%

More and more of us are also switching career paths completely at least two or three times. We asked Canadians:

How many different career paths have you followed?

    1 – 24%
    2 – 35%
    3 – 24%
    4 – 9%
    5+ – 8%

The most common reasons people gave for changing career paths were discovering a new field they were passionate about (35 per cent), becoming bored/disillusioned with their original work (24 per cent), and setbacks such as lack of advancement and /or cutbacks, layoffs in a career path (19 per cent).

Most Canadians don’t think they will stay in the same vocation for their entire career. In a survey of over 1,000 people, nearly three quarters (73 per cent) said that they do not expect to remain in the same profession for life.

The key to the successful careers of the future will be adaptability

The key to successful careers in the future will be your adaptability and aptitude for continuous learning. People who stay in a single job too long risk finding themselves with outdated skillsets for the job market if their forced to make a change when disruptive technologies replace their roles. (And disruptive technologies are going to replace many, many roles.)

People will need to constantly update their skills and learn new ones, be preparing for their next job even while working their current one. A career isn’t job title, it’s the trajectory of all of your job titles combined. It’s the accumulation of your skills and experiences and everything you’ve accomplished with them.

Evolution isn’t ‘survival of the fittest’ anymore. For the career paths of the future, evolution is survival. Change is the new constant.

As we look ahead into 2016 and beyond, workers can expect to have many more frequent transitions in employment than previous generations. The people who achieve the greatest success are those who are the most willing to embrace change and progress along with the evolving situation.

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Peter Harris
Peter Harris on Twitter

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