On the surface, the labor market appears to be undergoing a crisis that is especially hard on young adults at the beginning of their careers. But if we examine the drivers of what is really happening, we start seeing with fresh eyes and discover a goldmine of opportunity to design our lives in a way that gives us the freedom to flourish.
How meaningful do we find our jobs?
I was not surprised to read In a recent study of 180 million employees in Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace, that 87% of workers are “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” in their jobs. That is a whopping 7 in 8 people waking up everyday, to spend majority of their lives doing something they do not find meaningful.
As a society, we have been schooled into a scarcity mindset and a pessimistic approach to work – with the assumption that we do it only because we have to. But what does that do to our well-being and quality of life?So many people are trapped in jobs with no meaning, but if we get to know the surprising science of motivation (clue: we are not money-driven by nature), we understand that there are more important elements that contribute to our motivation and well-being like:
While the rise of “mindfulness” and “give-back” programs in corporate organizations are a great start, the real work is in actually showing up at our work from a place of service, and designing our work environments that make us a better person through our work.
What guides you in your choice of work?
How long will our jobs exist?
There is a video I really like by CGP Grey called “Humans Need Not Apply”, that went viral for painting an alarming future where people will be unemployed by no fault of their own. As we are getting to a point where computers would teach themselves how to learn, it is a matter of exponential time that machines will be able to replace not only our physical labor like stacking boxes, but also our mental routine work like writing, analysis and decision-making, that are prized even in professional white-collar jobs. Living in Silicon Valley, it is already a reality to find yourself beside a self-driving car, or getting better cancer treatment outcomes recommended by data rather than a doctor.
This naturally creates a fear, seeing that our jobs may first be off-shored, and then automated. However, if we take a closer look, we realize this is but a shift in the nature of skills that will be valued in the future. When mental and physical routines can be automated, it allows for jobs to be reconfigured towards a deeper level of customer-centric care and focus, away from just the application of specialized knowledge. If you looked at this list of whether your job will be done by a machine, we realize that jobs that cannot be replaced are those that require humanizing qualities of empathy and originality, and emerging jobs will call for greater creative and social intelligence, exactly the kind of traits young people are great at, and that make us as human beings come alive.
Therein lies that we all have our job, and then we have our work. Our job may be to stack bricks (who likes stacking bricks?), but the real work might be in building our church, and no one can take away our work.
What is your job? And what is your work?
What is your individual career lattice?
Global youth unemployment is rising, a discouraging fact in itself. This reality is forcing youth to look harder at what they really want to do, instead of following a standardized path. Those who have successfully navigated these waters see a new approach to the job market. With unbounded energy, idealism and a search for meaning, more young people are creating their own opportunities through service, entrepreneurship, or the gig economy, re-thinking the secure job as a merely a backup option.
Our careers are becoming non-linear and are moving from a ladder to a lattice structure. This also means that success is no longer defined by seniority, but by doing what personally matters to each individual in terms of meaning and mastery. And when we change how we work, we change how we live, and new ideas like having a “quarter-life crisis”, planning to take mini-retirements, or living a new life every 7 years is becoming increasingly popular, showing us a new design of what work can actually be like.
Why do you work? What is work anyway?
This is Part 1 of our Mindful Earning series. Read Part 2 here.