Let's face it: The work world has changed dramatically in the past few years and will continue to change, probably at an even more accelerated pace than now. What’s driving this rapid metamorphosis?
Rapidly evolving technology is changing, not only how we work and communicate, but also where we work. The data age has caused an explosion of flexibility. Working virtually or telecommuting has become increasingly common, with people working from the airport, the local coffee house or even from home in pajamas. Studies show that employers who allow for flexibility have a happier and more productive workforce, making it a smart business strategy and a win-win proposition for employees and employers. Experts predict that workplace flexibility will continue to grow at a rapid pace, with an estimated 63 million Americans working completely virtually by 2016.
Technology blurs the boundary between our personal and professional lives. Although the ability to be instantly and constantly connected to work can have it advantages, it is also challenging to manage. We must find our personal “work-life balance” – a term your grandparents probably never heard but a priority for those of us wanting to succeed professionally and personally.
Advances in technology have also elevated the importance of personal branding, including our online identity. Our virtual reputation must be cultivated through careful promotion and management since it can make or break a job search or career. Your personal brand can be one of your greatest assets, or it can be your downfall if not carefully managed. Social media has madeit infinitely easier to connect with and be noticed by those with the power to give us opportunities to advance our careers.
Another factor greatly influencing today’s workplace is economic uncertainty. The days of working for one employer for more than 40 years have been gone for some time. The uncertainty of the global economy has altered attitudes about job tenure. For instance, it is no longer always considered a red flag to “job hop” from one opportunity to another. This is part of the new normal, assuming you can effectively articulate to the next hiring manager how your last job helped you learn and grow professionally.
You can also expect to see a growing variety of work alternatives as the traditional employee-employer relationship undergoes significant changes. According to a 2002 Kelly Services workforce study, millions of Americans now work as independent “free agents,” with predictions that 40 percent of the U.S. workforce will consist of independent contractors by 2019. Those who can think outside the box about their career will likely reap the rewards and be able to withstand the challenges of an uncertain economy.
The best way to adapt to this ever-changing work world is to adopt an entrepreneurial mindset to meet these challenges head-on instead of depending on a company. Those who do recognize their unique positions in today’s marketplace and are confident about their prospects for work. They have taken ownership of their careers and are self-reliant, constantly scanning and monitoring workplace trends and positioning themselves for success. Spurred by constant change in the workplace, today’s savvy workers are more resilient, adaptable and motivated than ever before and thriving in the face of adversity and unexpected challenges. Are you one of them?
Pam Folger is director of Millikin’s Career Center. She has more than 24 years of experience in career and employment services, with more than 14 of those years at Millikin University.