They say that Generation Y will change careers three times in their lives, or roughly speaking, about every ten years. I’ve spent nine in my current profession, which I am thoroughly fed up with, so now I’m heading back to uni.
As a 28-year-old student, I’m worried about the age difference between me and all those 21-year-olds. What will we have in common? They’re living with parents, I’m living with my defacto; they’re clubbing, I’m attending dinner parties; they’re buying cars where as I’m looking at houses. Still, I suppose we’ll bond over the things that have been uniting students for years – a mutual dislike of lecturers, bitching about too much homework and moaning about bad cafeteria food.
In other ways, I’m looking forward to being a student; the 12 contact hours a week as opposed to 50 plus in my last job. Then there are the student price movie tickets, train tickets, gym memberships and more. It’s amazing how one little card can have so much power. Of course, there’s a reason why you get mates rates. It’s because you’re poor, something which I haven’t quite faced up to yet.
I blame employment websites for actively encouraging me to change careers. I signed up for new posts in my current profession but instead I was emailed totally unrelated positions. Maybe a programmer out there in database-land was trying to tell me something. Or maybe it was just a glitch in the system. Either way, I got the hint and decided to pack-up shop.
In the olden days, if you stayed in a profession you hated, it wasn’t so bad because life expectancy was so low. These days, you’re looking at a good 40 years of working life. That’s like a life sentence really, if you don’t enjoy what you do. Perhaps that’s why there’s an increase in the ‘slash’ professionals – i.e. artist/designer/musician. It certainly keeps your options open, but not everyone is geared to work that way.
The thing with changing careers (apart from a massive pay decrease) is that you don’t get the golden handshake your grandparents received. That’s why my old work partner and I are throwing our own retirement party, complete with gold watches (spray painted plastic ones) and a large cake with naff-looking icing spelling out the word ‘Congratulations!’ The best thing is, we won’t have to share it, as no one else will be invited.
Change is scary, but of all the species on the planet, we humans are the best at adapting to it. Just look at some of America’s more famous individuals and see how well their career changes worked out for them. Bill Gates used to be CEO of Microsoft, now he’s a full-time philanthropist, having donated over $29 billion to charities since 2000. Al Gore was the vice president of the United States, now he’s a champion of climate change and recent Nobel Prize winner because of it. Of course, not everyone will be so successful in their ‘second life’.
Some people set themselves up for multiple career paths right from the outset – via a double degree at uni. This type of study is becoming more and more common, which is why I find it odd that tertiary institutions like Melbourne University have decided to abolish double degrees. They’ll certainly make more money from students doing back-to-back degrees, and save themselves the headache of timetable clashes. But in today’s commitment-phobic times (see Australia’s growing divorce rate), how wise is it to steer our youth in only one direction? Gen Ys are an ambitious lot, and after 10 years in one profession, there’s often no more corporate ladder to climb.
That’s why I propose the current job sites change their domain names to mycareerchange.com.au and careermultiple.com.au(.) I’m sure there are lots of jobs where the skill set required would be very similar to other roles. Personally, I’d love to see an ad that read, ‘Neurosurgeon Position Available, No Experience Necessary, Suits Patternmaker, Taxidermist or Butcher.’ As well as being mildly amusing, it’d give us Gen Ys a hint as to what we could do after our first career path has run its course.
In my case, the second career choice was easy. I have one skill – writing – so there were only a few options to choose from. After ten years in my next literary pursuit, perhaps I’ll become a scriptwriter for adult films, or a writer of fortune cookie messages. That way I can encourage others to change careers with profound thoughts like, ‘Many a false step is made by standing still.’ Or I could just get straight to the point, without the vagaries of Confucius; ‘Go back to uni. Success awaits in your next career’.