In the last few decades, the world of work has dramatically changed how people earn their living and plan their work lives. This new labour market is evolving at accelerating speed as old industrial-age jobs are replaced by knowledge-based work and information technology continues to alter how we work, play and learn. This dramatic change in how goods and services are produced and distributed has been labelled the “New Economy.” The old economy was based on resources; the New Economy is based on knowledge and is driven by technology and information.
Working in new ways
In this New Economy, new forms of work are being created, as employment in a “job-for-life” is replaced by a variety of “work alternatives.” These work alternatives can include working part time, contracting, consulting or owning a business where you hire your own employees.
In British Columbia, more and more people are working in this way, and economists are predicting that this trend will continue in the future. Career counsellors are encouraging people to prepare for these work alternatives rather than for just a full-time job. Workers will need to develop new skills to market themselves in this dynamic world of work.
New thinking for a new millennium
The New Economy demands that we change our thinking about the labour market. Traditional job patterns that we took for granted for most of the last century have disappeared. Letting go of the way things used to be in the world of work is one of the hardest challenges that career planners face today. Here are some trends that all workers will have to adapt to:
• Change: Rapid change will be constant in the workplace of the new millennium. Those who understand change and can manage it effectively will be more successful.
• Just-in-time training: In the information economy, it is impossible to learn everything you need to know ahead of time to do a job. Rapid learning will be commonplace. The advantage will go to those who can learn – and instruct – the fastest. Workers must commit to continuous learning throughout their life/work.
• Fusion: Job classifications and occupational titles will become less important. The jobs of the future will be hyphenated; in other words, there will be a fusion of titles like carpenter-architect, accountant-sales rep, or graphic designer-webmaster. Being able to combine a variety of skills to apply to a particular task will be increasingly important.
• Self-reliance: Work is becoming more “entrepreneurial” in the sense that workers have to be prepared for a variety of work alternatives and take the initiative to market their skills more creatively. As a result, people will need to be more responsible for their own career development. The notion of “career self-management” is emerging as a means not only of surviving in the New Economy, but also of thriving and making the best of its new opportunities.
• Emphasis on skills: Workers can no longer expect long-term job security, but they can rely on “skills security”. If workers keep their skills up-to-date and market them effectively in areas of the economy that are growing, they will be able to find work. An essential ingredient of career self-management is knowing and developing skill sets and then finding areas of work where they can be applied.
• Balance in life/work: Information technology is fuelling the accelerating pace of change. We are “plugged in” to work more than ever before through communications (e-mail, phone, fax, pagers, the Internet). To maintain their health and well-being, workers will have to rethink how and where they work and find balance between earning a living and living their lives.
• Finding opportunity: In this New Economy, it is beneficial for people to use their creativity to find new opportunities where they can apply their skills and abilities. This means keeping an open mind about where and how you work.
The New Economy is very different from the old. It offers even more opportunities to find challenging, rewarding and satisfying work. If you spend time and energy planning for this new reality, you will be able to create a career plan that offers excitement, anticipation and hope for the future.
Reprinted, with minor edits, from Work Futures British Columbia Occupational Outlooks 2000.