Cradle-to-grave employment is, mostly, a thing of the past. The work environment has changed dramatically over the past 30 years with major shifts in stability, loyalty and career paths. Understanding what this means for you is a critical part of your own “work” journey. You may be close to retirement or you may be entering the work force and not sure where your options and challenges will lead you. This article looks at how to approach the new-look workplace, how to ensure your road ahead is a smooth, well-planned one and that your financial risks are well-managed.

Our career mindset has taken an almighty leap from our parents’ generation to the current day. Back in the day they believed employment was for life: it was considered responsible and a privilege to have one career with one employer for 30 to 40 years. Today’s emerging work force, however, regards this approach as weird and boring. The world of work has shifted significantly and this brings a “new normal” for us to live and work by.

The security of the 20th century workplace is no more. Loyalty between employer and employee is not what it used to be. We can never be sure if the company we work for may be involved in a takeover or collapse. While this is beyond our control, we can however take the steering wheel and drive our own talents in the right direction. We need to ensure we are continually upgrading our know-how and much-needed skills for the 21st century workplace.

The Baby Boomers – those born between 1946 and 1964, who joined the workforce in the Seventies and Eighties – may still be with the same employer they joined back then. However, many will have been retrenched or changed employers or careers along the way and are now headed for the next stage: retirement. This is where change has created opportunity:

  • medical technology has improved quality of life and longevity, and
  • the Internet and the personal computer have changed the kind of work that is possible.

Many are looking at their financial situation and wondering how they can sustain their current lifestyle. The good news is that this generation has, more than any other, the opportunity to work longer and choose a new career path for this new phase, which for many is an exciting prospect.

Here’s your challenge: find work you enjoy and strike a balance between work and play that suits your lifestyle. This will be different for each person depending on circumstances. You need to look at your risk profile and ensure you have adequate cover to match your needs. A discussion with your financial adviser will guide you in the right direction.

Giving back

There are a number of doors ready to be opened onto a whole new world. Social entrepreneur Marc Freedman has written a book called “Encore – FindingWorkthat Matters in the Second Half of Life”. In it he helps us shift from a world filled with material success to one of significance. Many may have saved enough throughout their working life and would like to now invest back into an area they are passionate about. It may be in the environmental field for a chemical engineer who would like to help discover ways we can improve the current challenges in greening our world. It may be an engineer keen to share his 30 years of experience with mathematics and science students in the classroom. Your love for children may steer you towards early childhood development or helping with literacy. Your choice will depend on your circumstances and areas of passion.

Earning onwards

You may, however, need to keep on putting money in the bank and this will mean becoming entrepreneurial in your approach. Coaching and mentoring is proving to be a popular choice; and the Internet is a gateway to connecting via social media and finding global platforms to investigate a number of new careers that allow one to work from home. The challenge is to get into a hands-on relationship with your computer. Stay up to date with computer and technology skills and you will remain relevant in a 21 st century work environment.

Building a talent profile will equip you for relevance in a 21 st century world. The workplace, wherever it is, will offer many opportunities for collaboration and project work and, if you have the correct relationships and skills in place, you will stand a much better chance of success. Even for full-time employment, you should view your career path in short term intervals. Continue to ask yourself what relevance you add to your employer and why should they keep you.

This changing world also makes financial planning an absolute necessity. It is vital you take personal accountability for your investments and savings. Build a strong sound relationship with a financial adviser and continue to review your portfolio of saving and insurance products as your career and personal life changes shape.

The world we now live in offers a magnitude of choice and personal power. With this kind of power comes a much stronger sense of responsibility and personal ownership. Skills like discipline, delayed gratification and financial literacy will be the differential that will ensure that, as a young person, one is on the path to a healthy long term financial future, regardless of the work one chooses.

A wise person once said: “Chase your passion not your pension”. In a world so full of choice and the possibility of living so much longer it is imperative to discover and work within your passion. This changes the nature of how we view work which will have a direct impact on our personal life. We can proceed, hopefully, with the blessings and bonus of good health and sound financial investments, to work and enjoy the life we have designed.