What do you want to be when you grow up?

What do you want to be when you grow up?

What do you want to be when you grow up? Fifty years ago the answer to that question may have been singular. Astronaut. Doctor. Ballet dancer. Footballer. Train driver. One, lifelong ambition and career.

My eldest wants to be a scientist, a children’s book author and prime minister. She is on the right lines.

We have known for some time that the 40-year, single-employer career was dead. That’s just not the way the world works anymore. But it’s increasingly clear that the model that replaced it, bouncing every two or three years between employers to climb the corporate ladder, is equally dead. For a number of reasons.

The reality for today’s school leavers is that whatever career they enter first simply may not exist in just five years time. Train drivers? What are they, my grandchildren will ask. My great grandchildren may be equally baffled by doctors, lawyers, accountants, bankers.

If you want to keep working, you’re going to have to learn to do something else and learn often.

For employers too the world is changing. The increasingly short, cyclical nature of success means that the need for people, even of the highest calibre, is likewise cyclical. Margins and risk may not allow the maintenance of their employment while the business adapts and finds a new role for employees. So they may be released and re-hired when the time is right.

What do people do when this happens? They do something else. Perhaps for themselves.

The future career will likely not just be a series of increasingly short hops between employers. It will be a dizzying blend of concurrent engagements with an array of employers seeking your skills at the appropriate point in their life cycle. It will be overlaid with owned micro-enterprises: content creation and curation and promotion. Hyper-local services. It might be supplemented with participation in community mutual schemes for care, crop growing and local maintenance.

The downside is that none of this will be easy.

The upside: you no longer have to choose between scientist, author and prime minister. Maybe you can be all three.

Maybe you will need to be.

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This article is by Tom Cheesewright. This post forms part of the Future of Business series. For more posts on this subject, visit the Future of Business page.

Tom Cheesewright


Futurist speaker Tom Cheesewright is one of the UK's leading commentators on technology and tomorrow. Tom has worked with a huge range of organisations across a variety of markets, to help them to see a clear vision of tomorrow, share that vision and respond with agility. Tom draws on his experience to create original, compelling talks that are keyed to the experience of the audience but which surprise and shock with unexpected facts and examples.

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