A lot of career myths and bad career advice inundate all of us, young or old, on an everyday basis. One such is the advice to choose a ‘safe’ career that has scope. And we need to unpack and break the myths of ‘safe careers’ and career scope.
Safe careers are those with a rigid structure with a 9 to 5 job with decent pay, job security and hope for promotions with age. You aspire to pay your bills and climb the corporate ladder. You may or may not have the opportunity to innovate and unleash your full potential by choosing a safe career. Every one of us is socialized to believe that this is the one and the only right way to go and that we should aspire to get there. However, there is more than one way to achieve career success/ fulfilling your career aspirations and goals; the safe way may not always lead to success. It could also cause career dissatisfaction, make you disengaged with work and so on.
For instance, in my years of experience, I have seen so many instances of people in their 20s and even 30s telling me they are not happy in their work even though the salary is great and the brand they work for is a much sought-after employer. They feel like they have chosen the wrong career path and that with the right guidance in their formative years, they may have chosen something else that suits them. I see many of them trying to completely change gears and shift career paths in their late 20s and 30s as a result.
In India, the other thing we are dangerously preoccupied with is career scope, which is proving to be detrimental to career choices. A sea of bad career advice is given to children and youth about choosing something that has scope and is, therefore, safe, rather than something they are passionate about, have skills in or where their strengths lie. For instance, several thousands of children are pushed into pursuing engineering as it has scope, in the present and future, regardless of whether the child has any interest or aptitude towards the field.
We must understand that scope is fluid and that careers that are new today or riskier today will become the new normal tomorrow and ones that are ‘safe with scope’ today may become redundant. This is the reality. Let us put this in perspective with some facts and figures.
An increasingly connected and globalized world, rapid technological advancements, changing demographics, etc. are all massively changing the face of the work, worker and the workplace and making change the only constant. According to the World Economic Forum’s ‘Future of Jobs’ Report, 75 million jobs will be displaced by automation and other tech advancements (for instance – backend processes, technical support, etc.) while 133 million new jobs will be created by 2022. Even jobs that remain will undergo a massive revamp to eliminate redundancies and inefficiencies. New high-end jobs will emerge such as AI-ML architects and specialists, big data specialists, information security experts, UX designers, human-machine interaction designers, blockchain specialists, organizational development specialists, CX experts, culture experts and innovation managers.
These tectonic shifts in the world of work will mean that those who take career risks and take up the emerging opportunities will reap the maximum benefits. Do you think we would have the tech giants such as Microsoft and Apple if Bill Gates and Steve Jobs did not take risks and tread the path less taken?
I strongly believe that even though it is very tempting to choose the safe path that is well-mapped, taking well-informed career risks will be more rewarding.