Could You Have Seven New Careers in One Lifetime?

According to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, as workers attempt to digest the most recent monthly unemployment statistics, they also continue to hear about the volatility of the job market and growing job instability. Among the most-repeated claims is that the average U.S. worker will have many careers in his or her lifetime with seven being the most widely cited number.

Seven sounds like a high number, and since there is no hard data to support this estimate, a healthy dose of skepticism is warranted. Yet, that doesn't mean that the notion of seven careers is preposterous.

Consider these points:

  • Many of the careers people will have in the next 10 to 20 years are probably ones that people have never heard of – because they will support products and services that have not been invented yet.
  • Many won't necessarily experience a career change, but rather a career evolution – as new technology unfolds, the jobs in demand to support those technologies will morph and look quite different than jobs in the same industry several years before.
  • According to the Small Business Association, small firms represent 99.7 percent of all firms. Many people change careers to go into business for themselves.
  • People change careers in all types of economies. While it's true that people are less likely to change jobs in a tight economy, the reality is that people change jobs and careers even when significant risk is involved.
  • In bad economies people take stop-gap or seasonal jobs to generate positive cash flow. Sometimes these jobs turn into a new career path.
  • Lifestyle changes frequently facilitate career changes. Stay at home moms who return to work and people who relocate sometimes find it necessary to change careers. The stay-at-home mom may struggle with relevancy when she returns to the job market and sometimes a career change makes more sense than retraining. People who relocate have to look at their job skills within the context of the local labor market. If the skills they have are not the ones local employers are buying, they need to make a change.
  • The Internet is making it easier to change careers. Now that many jobs can be performed virtually, many people may have the option of exploring careers that would have been difficult to pursue previously due to geographic boundaries. People who want to teach at the university level may find virtual opportunities without ever stepping foot in a school and people who need to work from home may opt for careers that afford them that lifestyle.
  • As advances in medicine are made and people live longer, the chances of people working longer will increase as well and possibly result in more career changes.

Whether you will have one, three, or seven careers over your lifetime is irrelevant. The important takeaway is to recognize that for many career change is inevitable and people need to embrace it or get left behind.

Next:10 Careers That Didn't Exist 10 Years Ago >>

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