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Career Trends For Management Professionals Over The Upcoming Decade

The 90s and the 2000s were characterised by professionals chasing money while the narrative in 2010s shifted to choosing a job with sound career prospects or quality work.

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Over the past six months, numerous management professionals have often wondered about their professional future and what the major career trends are likely to be over this upcoming decade. Questions along these lines are relevant not just for millennials but even for professionals in their 40s and thereafter.

In this column, I write about the 6 mega trends every professional needs to ponder over this upcoming decade.

Multiple non-linear careers is likely to be the norm rather than the exception

A standard career roadmap over the next decade is likely to be along the following lines; a 3 year starting stint at an e-commerce firm followed by a 3 year stint at a consulting firm followed by a 3 year stint dabbling in his own start up followed by a 3 year stint teaching in a business school followed by a 3 year stint in an FMCG behemoth followed by a one year sabbatical followed by a return to an e-commerce company. Along the way, this professional tries to pursue his creative arts aspirations, of setting up his own band and performs gigs across the country.

Over the upcoming decade, professionals are less likely to stick to one industry or specialise. With the world changing dramatically every 2-3 years, most professionals are likely to pursue a non-linear career path spanning across industries and skill sets. In addition, while primary careers are monetarily rewarding but have limited rewards otherwise, most professionals are likely to pursue an alternate career (e.g., a small portal, creative arts, teaching, voluntary service) to fulfil their soul. With continued work from home along with rise and fall in business activity, freelancing is likely to take a more prominent role.

In the United States, 1 in 3 professionals free-lanced at some point in the last 3 years and this number is likely to increase substantially. As professionals, everyone will have to sell themselves harder, keep themselves updated with the latest skills and better networked. Video marketing is likely to become the norm - to make resumes, for sales cycle pitches and product communication. In terms of skill sets, people who are analytically robust and interact well with other people will excel at the workplace.

Formalised education will continue well into someone’s 50s

Over the upcoming decade, formal education won’t end with a business school degree in someone’s mid 20s. With the rapid pace of change where the world changes fundamentally every 2-3 years, most professionals are likely to have 3-4 short stints at a business school after their MBA. In fact, there will be a barrage of people seeking academic and professional certifications. In terms of mode of education, digital literacy is likely to be at the centre of delivery going forward. With increasing penetration of artificial intelligence, the focus of education will move towards right brain oriented subjects like behavioural psychology, linguistic skills and business storytelling. Reading 50 books a year will become fairly common.

The pursuit of true calling will happen only in the movies

To be honest, the notion of finding your true calling, also termed your purpose or Ikigai, is overhyped and excessively glamorised. It is fairly routine for people well into their 40s confused with what they want to do which they actually enjoy and is monetarily rewarding. The more pragmatic route for professionals is to reject something they don’t want to do and hence look for an alternative. More and more people, well into their 40s, are likely to struggle to find their true calling. This is likely to be the norm and not the exception.

The nature of risk taking is likely to be incremental rather than absolute

The previous decade was characterised and often romanticised by absolute risk taking behaviour. For instance, it was glamorised to leave your steady job to pursue your own dreams or strive for aspirational growth even at ridiculously high losses. With professional and entrepreneurial opportunities reducing in size, the notion of risk taking is likely to change in the upcoming decade to an incremental nature. Leaving your steady job will be viable only if your start up has gained a minimum threshold size. Leveraging private equity capital will be pursued with a pragmatic lens, with a clear focus on control over your company while prioritising profits and living with muted growth.

Work life balance rather than career prospects or money will be the single biggest employee buyer value

The 90s and the 2000s were characterised by professionals chasing money while the narrative in 2010s shifted to choosing a job with sound career prospects or quality work.

The upcoming decade is likely to prioritise work life balance over everything else. With focus on mental and physical health, a desire for an identity outside the workplace and the booming middle class, the desire for living life on your own terms is likely to rise with work life balance emerging as the single biggest employee driver in pursuing careers. A natural corollary is likely to be professionals taking up an increasing number of sabbaticals to pursue creative interests, travel the world or just sleep at home.

There will be a huge emphasis on financial independence

Although professionals might not run after the job with the highest salary, they are likely to turn financially savvy to manage their money in the smartest way. After all, the more you have in the bank, the better you sleep at night. There is likely to be an increase in the preference for people to pursue financial independence and retire early (FIRE) in their 40s and enjoy life after that. Although, there are likely to be people who discover artistic genius late into their 70s (for instance, 80 year old tribal lady Judhaiya Bai Baiga learnt painting in her 70s and her paintings are selling in Milan). The awareness in financial investing and tools is likely to increase. This will also be necessitated by the fact that real wages are unlikely to rise in the next 3 - 5 years.

In summary, the career trajectory in the upcoming decade is likely to be completely different from what was seen over the past 2-3 decades. For most professionals, a little bit of mental tuning will be required to embrace these and excel at them.

Till the 2030s commence and the next set of career mega trends emerge, ciao!

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


Sandeep Das

The author, Sandeep Das, is an MBA from IIM Bangalore, a management consultant, the author of “Yours Sarcastically” and a columnist.

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