The Old Career Path Is a Dead End

The definition of “career” is in major transition. Forget staying with a company until your golden anniversary; many millennials don’t stay with a company long enough to celebrate even one anniversary.

Over the past few months, I’ve been talking to millennials and leaders at companies and universities about the new path to career success for young professionals. I’ve identified two intriguing trends.

We’re All Working in the Gig Economy Now

While we all agree that very few professionals are on a ladder-like path anymore, it’s just starting to become clear how this will impact the way we’ve traditionally viewed career trajectories. For most of us, our careers will now consist of a series of discrete “gigs” or “tours of duty” (a concept invented by Reid Hoffman, Ben Casnocha and Chris Yeh in one of my favorite books, The Alliance): we might be one place for one year, three years, maybe even 10 years, but then we’re off on a new mission. And that’s why our relationships and the people in our professional circles and communities are more important than ever. Without a boss or HR department providing a clear path to career progression, it’s now your responsibility to own your career success.

Alumni Groups Matter More Than Ever

Over the past several years, I’ve seen that professionals are finding new support from alumni groups — both university and corporate — as they navigate the new career path.

First, there has been a notable increase in colleges and universities providing career services to their alumni. If you haven’t checked out your alma mater lately, I encourage you to see what services the career center or alumni association offers for career coaching, networking, interview prep and resume writing. Recently, I was the guest for a live-streamed conversation with the USC Alumni Club of New York featuring advice from my book, Becoming the Boss, and more than 500 alums from around the world participated.

Corporate alumni networks are also gaining popularity. From consulting firms like McKinsey to multinational firms like GE, companies want to keep the door open for their best former employees who might boomerang back to them — whether that happens just a few years or even 10 years later — as well as supporting former employees in networking with each other for career opportunities. Many networks are well-established, but we’ll see more emerging as companies recognize the benefit of keeping top-tier professionals in their orbit.

While these developments are quite a change from the stability of the old career path previous generations experienced, I find them positive and uplifting for the millennial workforce of today and tomorrow. It may take more effort to change “gigs” every few years and maintain relationships with former classmates and colleagues, but these strategies put more power in the hands of the employee.

What career trends do you foresee for millennials?

Lindsey Pollak is the leading voice on millennials in the workplace, trusted by global companies, universities, and the world’s top media outlets — and, most importantly, by millennials themselves. A New York Times bestselling author, Lindsey began her career as a dorm RA in college and has been mentoring millennials — and explaining them to other generations — ever since. Her keynote speeches have audiences so engaged that, in the words of one attendee, “I didn’t check my phone once!” Contact Lindsey to discuss a speaking engagement for your organization.

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Lindsey is a globally recognized career and workplace expert and the leading voice on generational diversity. She has spoken for more than 300 audiences including Google, Goldman Sachs, Estee Lauder, Stanford and Wharton. Lindsey is the author of four career and workplace advice books, and her insights have appeared in media outlets including The TODAY Show, CNBC, NPR, the Harvard Business Review and the Wall Street Journal.


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