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Home > Blog: Work/Life > Is 'Career Path' An Outdated Concept?

Is 'Career Path' An Outdated Concept?

Career PathsA recent Boston Globe article drove home a point about how the notion of following a particular “career path” is changing, if not outdated. In fact, more people have warmed up to the idea that changing careers is the better path, even if it takes a few unexpected turns.

So it’s not surprising that I have yet to find a general careers- or jobs-related web site (and that includes this one) that doesn’t address the idea of changing careers. Some of the advice is more specific, such as how to write your resume for a career change or how your current skill set can transfer to the new career.

The current recession has forced many people to alter their career paths in search of something different. For some, the issue is less about moving toward their long-term career goals and more about just needing a job to pay the bills. I’m sure there are more than a few laid-off workers from the financial services and auto manufacturing industries who can identify.

Here in the U.S., we have traditionally put a lot of stock (some might say too much) into what people do for a living. It has given us stature in our professions and communities, and it can generate interesting conversation at dinner and cocktail parties. For many, their job title is "proof" of how hard they’ve worked to get where they are, and the positive reactions they get provide validation of their career choices – as well as an ego stroke. That’s why, at least for experienced professionals, taking a layoff-induced step back on the career path or being denied a coveted promotion can be devastating.

What makes it all worse is that companies won’t hesitate to dump even the most valued among their workers, while employees who believe they can have a better work experience elsewhere – and maybe a better work/life balance – are more content to move from job to job than they were 15 or 20 years ago.

So, is this notion of “career path” undergoing a major transformation? If you’re in your 20s or 30s, what does it mean to have a “satisfying career?” And if you’re in your 40s, 50s, or beyond, how has the idea of “following your career path (or goal)” changed since you entered the work force?

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