The New Way to Work — the New Workforce Has More Options Than Ever Before, but They Come with a Cost

Every so often I get this question from a parent, “What is the best career path for my kids in this new generation?”

For Gen-X, the only way to a six-figure salary was to become a lawyer, a doctor, or work for a big brand while making your way up the corporate ladder and landing a job in the C-Suite. That WAS the only path to a stable six-figure income.

Now, the new workforce has options.

Before I jump into what options they have, I’m going to dive into what has changed from Gen-X to Gen-Y and how these new options evolved.

Companies aren’t around as long as they used to be

In the 60s the average age of a company in the Fortune 500 was 40–50 years old, and now it’s 8–10 years old. The companies you work for aren’t even guaranteed to last anymore.

Only 12% of the Fortune 500 companies in 1955 were still on the list 61 years later in 2016.

The retail industry has seen the brunt of the bankruptcies in recent years, but other industries are close to experiencing the same fate as retail in the coming years.

The millennials have yet to take over the C-Suite, but when they do, you will start to see the disruption accelerate.

Millennials seek gigs instead of jobs

WeWork, the leading co-working company, raised $4.4B in funding last year from Softbank.

Gen-Y and Gen-Z continue to flock to these temporary workspaces because it allows them to do freelance work and sit alongside people from various industries.

They would rather have the freedom to work on their own terms, in the location of their choice, without being stuck in a cubicle for 40+ hours a week.

Can you blame them?

 

Millennials won’t work for companies in the suburbs

McDonald’s is selling their 45-year-old, 150-acre headquarters located in the suburbs of Chicago and moving to a downtown location while bringing all 2,000 of their corporate HQ employees with them. This isn’t because McDonald’s loves the city life either.

Millennials have flocked to living in the city, and will literally not commute to the suburbs regardless of the brand. It’s left McDonalds, and many similar large companies, no choice but to move closer to millennials, so they can hire (and contract) new talent.

 

Millennials pursue experiences

The term “gap year” was created for college graduates who take a year off after graduation to travel the world and explore before jumping into the workforce. It was mainly for a particular class of individuals who can afford not working right after college.

Now, with the growth of the freelancing movement and companies more willing to hire contractors, millennials are free to work on their own terms, including location and type of work.

It’s not just for the independently wealthy silver spoon kids anymore, and the gap year is no longer just the year after college.

Go on YouTube and search “digital nomad” and you’ll see great examples of how millennials pursue experiences.

My Career Advice to Gen-Z — You Have Options, but They Come at a Cost

Although it might seem like millennials and Gen-Z hold the purse strings, there is a parallel track running that you should care about. Automation and Artificial Intelligence are more prominent threats to the workforce than ever before. As companies employ more automation and AI, the amount of employees needed to run their businesses is decreasing.

Companies are learning to do more with less. So, if I was about to start college, here is what I would do to get ahead.

 

  • Get a specialized skill set, fast

  • Go deep into an art or a science.

  • Be a writer or a designer. Be creative. Be an engineer. Code and operate the machines.

  • Do something that the machines can’t.

  • Try out freelancing (even as a side hustle)

Want a better idea of what skill sets are in demand? Become a freelancer, and you’ll quickly learn different ways to get paid.

Of course, freelancing isn’t all rainbows and unicorns. There are some obvious pros and cons:

Pros:

  • You get to focus on building a specialized skill set which will help you land bigger career opportunities and be more prepared for the workforce of tomorrow.

  • You can live and work anywhere. You can be living or traveling in South America and the client wouldn’t know or care.

  • You aren’t stuck in a cubicle. You can work in a shared co-working space next to people you enjoy.

  • You don’t have a 9–5 schedule. You can work on your own terms without getting permission.

Cons:

  • Inconsistent revenue. You always have to be selling. Work can end on a moment’s notice with no severance.

  • Health insurance is expensive.

  • There is a lot of competition with other talented freelancers competing for the same gig.

Even with all the cons, building a specialized skillset is well worth the risk that comes with freelancing.

Whatever you do, don’t get a job in middle management or a degree in liberal arts

As companies move toward hiring more contractors, they’ll be hiring talent with specialized skill sets. If a computer can do it, they won’t hire for it, it’s that simple.

They don’t contract talent to manage workers with specialized skill sets, and they have no use for someone with a liberal arts degree, unless of course they have a skill set of something a computer can’t do.

If you want to be a lawyer, doctor, or join the workforce and move your way up to the C-Suite, by all means, do it. It is still a valid option.

Just don’t get stuck in middle management.

You have options that weren’t available to previous generations.

Choose wisely.

Matt Britton