Boomers Retire – A Brave New Work World?

Tammy Erickson of Harvard Business Online recently wrote about the changes that may be coming as a result of baby boomers reaching retirement age.  I’ve written about how the workplace may need to become more flexible to avoid the “brain drain” that would occur as more mature and experienced workers leave their companies.  Erickson’s prediction goes beyond suggesting the employers will offer flexible jobs:

Over the next several decades, as more sectors face the looming talent shortage, there will be a rapid increase in the number of people who work in cyclical or project-based arrangements—many with no fixed affiliation to one corporation. It’s even possible that project-based work will become the norm in several decades—with most workers operating as what some have called “intellectual mercenaries” assembled by project, as needed.

Essentially, these “cyclical” workers are what might today be called contractors…They come in to do a job, get the work done and leave.

Imagine if our workforce really adjusted to this type of scenario.  Many workers would be like cogs in an ever spinning wheel.  Benefits could go by the wayside, as only a select group of essential workers would be considered “full time” employees.  Presumably, some permanent jobs may be lost, but many would benefit from the flexible arrangements. 

Erickson suggests that this workplace may be decades in the future.  It’s difficult enough planning for next month’s workplace, let alone for something that may happen 10 years down the road.  However, the suggestions she makes to prepare seem timely and well suited to anyone in today’s workforce who hopes to influence their own career path.

In summary, Erickson suggests:

  • Building and maintaining your professional network.
  • Understand your skills and talents and where they can be put to use.
  • Keep current on research and thinking in your field.
  • Keep licenses and certifications up to date.
  • Maintain a home office as a launching pad for marketing and selling your skills as well as maintaining records of billable hours.
  • Don’t become so immersed in the “here and now” that you forget to take time to consider planning for the next thing.

This last point strikes me as particularly important.  In any changing or volatile work environment, don’t let yourself get so caught up in getting through the week that you forget that another Monday is just around the weekend.  We could all benefit by more involved planning and efforts on our own behalf to ensure that we are really driving our own career bus.

Keppie Careers will help you drive your own career bus.


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February 2008
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