Man, not again.
This was the thought racing through my head.
The writing was on the wall.
I was working for a non-profit organization as a copywriter. The organization was going through internal changes, and I had a hunch my job would be phased out. Turns out I was right.
Thankfully, I had started acting on my hunch and decided to learn a new skill. By the time my position was phased out, I was well on my way to transitioning into a different position.
To make this pivot, I leveraged my skills and experience so I could create a bridge to similar work: content strategy. I started reading several books on the topic. This was 2013, so there wasn’t a ton on the market. But there were several helpful books, such as:
- Content Strategy for the Web by Kristina Halvorson and Melissa Rach
- Content Strategy for Mobile by Karen McGrane
- Clout by Colleen Jones
- The Web Content Strategist’s Bible by Richard Sheffield
- Content Rules by Ann Handley and C. C. Chapman
- The New Rules of Marketing and PR by David Meerman Scott
- Managing Content Marketing by Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose
Reading these books, and many other books and articles on complementary topics, gave me the confidence and skills I needed to make the move.
Were it not for the knowledge I gained from these resources, I would have never been able to transition into a new line of work. Through no fault of my own or ill will from the organization, I would have been left out in the cold.
Crazy enough, this wasn’t the only time I’ve had to make such a transition.
I’ve had several professional transitions, and I’ve had to learn new skills along the way: primarily through reading books.
Here’s a snapshot of my professional background in the past 10 years:
- Insurance Sales (Personal & Business)
- Retail Store Manager
- Pastoral Ministry
- Call Center Sales Representative
- Content Management
- Marketing Manager
For many years, I’ve wrestled with the changes I’ve gone through. When I was in high school, I assumed I would go to college and then work, raise a family, and retire. I had this idea my life would follow a straight line from beginning to end. Turns out my professional career has looked more like an EKG of someone with a high heart rate. It’s up and down and all over the place.
Some of my transitions were on purpose. For example, I originally obtained a bachelor’s degree in marketing, then pursued a career in insurance, then decided to resign from that line of work in order to pursue pastoral ministry. But other transitions were not.
There were times when circumstances necessitated looking for a new job or when something turned out to be the wrong fit. And that’s okay.
For many of you, your career path will look similar to mine. And you have to be okay with this. Gone are the days when you could go to college, work for the same employer, and live in the same town until you retired.
I understand this will not be the case for some professions—like nurses and doctors, lawyers, accountants, and teachers—who tend to have a more linear professional development. But most people will experience significant career changes. Here are some sobering statistics to consider:
- Average employee tenure is 4.6 years.
- Average millennial tenure is less than 3 years.
- Life expectancy of a company on the S&P 500 is barely 15 years.
Add to this the growing trend in the United States workforce toward hiring contingent workers (e.g., contract, part-time, etc.), and you can see that job security is a vapor. Here today. Gone tomorrow.
Throughout your life, you may go through 10–15 different jobs during your career. If you’re a millennial, this number will most likely be higher. Recent studies discovered that millennials will change jobs four times before they’re 32.
Regardless to say, we will face a lot of change throughout our careers.
On one hand, part of the changes we will go through come as a result of discovering who we are, what we want to do, and what we want out of life. On the other hand, some of the changes we go through will be brought on by circumstances beyond our control: mergers, outsourcing, company collapses, or company relocation.
My aim in telling you this isn’t to dash your dreams against the rocks. Think of it more like me waving smelling salts under your nose to wake you up to the common reality most of us will face in the US.
It’s time to wake up, and get ready for these new challenges!
But where do we start?
How can we prepare ourselves for this new economic reality?
Set a new target.
The key to preparing for a changing career path
The age-old wisdom in the US has been this for years:
- Get a college degree
- Get a job
- Start a family
Well, this advice has some merit to it. But today, it’s incomplete.
At one point in US history, obtaining a college degree would place you in a position to get a job and stay employed with the same company for years. It was important what school you went to and what course of study you pursued.
But today, getting a bachelor’s degree is merely a prerequisite for many jobs, and you aren’t guaranteed to get a job in your field of study. Research conducted found that two-thirds of college graduates had a job that required a bachelor’s degree, but only 27.3% of these graduates were in a job directly related to their field of study. For example, if you’re studying literature, you might find yourself working in advertising.
Getting a college degree is an important first step, but it’s not the end. To prepare yourself for the new economic challenges you will face, you need to set your sights on becoming a lifelong learner.
This isn’t something you can be passive about. According to a recent report by The Economist, lifelong learning is becoming an economic imperative. In other words, we need to be constantly learning. We have to have our eyes on obtaining new skills and gaining different experiences to ensure our professional marketability.
A lifelong learner is someone who is self-motivated and committed to gaining new knowledge and skills. You have many ways to accomplish this goal—you can get a new degree, obtain a graduate certificate, or take online courses. At times, some of these options may be best for you and what you want to accomplish. But one of the best, most affordable, and flexible ways you can improve yourself professionally is by reading books.
Do you read like your career depends upon it?
If not, I get it.
Today, people are reading less than before. Several recent studies reveal a growing decline in reading:
- The National Endowment for the Arts reports a three-decade low among US adults who read literature.
- A Pew Research Center survey found a small decline in the number of American adults who read a book.
Even though this decline is reading is troubling on many levels, it does provide you with a great opportunity to get ahead. “A readership crisis is really a leadership crisis,” writes Michael Hyatt. Michael goes on to say, “And for people who know how to respond, crisis is just another way of saying opportunity.”
If you’re ready to start reading more books, then I encourage you to take a moment to make a reading plan. This way you can create your own personal reading plan, and really enjoy the benefits reading has to offer.