When I became engaged to my husband and I told my father he was in the advertising business, my father – a bricks and sticks kind of guy—frowned. “Is that a real job?” he asked skeptically. You may be asking the same thing of your grown offspring because full-time employment, old-line companies, and traditional jobs are going the way of the dodo bird. When you’re tempted to give the younger generation career advice based on your own experience, bear in mind the following:
“It’s the gig economy, stupid.” “Gig” signifies a temporary, short-term job done for a specific purpose. So pervasive is this trend that a recent Intuit study revealed that almost 40 percent of American workers are independent contractors. Why? There are a number of forces behind this trend, especially computerization, which broke the job/set location tie and is taking over many of the tasks traditional workers used to do. Business, always under pressure to reduce overhead, has embraced the concept of a floating, “on demand” work force, which saves it money in salary, benefits, training and sometimes office space.
For our grown children, the gig economy has its pluses and minuses: On the plus side they might be able to effect a better work/life balance with more interesting assignments and more time for their families and other interests. On the minus side as a freelancer it’s way harder to make a good living; you have live with uncertainty; and you have trouble qualifying for a mortgage or other loan.
The old, big companies are gone. Due to mergers, bankruptcies and downsizing, only 12 percent of the companies that made the Fortune 500 list in 1955 are still on the list. One economist who’s studied this phenomenon said that 50 years ago the life expectancy of a Fortune 500 company was 75 years. Now it is less than 15 years and this timeline is getting shorter all the time. New companies are more dynamic but also less stable.
New jobs are emerging. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 65% of today’s schoolchildren will be employed in jobs that didn’t exist in 2013. But why wait? Already, our Millennials can be Zumba instructors, SEO specialists, wellbeing coaches, offshore wind farm engineers, App developers, genetic counselors, chief listening officers, user experience designers, drone operators and sustainability directors—all “new economy” jobs that didn’t exist thirty years ago.
In recent years some companies have begun to help answer the common parental plaint, “What is it that you do, exactly?” LinkedIn was a pioneer in the Bring In Your Parents Day, which is now held in scores of companies around the world. Blair Decembrele, the LinkedIn employee who oversees the events said part of the rationale was that workers relied heavily on their parents for career advice. She said that her father, who’s attended a few times, now knows her team, colleagues and supervisor. “We can have a much more in-depth conversation about career development with him having insight into that,” she says.
Kimberly Cassady, who works at software developer Cornerstone OnDemand, said they started Bring Your Parents to Work Day because employees were already taking their folks to the office. “They would rave about the place, but still have this question, “I still don’t know what he/she does.” I rest my case.