Be careful who you take career advice from. Knowing who to take advice from is a really good skill for any aspect of your life, but especially in the field of work, because work is changing very fast right now. A lot of advice that was good ten years ago is not good now. And people who are using old language to talk about contemporary careers are thinking in terms that will pull you off track.
Here are three examples of topics your parents talk about all the time in their careers, but these topics will not be a part of new millennium careers. Watch out for these three terms — they probably come with outdated advice.
1. Career change
When Baby Boomers change careers, they stand on mountaintops. They announce that career change is a new trend, and they are doing it, of course, to save the world. The Baby Boomer specialty is saving the world by screaming from mountaintops, and then borrowing some more money to support that habit.
The other thing about Baby Boomers and career change is that they didn't really do it before now. I mean, they did, but it was cataclysmic and often seen as reckless. For example, it's what men did in their 40s after a midlife crises. Or what people did when they got to middle management and realized they were sub-par at their chosen career. (Note: It's very easy to delude yourself that you're competent until you get to your mid-30s. Around then, the less competent end up competing with people in their late 20s and losing.)
Gen Y will change careers at least five times. And, if they're smart, the job hopping they do — which happens every 18 months in their 20s — will span a wide range of jobs. Which means that the idea of career change is outdated. People do it all the time. But they don't call it career change, they call it finding a job.
The best way to find a job is to hone your skills, update your ideas, and adjust yourself as the workplace changes. Which means that you are not likely to have a single career for more than a few years. Or, more likely, it becomes semantic: is this a change or a shift? And really, who cares? Just keep your skills up, know what you like and what you're good at, and stay employable. All the time. Not just the year you want to scream from mountaintops.
Do you know who is using social media? Gen X. The average Twitter user is in their 30s. The median age of LinkedIn is 40. The majority of people who are joining Facebook right now are over 35. This is because Gen X wants to meet new people online and reconnect with all the friends they lost along the way. Gen X is using social media to network.
Gen Y doesn't need to. They never lost their connections because they've been online since they were ten. They do not need to meet more people online to expand their network because they are native networkers — they have had the tools and the predisposition to use them since before Gen X even knew what Facebook was.
So while Gen X is busy using Twitter to let people know what they are up to and promote the hell out of whatever they are doing, Gen Y is using Twitter for tweetups — meetups set up via Twitter. Which is a way of making genuine friends offline.
Even though Baby Boomers have been telling their kids forever to network. Networking is a dirty word to Gen Y. (Think about it: A Boomer says, “I’m going to a networking event.” A Gen-Yer says, “I’m going to a party.”) To young people, networking is sort of like job hunting: Both are for people who don't have a grip, because if you're smart, networking and job hunting are like breathing. You do it all the time, so you don't need to talk about it. It only comes up if you stop and want to start again.
3. Midlife crisis
It's not that you won't have crises. But they'll be earlier. The midlife crisis is a result of people getting on a path that someone else paved before them. If you see that you have a limited range of choices and you have to make one, then you don't need to know very much about yourself in order to move forward. That's what Baby Boomers did — they chose a path. Even the women chose a path that men laid out before them. The women fought to be able to take those paths, too.
So when the Boomers hit their 40s, they realized that the paths they chose from were all wrong, and to find a good path, they would actually need to know who they are. The crisis point is that it's pretty hard to focus on yourself when you have kids, a mortgage and a marriage that is probably faltering because what marriage doesn't need a lot of attention after ten years? There is not a lot of space for you to be retooling your idea of yourself. That's the crisis. You need time and space that you don't have.
Now, though, people take that time and space in their 20s. Gen X did it instinctively, and weathered belittling from Baby Boomers with labels like slackers. So Gen X is not having midlife crises. We had our crises in our 20s. And Gen Y is doing the same thing, but with more optimism (they always have that) and more support (their parents would do anything for them.)
Today the crisis happens earlier. The people at risk of having a crises are those who do not give themselves a chance to explore and falter in their 20s. Beware of the lives that look too perfect in their 20s. Those are the people who will be a mess in their 30s. And it will be a quarterlife crisis.