By Alex Hargreaves
Today I met with Amy*, a 23 year old business student who has studied 2 years of a bachelor of human services, one year of a bachelor of information technology, completed a diploma in social media and is currently in her first semester of business. Amy works as an assistant in financial services and whilst she enjoys it, she isn’t sure if that is what she wants to spend the next 10 years of her life doing.
Amy’s story is not at all out of the ordinary, as recent research has shown that the average Australian will change career paths five to seven times during their working life (Department of Employment, 2017). Amy says
“When I finished high school, I really wasn’t 100% sure what I wanted to do. Is anyone really sure at 17? I knew that I wanted to go to university and thought I would just try out human services as truthfully it is one of the few degrees that my OP allowed me to get into. I have changed my mind a million times since then and every time something new sparks my interest I go after it. It’s been a lot of fun, but after all my hard work I’m still not sure where I want my career to take me!”
So what happened to the days when we would choose a field of study, study that field for 3 – 5 years in university, get a job in that industry and stay in that job until we retire? It seems that many of the people in that era will be retiring within the next ten years and so will the trend itself. In 1975 Australian people aged 45 years and up would stay in the same job for an average of 10 years, but in recent decades this number has almost halved and has been reduced to 6 years and 8 months.
Whilst people in the baby boomer generation were happy just to have a job and the ability to put food on the table for their families, Gen X and Y are not as easy to please. Gen X and Y both rate flexibility as one of the most important career perks (Business Insider, 2017). As freelancing and entrepreneurship are both viable options in the current job market, job hunters are now able to create their own flexible careers if flexibility is denied by their employers.
However, flexibility is not the only driving factor when it comes to our incessant need to job hop. So why are we so hard to please? What are gen X & Y looking for and is there ever a point where we feel truly satisfied in our careers?
Science says that the reason why we are always looking for something new in our careers, is because we are genetically hard wired to explore and develop. It has been argued by Neuroscientist Jaak Panskepp, that of the seven core instincts in the human brain (anger, fear, panic-grief, maternal care, pleasure/lust, play, and seeking), the most important is seeking. The seeking system produces dopamine, a neurotransmitter linked to reward and pleasure and is also involved in coordinating and planning activities (Panskepp, J 2010).
It’s this knowledge seeking instinct that can drive a baker down the path of financial advisory or a café worker to seek qualifications in veterinary technology. Recent education graduate, Hayley*, was the supervising manager at a popular Italian restaurant for three years before she started to lose interest and feel that she was capable of more. She packed up her things and moved interstate to study primary teaching. She has since graduated with good results and now has a job with the Department of Education.
“I couldn’t see the point in sticking with my job when the work was so stressful and tiring and I knew I could do something more rewarding with my career. I was passionate through every step of my education studies and my enthusiasm helped me to do well. I’m really happy as a primary teacher and I am so glad I took the plunge” Hayley says.
Perhaps the dream of finding one dream job no longer exists. Instead, the path to finding career satisfaction continues on so that one may experience many different careers and gain many different skills. This never ending path allows for people to be constantly challenging themselves and overcoming obstacles, which leads to the satisfaction that everyone seeks in their careers.