“It’s insane to think that we should know what we want to do forever or that it’s somehow a better life or we’re a more successful person if we’ve done one thing. I mean, it’s really just outdated. It doesn’t make any sense. You know that’s not true.” – Alexandra, episode 5 of the 50 Conversations podcast for career changers
In my podcast for career changers, there’s a reoccurring theme when it comes to our careers: lifetime careers no longer exist. And while we all kind of know that, it’s so damn refreshing to hear people talk about it openly. It’s even better to hear how people have adapted to this new world of multiple career changes.
I’ve been slowly releasing episodes from my podcast for career changers over the past four months. The goal of the podcast is to both normalize career changes and show the many ways people make a career change.
In the podcast, I ask guests who have changed careers exactly how they did it. It’s a casual conversation, usually under 20 minutes, and perfect for a commute. We chat about the ups and downs of career changes, the many ways to learn new skills, the process of upskilling, and always end with outstanding advice for career changes.
My podcast for career changers is like having a career coach in your pocket; you’re sure to find something in these episodes that resonates with you. It’s better than taking a career assessment any day.
So I’m sharing a round up of episodes that shows you the many ways to change careers. Whether you’re the person who needs a career change but don’t know what to do or someone who just needs career change help these are the podcast episodes for you.
I left my last job in higher education because I saw no professional path forward. When I looked at my options for professional development I saw a future with no chance to upgrade my skills.
Despite loving my job, the students, and my talented colleagues, I left my job in pursuit of new challenges.
I hear from many talented people in higher education who are curious about leaving. They feel torn. They love the work but worry about their professional futures. They don’t see a path forward. They have ambivalent managers. They also don’t know how to leave.
I hear this from others outside the higher ed too. These are common complaints in my generation:
My job doesn’t offer any opportunity to learn anything new.
My job doesn’t challenge me.
My manager has no idea how to help me.
The data shows that higher education staff want to upskill
While I’ve been collecting anecdotes from higher education staff, the researchers at Academic Impressions have been collecting quantitative data. In the report, Beating Turnover in Higher Ed,Academic Impressions surveyed 2,577 higher education professionals.
Among their top findings: people in higher education leave because they’re not provided with professional development opportunities.
The numbers are rather shocking, even for someone who is used to hearing from people asking how to leave higher education:
We’ve all been raised and educated to think that tenure and experience will keep us employed and indemand as we grow in our career. It appears that is no longer the case, at least according to research from Gartner. More on that:
By 2028, the most high-value work will be cognitive in nature. Employees will have to apply creativity, critical thinking and constant digital upskilling to solve complex problems. “The demand for digital skills has grown by 60% over the past several years. In today’s digital economy, the demand for new ideas, new information and new business models that continually expand, combine and shift into new ventures and new businesses will increase,” says Griffin. “Employees must consistently refresh their digital dexterity to meet these needs.”
Predictions are never for sure but one thing that is for sure is that we’ve already seen tenure become less valued in the workplace. We saw it after the crash in 2008 when our friends and family were laid off without any regard for experience. We see it in older workers who struggle to get work despite having decades of experience in our industry. We see it in discussions about the future of work, as employers debate whether to train their existing workforce or hire new people with the digital and data fluency to thrive in digital transformation (the implication being that the old workforce will simple be laid off).
As I write in my book, skills are the currency in our new world of work.
We talk a lot about emerging jobs in the future of work. One job that has emerged in the last decade is content moderator. Content moderators work behind the scenes – invisible to most – to help keep horrific content out of our social feeds.
And they suffer greatly for it. A new report by The Verge, The Terror Queue, presents the horrible reality of content moderation. In the article, they share that moderators are often underpaid and subjected to horrific mental working conditions. This quote puts it into perspective:
“Every day you watch someone beheading someone, or someone shooting his girlfriend.”
Imagine that were your job. Then imagine this is how management supported you:
Google content moderators in Austin are required to view five hours of gruesome video per day.
Managers for Accenture routinely force employees to work into their break time, deny them vacation time
Google offers one standard of medical care to full-time content moderators, another for contractors. Contractors get almost no paid medical leave. –
Workers at Google are often not informed about the potential mental health consequences of content moderation when they apply for jobs.
Content moderators, according to the article, make roughly $18/hr, or $37,000 a year. And not all of them have the same access to medical care, with contractors having little to no access.
In one example, moderators with rare language skills, are immigrants trying to become US citizens. They’re employed as contractors to review Middle Eastern content:
Peter, who has done this job for nearly two years, worries about the toll that the job is taking on his mental health. His family has repeatedly urged him to quit. But he worries that he will not be able to find another job that pays as well as this one does: $18.50 an hour, or about $37,000 a year.
Like many of his co-workers working in the VE queue in Austin, Peter is an immigrant. Accenture recruited dozens of Arabic speakers like him, many of whom grew up in the Middle East. The company depends on his language skills — he speaks seven — to accurately identify hate speech and terrorist propaganda and remove it from YouTube.
Several workers I spoke with are hoping to become citizens, a feat that has only grown more difficult under the Trump administration. They worry about speaking out — to a manager, to a journalist — for fear it will complicate their immigration efforts.
There’s a cruelty here that is hard to reconcile. I don’t know if the managers at Google and Accenture know what content moderators deal with, or if they’re happy to just ignore it.
In all honestly, I don’t even know what the answer is for this type of work. The article profiles other content moderators who are making more money, and even they are having breakdowns and PTSD.
The brutality of this type of work can’t be overstated. Yet it’s invisible to most of us as we carry along scrolling and scrolling and scrolling through our social feeds.
Last August, I spent the month teaching my audience how to upskill themselves. Upskilling is one of those words that’s still a little bit out of reach for most people. It hasn’t entered mainstream just yet.
That’s all about to change in 2020. Upskilling is going to go mainstream in people’s professional lives. First, people love to kick off a new decade with big, bold moves. People are eager to build on ideas from the previous decade and start again, both in their professional and personal lives.
Second, the pace at which change is happening in our workplace is staggering. LinkedIn featured two posts this past week that highlighted the shifts we’re already seeing in the workplace. The first, “Where have all the secretaries gone?” covered the disappearance of administrative assistant jobs, often staffed by women without degrees. There was a quote in that article that really struck me:
The death of employee loyalty is just one of many changes happening in our workplace.
The second article that LinkedIn highlighted covered the teacher shortage. More teachers are opting out of teaching because of low pay. While our lack of teachers is a national problem, it struck me because teaching used to be a sure fire fulfilling career path. It was the secure job that people often changed into when they wanted an escape or were burned out. Now days, not so much.
On top of that, we see more articles about new types of jobs like this one, highlighting architects working in video game design as a creative way to apply their skills. It’s yet another traditional career path that’s adapting to our new world of work. It’s also enough to get any burnt out architect thinking, how do I get into that?!
It’s time to upskill yourself
The result is that a lot more people are starting to see the impact, good and bad, of new technology in their workplace. And they’re looking for ways to adapt.
Upskilling is adaptation. Though upskilling isn’t a household term just yet, it will be in 2020 thanks to the impact of recent changes in the workplace.
Upskilling is a verb and a mindset. It’s the act of learning new skills to improve your professional life. It’s also a willingness to accept that things are changing, take charge of your learning and development, and not burry your head in the sand.
While the term upskilling is frequently thrown around in articles as if one can just upskill tomorrow, upskilling is not an easy process. Every time I read an article in a big publication (looking at you HBR) by a corporate leader declaring that our collective workforce simply needs to upskill, I roll my eyes. Often these articles are written by people who haven’t actually upskilled themselves.
In fact, upskilling is downright hard. I say this as someone who is doing it and as someone who just wrote a book teaching people how to upskill. It’s hard because we haven’t been taught how to do it.
The benefits of the comfort zone are appealing. Steady (though not always satisfying) incomes, “secure” jobs, relaxed routines, and predictable schedules are as comforting to humans as they are to animals. In this phase, people limit their learning to things they learn on the job, not knowing that yesterday’s lessons rarely solve tomorrow’s challenges… Without skill upgrades or a willingness to learn, people are caught in a rut. They are unable to see when the next trend is about to catch up or when the current one is about to die. For the few that can see the new trend, the pain of having to upgrade their skills far supersedes the pleasure of staying in the comfort zone.
If you’re curious about how to upskill yourself, follow me on LinkedIn where I’ll be hosting trainings in January and February. You can also dive into some of my previous posts to get a handle on where we’re headed in the future of work (or get my book):
I’d love to write a more thorough post on this subject (and maybe soon I will) but for now I’m just going to drop some terrifying quotes from a recent Guardian article, Clear backpacks, monitored emails: life for US students under constant surveillance. The entire article should be a must-read for all parents in hopes that the more we understand, the better we’ll be about asking tough questions on surveillance in schools.
I’m dropping these quote nuggets for thoughtful discussion for you and your partner:
Tech companies are now offering a range of products that help schools track the websites kids are visiting and the searches they are making; that monitor everything students are writing in school emails, chats and shared documents; or that even attempt to track what students are posting on their public social media accounts.
Some parents said they were alarmed and frightened by schools’ new monitoring technologies. Others said they were conflicted, seeing some benefits to schools watching over what kids are doing online, but uncertain if their schools were striking the right balance with privacy concerns. Many said they were not even sure what kind of surveillance technology their schools might be using, and that the permission slips they had signed when their kids brought home school devices had told them almost nothing.
“It’s the school as panopticon, and the sweeping searchlight beams into homes, now, and to me, that’s just disastrous to intellectual risk-taking and creativity.”
As of 2018, at least 60 American school districts had also spent more than $1m on separate monitoring technology to track what their students were saying on public social media accounts, an amount that spiked sharply in the wake of the 2018 Parkland school shooting, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, a progressive advocacy group that compiled and analyzed school contracts with a subset of surveillance companies.
There are virtual learning platforms, platforms for coordinating with teachers, platforms that specialize in teaching kids math. “They are all mandatory, and the accounts have been created before we’ve even been consulted,” he said. Parents are given almost no information about how their children’s data is being used, or the business models of the companies involved.
Will the data generated by the accounts his kids use at school be factored into decisions about whether they get a job later in life, or how much they have to pay for insurance? “It’s not really a far future,” he said.
Parents, I encourage you to read the whole thing. Then start asking questions and hosting discussions with your community and school about the impact of surveillance in schools:
Who benefits from the surveillance of children?
Who suffers from the surveillance of children?
How much money is made off of the surveillance of children?
What are better ways to solve problems around safety in the classroom?
In the prior post I advocate for creating online career content that doesn’t recreate the wheel. I also make the case that career services leadership needs to hire people with content creation skills. Just because someone can coach doesn’t mean they can develop engaging content.
Today I just stumbled on this article about students creating their own content for university marketing (h/t to @TaylorLorenz who write about how students (teens) actually use the internet and whom I learn everything from):
I hang out in a lot of new mom Facebook groups which means I see a lot these types of “i hate my job now what” posts. Being a mom, new or experienced, is tough. Adding to it a terrible workplace/boss/workload creates an overwhelming sense of failure and frustration.
I see a lot of women asking for a way out. And they should. Turning to your community – online and offline – is a good start to leaving your shitty job. There should be no shame in leaving something so unfulfilling, so toxic.
Since I just wrote a book that basically encourages everyone to leave a bad workplace (and change careers), I’m writing a lot of career change advice in Facebook groups lately. It reminds me of the days when I was a professional career coach and someone at a bar would ask me what I did for a living. I’d tell them I was a career coach and they’d tell me how much they hate their job. It’s impossible to stay quiet in those conversations. People who are stuck in their jobs need perspective, a bit of direction, and a friendly ear.
I’ve noticed that a lot of people who are stuck are hung up on the idea that they should go back to school right away. But they aren’t sure how to go back to school because it costs so much and even then they don’t know exactly what they want to do for the rest of our lives. That’s totally normal.
We were all raised with the idea that to make a career change we needed to go back to school. We were also taught that we were supposed to figure out the one thing we’d do for the rest of our lives. Going back to school is a debt-filled experience packaged as a investment in our professional selves. It creates a lot of pressure to choose the one right path. The result is often paralysis for those who are stuck.
Thankfully things have changed. We don’t have to pick one thing for the rest of our lives. Our careers are flexible. We’ll change multiple times over the course of our careers. Sometimes it will be big changes, other times, smaller changes. There are also far more learning experiences available to us that don’t involve going back to get another degree.
The first step in making a career change isn’t deciding to go back to school or not (in fact for many you don’t even need to go back to school to make a career change). To escape a bad workplace, you have to get to know your options. Identify all the possible paths for change, pick one, and then learn the skills you need to get on that path.
I’ve given so much advice in Facebook groups lately that I’m starting to feel like a broken record. So I’m dropping off an advice dump from a recent Facebook group post that covers the first baby steps of a career change.
Share it with anyone else who is stuck in their job and wants a way out.
First off, GTFO of your place of work that doesn’t deserve you. You’ve given and given and now you’re drained. There are so many people in your situation.
Start simple: commit to changing it. You don’t have to have a plan or make a big step. You can start small and commit to the exploration process.
Talk to people about their interests. Learn what other opportunities are out there by asking people about their work, how they got into their field, what advice they’d have for you. You’ll learn so much.
Then check in with yourself. What skills do you have? What are you good at? Make a list. Take stock.
Read job descriptions like they are tiny short stories and pay attention to jobs that interest you, not what you are qualified for. What sparks your interest? What type of companies interest you?
Read newsletters from industries that interest you. Listen to podcasts from leaders, companies, or professional topics that interest you. Make notes on the type of work that interests you. Look for possibilities and resist the urge to talk yourself out of doing something.
The workplace has changed a lot in the last several years. There are really good places to work, good teams, and better managers. Take small steps towards finding them.
Commit to change even if you don’t know what shape change will take.
THEN focus on finding the learning experiences that will help you get new skills.
It’s always a treat to guest on a podcast but I think the treat is even sweeter when the podcast is hosted by someone with a British accent. I had was thrilled to chat with Jane Barrett, Founder of Career Farm, all about our new world of work.