By Baily Hancock
Picture the collegiate graduating class of 2018. The bright-eyed optimistic graduates go off to their first adult job where they’ll work from 9–5, 40 hours a week for 40+ years, steadily climbing the corporate ladder until they retire around their 64th birthday with a fat pension.
If you chuckled while picturing such a far-fetched scenario, you’re not alone.
Many of us entered the workforce at the start of, during, or immediately following the Great Recession. Prior to the early 2000s, those who succeeded followed the playbook passed on from generation to generation, putting their heads down, logging the hours, and pledging their loyalty to one company for their entire career.
That plan of attack no longer works.
Now the successful ones are those who consistently sharpen their skills, build and nurture their communities, take ownership of their professional development, and are ready to adapt and react to whatever comes their way.
It’s tempting to feel like we got ripped off and robbed of the adulthood we were promised, but take heart, this new evolved workplace fits us better anyway. Millennials were born for this; we grew up trying and doing everything, playing a sport and taking music lessons, learning to speak a second language and mastering Mario Kart. We are multi-talented, multi-passionate people who were basically trained to be level-uppers who know how to game the system. Because of our easy access to knowledge and the never-ending content barraging us through multiple screens, we learn quickly and get bored just as fast. If anyone was going to survive this ever-changing workplace landscape, it’s us.
However, even when change is ultimately for the better, it still tends to turn people into trembling piles of anxiety. Most people I know feel overcome with paralysis by analysis when faced with the question, “what am I doing with my life?” (Which, for the record is a ridiculous question.) Deeply ingrained societal habits die hard, so even though we know the old way of moving through our career isn’t right for us (nor is it even available) we can’t help but feel uncomfortable facing the new work reality and finding our place in it.
So how do we learn to navigate the treacherous waters of this ever-changing working world, while remaining true to ourselves and our never-ending quest for professional fulfillment and purpose? We embrace “The 1-Year Career” mentality.
The 1-Year Career is a whole new way of thinking about work and your place in it. It encourages you to evaluate your professional happiness far more frequently than the generations before us had to, setting short-term goals and achieving them with small, actionable steps year after year throughout your entire career.
It does not involve reinventing yourself every year, nor does it imply that you should quit your job every 12 months and bounce around companies like a job-hopping psychopath.
When you think about your career in one-year increments, it enables you to focus on only the next couple of steps ahead of you. We’re far less likely to feel overwhelmed when we consider not what we’re going to do with our entire life, but instead, what we’re going to do in the next 365 days. One year seems doable; long enough to accomplish a good amount, but short enough that we can plan for most of the variables that life may throw at us.
Many of us pursue a career path that a younger, more naive version of us chose at college orientation, but that person couldn’t possibly have anticipated who we’d become in the decades ahead. By embracing “The 1-Year Career” mentality, we’re able to make real-time decisions about what we want today, not what 18-year-old us thought we’d want.
Time really does move fast (most days I’m still mentally in 2015), so if you aren’t stopping to pause and reflect on the regular, years will fly by before you even know it. Knowing that we should regularly take the temperature of our professional happiness is one thing, identifying and making the changes necessary is another.
Overwhelm can happen when you set big goals but don’t take the time to break them up into actionable steps. When you regularly evaluate your professional satisfaction and make the moves necessary to maintain it, you’re far more likely to stay excited, energized, and happy throughout your entire career.
Like relationships, long term career happiness takes work. Sometimes you’ll be the one who decides to take a leap and quit your job, other times your job will quit you (being let go sucks, but take it from someone who’s been there, you’ll survive.) Knowing how to rebound and be adaptable is what will keep you from breaking when you’re faced with any scenario.
Practice makes perfect, so by continuing to strengthen your resilience muscle and taking time to reflect and assess your situation, you’ll not only be able to handle the chaos of adulthood, you’ll welcome it.
Millennials, we get the job done.