Managing the Future of Your Career: Why Retirement Is Harder Than Ever

Managing the Future of Your Career: Why Retirement Is Harder Than Ever
From Recruiter - September 23, 2016

We are job-search campaign managers, which means we frequently work with senior leaders who are experts in wearing their public masks of confidence. But often, beneath those veneers is a profound despair.

There are two variations of this despair:

This article is based on interviews with fifty senior executives who have been successful in managing their careers during difficult economic times. Thesecorporate leaders have learned the difficult lesson that success often involves the painful process of unlearning old frames of reference that once worked.

As it turns out, unlearning old ideas that have been successful in the past is often far more difficult than learning new ideas.

What are some of the lessons our leaders had to unlearn on their roads to eventual success? Lets take a look at a few:

Short Job Tenure and Long Middle Age

The individual complaints with which we began this piece are but symptoms of two larger and more well-known trends impacting all who work in developed countries.

The first trend is a shortening of traditional job tenures in line with the collapsing time frames of product life cycles and corporate life cycles.

Technology has been a main driver behind the speeding up of business cycles. What economists call creative destruction is taking place at a faster pace, andconscientious, qualified employees are often its victims.

In other words, job tenures within jobs and career tenureswithin companies are decreasing.

Short job tenures play havoc onretirementsavings because retirement savings are foundedon slow and consistent contributions. Short job tenures explode that assumption.

At the same time, life spans are increasing. You can thank the same technological factors that contribute to lowering job tenure. The average life span within industrial societies has increased by about 12 years since Social Security was adopted in the U.S.

It is important, however, to remember that this additional 12 years is not an additional 12 years of old age. It is an elongation of middle age. The old career model was based on long job tenure and death within 10-15 years of retirement. The new career model is based on short job tenure and death within 25 years of retirement.

Implication: Do not be critical of yourself if you do not have enough saved for a retirement that will support you for 25 years. It is not your fault. Unlearn your framework for retirement.

The Free Agent Model: Never Valid for All

In the last ten years of the 20th century, economists like Robert Reich and popular business magazines like Business 2.0 began to write about the so-called Free Agent Nation. Under the free-agent framework, executives have careers that more closely resemble the careers of professionalsportsstars, who smoothly shift from one major leagueteamto another through the work of third-party agents. In the world of business, agents are often called retained search executives.

But heres the thing: Professional sports players represent an elite segment of the general population, and withinthis already elite group, only the top 10-15 percent can count on the free-agent model to work for them.

What happens to the other 85 percent? When their contracts with major league teams are not renewed, it is the beginning of the end of their professional sports careers.

And even for the elite 10-15 percent,free agency will cease to be valid as they age or become injured.


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