“Come gather round people wherever you roam and admit that the waters around you have grown…If your time to you is worth savin’ then you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone; for the times they are a-changin’.” ~ Bob Dylan
To many of us of a certain age, Dylan’s 1960s-era anthem of change was a warning to the established leadership that the “old road is rapidly agin’…the order is rapidly fadin’” and that soon, we Boomers would assume the mantle of leadership. Little did we realize that we would face changin’ times ourselves; times that would challenge our generation’s ability to adapt.
These changin’ times occur when Boomers find ourselves most vulnerable. As we near traditional retirement age, we are not ready–financially or emotionally–to follow in our parents’ footsteps; or to surrender leadership to the next generation. We still have years of productivity to contribute; we are not ready to be put out to pasture. Yet we’re stymied by the changing nature of work and our roles in it. The traditional 20th century models do not fit a 21st century reality.
The Emerging World of Work
We know that work and careers are “a-changin’.” The expectation of working for a single company for the length of a career is no longer valid. In fact, the expectation of a single career throughout one’s work life is no longer valid. Many of us have had several employers and more than a few careers.
In the emerging world of work, the term career will be as obsolete as the typewriter. Workers will have to assume responsibility for their own progress; not abdicating it to an organization. They will have to constantly demonstrate their value, learning new tools that continually increase their value. They will have to learn to be part of virtual, ad hoc teams, comprised of others all over the world.
The emerging world of work will provide workers with more freedom and power; however, they will have to adapt to its new aspects.
Four years ago, the internet venture capitalist, Mary Meeker noted that the future of technology will be social, local, and mobile: SoLoMo. With regard to the future of work and careers, the SoLoMo construct is also true.
SOCIAL: The future of work/careers is about connection. It’s about networking, relationship building, social media, etc. It’s about aligning one’s skills and expertise to the challenges faced by employers and clients. This social aspect applies whether one is looking to be an employee or a contractor.
LOCAL: The future of work/careers is about creativity–providing personal services tailored to the employer/client. It mean that one size does not fit all. It recognizes the uniqueness of each opportunity.
MOBILE: The future of work/careers is about flexibility. It’s about doing work from the office, from home or the coffee shop, which technology now allows. It’s about the opportunity to work outside the traditional 9 AM to 5 PM model. It’s about Result Oriented Work Environments.
Implications of the SoLoMo World of Work for Boomers
Like the song says, “the times they are a-changin’.” As Boomers struggle with the next act of their careers, trying to determine where they fit in a society that values younger, faster, cheaper talent, the SoLoMo construct provides a model they can use to their advantage. The model requires that Boomers adapt skills of connection, creativity and flexibility to their everyday work. Comfort and complacency aren’t an option. Boomers need to identify and articulate their value to prospective employers.
By keeping connected–both in terms of relationships with colleagues and potential employers–Boomers continue to be of value. By facilitating creative solutions to tough problems, Boomers demonstrate value. By being flexible and in meeting employers’ needs, Boomers prove their on-going value.
The SoLoMo model helps Boomers “start swimmin’” so they don’t “sink like a stone” as they continue to contribute in the emerging world of work.