I owe my soul to the company store

“You load sixteen tons, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go
I owe my soul to the company store”

Most famously, these words were sung by Tennessee Ernie Ford, but for a generation or more of workers, this song was the reality of life. You didn’t have a choice, the company store owned you. For the generation that followed things started to change. People didn’t owe their soul, so to speak, to the company store but they still worked their entire career at a single employer. And when they retired they received a golden watch and a pat on the back. The generation that followed that has found themselves in a shifting workplace, mergers and acquisitions, plant closings, businesses going bankrupt, but largely a single (or few) career path(s) in their career. And then it all changed.

Recently I came across an estimate that Millennials would change careers on average approximately 7 times – CAREER change, not job change! How do you prepare for a career, when the likelihood is that path won’t even last very long? Further, with estimates that of the jobs present in the marketplace in about 10 years, only half currently exist, how do you plan?

This was part of the conversation I had with a group of 8th graders at a local middle school during a recent “Career Fair”. If we want to prepare for the future, we can’t afford to think like the past. Rather than preparing for a particular job, the workers of the future, have to work to better understand themselves.

The framework I approach is pretty simple and is represented in the following Venn diagram:

venn diagram

Tomorrow, more on the model.

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