As you set about identifying new career opportunities, here are a few thoughts on three important factors for you to consider: baby boomers, the economy, and you.
Demography is the statistical study of populations and generations. We have three generations in the work force: the baby boomers (born between 1945 and 1960) Generation X, (1960–early 1980s) Gen Y, or Millenials (mid-1980s–early 2000s). The boomers, the oldest and largest group, have started to retire — vacating prestigious, high paying leadership positions to be filled by those that follow. This time, those who are prepared will be able to advance their career opportunities relatively quickly.
The boomers are not only the largest generation, they’re also the wealthiest. They have the time, the money, and the numbers to ensure that their interests are society’s interests. They will create new opportunities for careers related to lifestyle (tourism, fine dining, and recreation) and wealth management (investor relations, banking, and financial services). And as they age, they will be afflicted with the illnesses of the aged, so careers related to health care will be in demand (nurses, personal care workers, lab technicians, and physical and vocational therapists). The interests and concerns of baby boomers have driven society for forty years — they will likely do so for forty more.
To be employed is to be at risk.
To be employable is to be secure.
Economics: Local and global
The economy is the next factor — specifically, the economic sectors that do well in Canada. We are world leaders in banking, insurance, and financial services, with established corporations that are strong and competitive. Natural resource extraction (mining, oil and gas production) has long led our economy, and it will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. We have in Canada a heritage of public service with a robust social safety net of government programs delivered by dedicated professionals. True, the past twenty years or so have seen declines, but it is still a very important sector, and the retirement of the baby boomers will be felt especially keenly here.
Understanding our economy is a good start, but we exist within a global economy over which we have little control, and which can lift us all up, or bring us crashing down. In a global economy, national borders don’t matter and the work will move to where it is can be done most efficiently. This means great risk for those whose work can be done remotely (call centres for example), but it also offers great reward for those who do work that cannot. Skilled tradespeople will benefit because of this — if you are building a house in Oakville you require a carpenter in Oakville. Those who work in health care, tourism and hospitality, and transportation also stand to gain.
Creativity and knowledge
There is another class of worker, the creative or knowledge-based worker, that is exempt from the pressure of the global economy, and who can live and work where they choose. They are artists, analysts, entrepreneurs, researchers, engineers, and designers. Canada has a vibrant information and communications technology sector largely built on the innovation and energy of these people, as is our creative economy of writers, performers, and musicians. The knowledge-based worker adds value and creates wealth where there was none before, and their innovation is an inoculation against the leveling force of globalization.
The third, and most important, factor that you need to consider is you. What do you value? What interests you? What are you good at? The answers to these questions will provide you with key data to help you decide about a new career. Take some time to get to know yourself, and what you want to do.
Once you have figured that out, your job is to prepare yourself the best way you can for the opportunities that will come your way. Dr. Peter Hawkins, a thought leader in career development, once said, “To be employed is to be at risk. To be employable is to be secure.” Being employed entails risk because you have something you might lose: a job. But by being employable, and keeping yourself there, you have the best insurance going. Keep your skills current, build your network and do your research. If the unthinkable happens and you find yourself out of a job, it won’t matter, because you’ll be ready for the next opportunity. To put it another way: “The bird doesn’t trust in the branch, he trusts in his wings.”
Paul D. Smith is the Executive Director of Canadian Association of Career Educators & Employers.