The multiple-career lifetime bamboozle


“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.”

― Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark

The multiple-career lifetime is a bamboozle. It’s neither a substitute for vision nor a substitute for planning. In a not-so-bygone era, a career was something we had for life: one function, one industry, one profession. Fifteen or so years ago we started hearing predictions about the 5 careers we could expect to have before we retired. Because they didn’t know, the people making those predictions couldn’t specify what those 5 careers might be, only that there would be 5. That number has since risen to 6 or 7, along with the retirement age and eligibility to begin drawing full CPP and OAS benefits.

For the record, the people making those predications treated a career change as a response to losing a job voluntarily or involuntarily.

In what by current standards now looks like a steady state employment universe, most people paid lip service to the notion of career planning. They could afford to then because the risks were lower. Not any more. The fly in the ointment about multiple-career lifetimes is that, unless they’re planned very carefully, each career move has the potential to mean starting over from scratch in terms of earnings, seniority, suitability for promotion and lifestyle—assuming there’s a position to be had in the first place.

Our children run the risk of living the equivalent of crossing a lily pond by hopping from the head of one alligator to another. To cross that pond they’ll need the right number of alligators, flawless agility and impeccable timing. With each hop, they’ll be that much older, that much more expensive and, unless they play their cards right, that much more obsolete.

The generation about to embark on postsecondary education is the first one to observe the phenomenon that we thought would be confined to blue collar jobs as it continues to spread to white collar jobs. Serious questions need to be asked about which industries are most likely to be in existence in 10 years time. How dependent will they be on technology or specialized training? Where will the training and education for those industries come from? How much will those positions pay? What will the future of full time employment with benefits be?

Significant changes in the way things are done often result in unanticipated consequences. The idea of increasing the free flow of goods and services between countries by lowering trade barriers began to gain traction in the mid-1980’s. In 1994, Canada, the U.S. and Mexico implemented the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). At first blush, Canadians were ecstatic because they were convinced that this would mean lower prices for automobiles and other manufactured goods. It’s almost 20 years later and we’re still waiting.

We didn’t anticipate that, in the global push for trade without borders, manufacturing in Ontario would be obliterated and university undergraduate and postgraduate degrees marginalized.

We had no Plan B. We still don’t. We had no visionary leaders. We still don’t. Except for the European Union where citizens of a Eurozone member state are free to live and work in any other Eurozone state, borders are porous when it comes to the movement of goods, services, money and jobs—but not to the people who populate those jobs.

To its credit, Alberta had the foresight to create the Heritage Fund as a hedge against the depletion of its oil assets. They still have those assets. What’s missing is the demand for them.

PDD believes in our young people. In every conceivable sense of the word, they are Canada’s future. PDD can point them at resources that will help them identify and exploit the opportunities our generation missed because we didn’t have those resources or the need to use them. If we can do that, they’ll be positioned to anticipate the future so that they can prepare for it.

Sagan says we’re no longer interested in finding the truth. Maybe that’s because things have become too easy and we’ve become too intellectually lazy. As a species, we’ve always been at our creative and collective best when the chips were down because we’ve had to be. The chips are down now.

Personal Due Diligence is in the business of showing parents why it’s critical that they change the way they think about buying and using education. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Any answer that benefits the person hearing it will be the right answer.

P.S.: On February 1st, 2013, I began monitoring print and electronic media to see how many times 4 topics were mentioned. These are the results as of 5:31 p.m., Wednesday, April 3, 2013.

  • Economy: 95
  • Work related stress: 57
  • Household debt: 14
  • Management stress: 11

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