In an era where the meaning of the word ‘work’ is being redefined, where the private sphere takes precedence over the professional sphere, what does ‘making a career’ mean today?
Jeremiah Peltier The concept of ‘career making’ is undoubtedly one of the elements that has changed the most in the last ten years. This of course concerns the younger generation, but not only. This transformation affects the entire population. We used to say ‘make a career’ because most of the time we identified with our work. Our social status depended on it. It is enough to observe a group of people meeting for the first time and the classic question is, “And you, what do you do for a living? By this we mean: “What do you do as a job? But now I believe that external work structures work. That is, leisure becomes a social marker. This is a trend that existed before the crisis and has gained momentum since then. Today we are identified with our hobbies, our hometown, much more than with our work. Indeed, the term ‘career making’ no longer has the powerful meaning it once gave it. Another element also plays a role, it is the young generation’s distrust of large groups. This is a trend that we already saw before the crisis: the young people of the last generation multiply professional experiences, no longer have the loyalty that you could have for a company, a certain coherence in the course. In fact, “career development” doesn’t have the same connotation at a time when the desire for loyalty to your job and company is generally diminished. Some 30- and 40-somethings have even dropped everything overnight to find meaning in their work; we’ve seen engineers and business leaders leave to open a bakery, a microbrewery… So, it’s true, we can consider that these are epiphenomena, but nevertheless the concept of “career development” is changing. It is no longer a linear career, but a much more agile one.
Has the health crisis not weakened this agility?
JP The last element that could challenge this idea of an agile career is one that we observed in our December 2021 surveys. Covid-19 has had an extremely disturbing effect on young people. So much so that a third of 18- to 24-year-olds saw themselves working in the same company for several years in the future. That makes sense, because it is a generation that has been affected by the health crisis, the end of a certain number of fixed-term contracts, the non-renewal of apprenticeship contracts, the end of small jobs that allow them to earn a living while they continue their studies. From this point of view, there is something much more pragmatic and classic in the way they approach their professional life. This would almost bring up to date the idea of ”career advancement” associated with loyalty to a company, as it is a guarantee of security and serenity. What they missed during the crisis.
However, does the phrase “career” still make sense? Because even if the fear of not having a job exists, it seems that work no longer defines the essence of the individual. Given this shift in value, is ‘making a career’ an expression that will persist in everyday language? Aren’t we going to prefer “success in life” over him?
JP We have gone from “career building” to “success in life” and from “success in life” to “taking care of yourself, your body and your mind”. It is a very individual attitude that deviates from the standards of success, such as having a satisfying family life, a home, an area we like to live in… Our era is that of a society of well-being, of the culture of well-being. Today, living a fulfilling life means living a healthy life in which we pay attention to our rhythm of life. In fact, this tends to put the workplace into perspective in our daily lives. Not so long ago, our days were structured according to work: the time of getting up, going to bed, the date of vacation… Now it is work that must adapt to the rhythm of life that we have chosen.
We have gone from “work more to earn more” to “work less to live better”. Has Covid-19 accelerated this trend? And, finally, have we lived so badly?
JP It is true that this trend has already existed and has accelerated, mainly for two reasons. The first concerns all those for whom telecommuting was possible, they realized that they could largely manage their day with a start of activity at 9am or 9.30am, a one hour lunch break, an hour and a half and an end of the day at 6pm because overnight they stop wasting time on transportation, in endless meetings, which are useless and generally waste your time on your activity. And in fact at 6pm it is a series of activities that end and free time that follows. This has accelerated the relativization of the workplace in the daily lives of individuals.
The second reason concerns people who engaged in manual activities and who, because they were partially unemployed, realized that they had potentially very unsatisfactory lives. These people understood that they had jobs that simply prevented them from enjoying their lives. There was a very violent awakening on the part of cafeteria owners, waiters and other people who worked in the services: not only did they have jobs that were usually poorly paid, but they had totally absurd hours that prevented them from enjoying their family life. and love life. So yes, it has accelerated the demand for the place of work in the quality of life.
A quality of life that puts the younger generation above all else…
JP Part of the younger generation has a very pragmatic goal, which is to set aside enough money until they are 40/50 to enjoy life and spend time other than work. In fact, the idea of ’career making’ is completely obsolete, because in the end it would be a career that would end quickly, like that of a football player. This desire to enjoy life goes hand in hand with the fact that the younger generation does not plan to work until the age of 70/80. This is a generation that is not interested in the pension reform debate, it has not integrated or projected it at all. In fact, it’s the opposite, the fact of potentially working up to age 60/70 is not a life project. Young people do not see themselves at work for long, at least not as long as their parents.
Does the obsolescence of the concept of career only concern the very young?
JP Not quite. Many so-called traditional patterns are disappearing. There are fewer and fewer big bosses, big industrialists running to the story of what they’ve done, talking exactly about their careers. Today, the big bosses, economically and financially, are people who buy companies, resell them, and then buy them back. They are business people, they are not big industrialists, because the era has changed, de-industrialization has forced large industries to disappear in favor of a service society. It’s much harder to talk about a career with someone who has bought and sold businesses only every few years. We return to the comparison of the footballer who changes clubs every two years, while before that he could have made a career at the same club. Today it is much more complicated to say “What a great career you have had!” because this career is very difficult to make coherent, very difficult to decipher. This obsolescence of the concept of career is interesting, it is indicative of profound social changes.
Which means ?
JP Today, of course, people don’t look at work in the same way anymore, but that reveals a fundamental problem: that of motivation. When we talk about the relativization of the workplace, the outdated concept of “career”, the out-of-work that structures work, I think this raises questions about the effort we can still make to attract to work. It’s a concept that we don’t really talk about and which is fundamental: what motivation can we have to engage in activities other than pleasurable and playful activities in a society that finds it difficult not to be fulfilled, not to enjoy its free time. By striving for well-being at all costs, frustration would tend to take over and we move towards that society.
Article from T La Revue n°9 “Working, is that really reasonable?” – Currently on newsstands and available at kiosque.latribune.fr/t-la-revue