How have careers changed in the 21st century? (And how to manage yours)



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In 2024, it is common for people to change careers frequently or have more than one employer at a time. However, in recent history, it was normal to stick with the same company for 20 or 30 years, and the job search looked completely different. Let’s have a look at how careers changed since the 1950s, and what you should do today to navigate a competitive career landscape.

How have careers changed since the 1950s?

After WWII, the economy expanded actively, which created favorable working conditions for Baby Boomers. People trained to get an occupation, and they commonly stayed with the same organization until retirement. Boomers worked intently to build stellar careers (Lancaster and Stillman, 2002). This approach is also known as “careerism”. The word “career” meant building a long-term relationship with one company that takes care of you when you retire.

The situation changed dramatically in the 2000s. Today, US employers change jobs every 4.1 years on average. To achieve faster career growth, people take ownership of their careers and change employers more frequently than ever. Working for different businesses or organizations helps them achieve career progression and earn a higher salary.

Here are a few highlights of how careers changed over the last 60 years:

  • The rise of remote and flexible work – after COVID-19, companies increasingly hire remote and part-time employees.
  • Project-based careers – instead of building a career in the same company, people have fixed-term contracts, freelance, and flexible working.
  • Upskilling and retraining – as technology advances, many employees are forced to learn additional skills or change the profession to stay competitive.
  • Wellness and work-life balance are the new priority – instead of careerism, new generations prioritize the healthy balance between life and work.

How did the job search change?

The process of finding a job is also different from 60 years ago. Back then, you had to fill out an application or get referred by a friend. A resume was a one-page document that briefly listed your contact details, personal info, education, and past jobs, if any.

This is how a resume looked like in the 1960s.

In 2024, a resume is a marketing document that focuses on your achievements and relevant skills. You can skip irrelevant or old jobs if they don’t help you ‘sell’ yourself to companies. Moreover, modern resumes should be personalized for each job opening and keyword-optimized. Special applicant tracking software scans resumes for keywords, and if there are none, your resume gets tossed.

How to manage your career in 2024?

Given the major changes in the world of work, you need to take ownership of your career and be strategic about your career choices. Here are some tips to help you build a successful career:

Upskill proactively

If you want to stay on top of your field, ongoing professional development and upskilling is a must. Research new trends in your industries to identify skills you lack, and develop these skills through education or online courses. As you boost your skills and stay abreast of the best practices, you’ll take advantage of better professional opportunities.

Network online and in person

Networking is essential for career growth, as most lucrative jobs are never advertised online. To network with people in your industry, attend industry events, join professional organizations, or consider volunteering. Don’t neglect online networking either. You can expand your network on LinkedIn by being active and completing a professional profile.

Build your online presence

With a professional online presence, you can find new opportunities effortlessly. You can polish your LinkedIn profile, set up a personal website, or publish your portfolio.

Explore freelancing and short-term jobs

If you are not employed at the moment, consider options other than full-time employment. The gig economy offers an alternative path of building a career. Offering your services on such platforms as Upwork or Behance can supplement your income and lead to long-term lucrative contracts.

Understand your market value

To be sure that you are paid what you are worth, find out your market value. You can start by searching what specialists of your profession are paid in your area. There are also online calculators that can show your potential salary based on your experience, skills, and companies you worked for.

Seek guidance and feedback

A good mentor or career coach can provide guidance and support in your career. You can also reach out to your teammates and managers to ask for constructive feedback and understand your areas for growth.

Make sure your resume is up to date

In 2024, your resume is a primary career marketing document. Always keep it up to date, as you never know when the right opportunity arises. Make sure that your resume has plenty of details about your accomplishments, skills, and most notable projects. You also need to infuse industry keywords so that your resume passes the initial screening. If you are feeling stuck with writing your resume, our in-house experts can improve it for you to help attract more job opportunities.

The career landscape has changed dramatically due to technological advances and the rise of the gig economy. However, if you choose employers smart, constantly update your skills, and build a strong professional network, you’ll increase your chances for success.

Our experienced writers can create a powerful resume suitable for each position. However, you may also request a specific resume depending on the job you are applying for, thus it will be tailored individually for your profession:

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