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There was a time when a career meant something you did for your entire working life. Now choosing a single career for life is no longer the norm – in fact it is considered impractical.

What has changed?

The concept of a job for life is no longer a given; instability and uncertainty around the economy and shifts in the global market economic means that more and more businesses face fluctuations in supply and demand. Technology developments have made a lot of what we produce and how we do things obsolete, forcing closures of companies and putting a highly skilled labour force in the uncomfortable position of being no longer required. That these forced career changes are becoming more and more common is no surprise. You need to adapt to survive.

Longevity and the working life

But one of the greatest disrupters to upset the lifelong career plan is the longevity revolution. People are living – and working – longer. One in five people over 65 in New Zealand are currently working. By 2030 it is predicted that 30% of people aged 65 and over will still be in the workforce; some by choice, some out of necessity.

It’s not surprising people are working longer when you consider how our physical age has evolved. A hundred years ago life expectancy in New Zealand was around 58. Being 60 was considered old, and your life by then was in decline. By 2000 the average life expectancy was close to 80. In another 35 years, it will have climbed to over 85, with more people expected to reach 100 or more. People in their 60s and 70s are healthier and more capable than their parents’ or grandparents’ generation, and as such, are less inclined to want to give up working – at least not altogether. But they sure as heck don’t want to be stuck in the same type of job their entire working life.

Can you imagine doing the same thing at 70 that you started doing at 20?

What does Plan B look like today?

Plan B used to be seen as the contingency plan, when circumstances force a change of career or you voluntarily switch careers, reskilling to do something else. Taking a break for kids, travel or health reasons, the option to ‘go back’ to your original career at a later stage is not always possible – or desirable. Things change. You change.

Planning for multiple careers

Crafting a career plan today looks quite different from what it did even 30 years ago. Many people are already entering the workforce with an eye on what they want to do next when they fulfil their initial career goals.

It has become more common to have a second, or third, career during your working life.

Some will return to study, or be willing to ‘start over’ on the bottom rung of a new occupation. Others will transfer their skills and experience into doing something else that offers more flexibility or different challenges. For people in the 50 plus group it might be choosing an encore career or starting up a business and becoming a Senior Entrepreneur.

Plan B can kick in at any time, and you may not be ready for it. Is it time to be thinking seriously about what you want to do next? Or paradoxically are you able to find strategies to look at Plan A through different eyes? Whatever direction part two of your working life takes you now could be the ideal time to start building a bridge to get you there.

CareeerWise offers individual consults and group workshops for career planning and transitioning. Click here for more information and dates for upcoming career workshops