People today will live longer than the any other generation in history. Laura Carstensen of the Stanford Institute on Longevity states, “For the first time in human history, we’ve got more time. So we could make young adulthood longer. We could enter the workforce more gradually and exit more gradually. We could reach the peak of our careers in our 60’s and 70’s instead of our 40’s and 50’s.”
At Strategic Career Decisions we’ve recently completed a research project with one of the world’s leading management consultancy where we conducted in-depth interviews with 75 people in different European countries, all different levels in the firm, many who are Millennials. All of them are high-performing, all have stellar academic credentials, all are driven, intellectually curious and competitive. But many of them weren’t happy. They work long hours, but that wasn’t the problem. Part of the problem was that they did not see working the way they currently work as compatible with doing what they wanted to do outside of work – sport, fitness, cultural pursuits, starting a family, being involved as a parent. They love their job but many said that it just won’t work. The job demands too much time, energy and commitment.
When they start with the firm the messages they receive are – move up the ladder fast, make it to Partner faster. They are committed to their career, sometimes to the detriment of their social and family life. One of the women I interviewed said that she loves her work, loves the organisation but will only be here for 5 more years because she wants to start a family. For her, work – the work she does now- and family life, are not compatible. I fear that even the most progressive employers lose some truly talented, committed and motivated people because they perpetuate a culture of constantly moving up. But if we’re going to be living longer, working more years, why not treat our careers as a marathon rather than sprint? Enjoying the view, including solid career progression, outside work interests, family life, along the way. Surely this has to be something that firms could promote, especially professional services firms, and would help people to achieve a better work-life balance along the way?
Which brings me back to the WH Davies poem in one of our first posts: “What is this life, if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare..”