Sue Shellenbarger's WSJournal column, Raising Kids Who Can Thrive Amid Chaos in Their Careers, drives home a great deal of realism about the 21st century job market: hot jobs for 2001 have already vanished. Although the recession of 2008-2009 was driven by the finance industry, in a real sense it is the supreme announcement that the industrial age is over.
The metaphor of the industrial age was the assembly line: tangible, concrete and stable. Employees were hired for a specific task or job: drop in that engine, screw in this widget and polish that door. Employees could count on salary, healthcare and pension. The primary executive position was manager which reinforced control and order. Permanence and stability were the primary characteristics of that world.
On Tuesday I was in Detroit and as I drove north through Hamtramck, where Polish immigrants once worked in the Chrysler plant, and Highland Park, where Henry Ford built his first assembly line, evidence for the implosion of that world is obvious. Once beautiful, busy manufacturing plants were closed, the windows knocked out, paint chipping, rust everywhere and workforce nowhere to be seen. The assembly line has imploded and we're looking for another metaphor to explain the 21st century. It's no longer possible to count on salary, healthcare or pension. The new economy is searching for people who know how to learn and leaders who can inspire.
In this new world, the ability to adapt to any situation and imagine new situations--the entrepreneurial task--will be rewarded. You will also need to be adventurous. Curiosity, the drive to know new things, and the fuel of science and innovation is an imperative.
To be adventurous assumes that you'll be exploring the options placed before you. Variety allows comparison and, therefore, discrimination: "This makes sense, it resonates, and that doesn't; I like X better than Y; even in the best of situations, I don't think Z will work." Being adventurous means taking action to see what happens, without trying to make a prediction or test a hunch. An adventurous experiment is a probing, playful activity in which you get a feel for things. Adventure succeeds when you're able to learn whether your ideas are supported or refuted by the evidence. Adventure leads to gains in knowledge and challenging experiences for learning.
Adventuresome people eschew security and safety and willingly engage in activities that many perceive as risky, dangerous or uncertain experiences. Businesspeople with the drive to know new things, who enjoy learning and change, will fare better in the new economy. There are still many who go into a career, expecting to remain in it for the rest of their lives, but people with that career theory are liable to find themselves in difficulty in the 21st century. In contrast, those who are adventurous will not only find, but also make possible the creation of new opportunities for themselves and others.