Decades ago, Peter Druck­er point­ed out the arrival of what he called “knowl­edge work­ers”, whom Druck­er sug­gest­ed might need to be thought of more as vol­un­teers than work­ers. Despite this ear­ly under­stand­ing — fore­sense — of where things were head­ed, many con­trol­ling cor­po­rate sys­tems have car­ried on sup­press­ing ini­tia­tive and snuff­ing out new ideas. At the same time, ambi­tious peo­ple are being dri­ven away, leav­ing behind an often bar­ren and declin­ing sta­tus quo in their wake.

Con­verse­ly, today´s young pro­fes­sion­als are exhibit­ing a host of nov­el inten­tions that have led some to char­ac­terise them as the “flux gen­er­a­tion”. It seems that this new gen­er­a­tion of pro­fes­sion­als has tak­en Drucker´s notion of knowl­edge work­er to a lev­el not even he could have imag­ined. Accord­ing to Robert Safi­an in Fast Com­pa­ny, “What defines Gen­Flux is a mind­set that embraces insta­bil­i­ty, that tol­er­ates — and even enjoys — recal­i­brat­ing careers, busi­ness mod­els, and assump­tions.”Young Professional

Are today’s organ­i­sa­tions able to cope with that kind of work­er? Not quite. Says Safi­an: “The vast bulk of our insti­tu­tions — edu­ca­tion­al, cor­po­rate, polit­i­cal — are not built for flux. Few tra­di­tion­al career tac­tics train us for an era where the most impor­tant skill is the abil­i­ty to acquire new skills.”

As I see it, the very essence of Gen­Flux is about nev­er los­ing one’s abil­i­ty to learn, and that con­tin­u­ous learn­ing is para­mount to find­ing your next. Mem­bers of this gen­er­a­tion some­how have under­stood — per­haps by neces­si­ty — that their pro­fes­sion­al real­i­ty will involve mul­ti­ple roles, many short in dura­tion and defined by the con­stant need to learn. This can be both fright­en­ing and invig­o­rat­ing and in many regards brings us back to our innate human capac­i­ties to adapt. As Niet­zsche said, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”

For a clos­er look at this emerg­ing career path, we can also turn to a com­pan­ion Fast Com­pa­ny arti­cle by Anya Kamenetz. She cites some sig­nif­i­cant sta­tis­tics:

Accord­ing to recent sta­tis­tics, the medi­an num­ber of years a US work­er has been in his or her cur­rent job is just 4.4, down sharply since the 1970s. This decline in aver­age job tenure is big­ger than any eco­nom­ic cycle, big­ger than any par­tic­u­lar indus­try, big­ger than dif­fer­ences in edu­ca­tion lev­els, and big­ger than dif­fer­ences in gen­der. (Since women are more like­ly to inter­rupt their careers for child rear­ing and care­giv­ing, their aver­age time in a job is even short­er than a man’s.) Sta­tis­ti­cal­ly, the short­en­ing of the job cycle has been dri­ven by two fac­tors. The first is a marked decline in the “long job” — that is, the tra­di­tion­al 20-year cap­stone to a career. Simul­ta­ne­ous­ly, there’s been an increase in “churn­ing” — work­ers well into their thir­ties who have been at their cur­rent job for less than a year.

As the world around us is mov­ing faster than ever and in new direc­tions, the youngest and bright­est pro­fes­sion­als are well on their way to embrac­ing a new career mind­set and forg­ing their own paths for­ward. In many cas­es, this is being done with­out per­mis­sion from the estab­lish­ment and (even worse) with­out the par­tic­i­pa­tion of many organ­i­sa­tions, even though they are in des­per­ate need of renew­al. It should be a clear sig­nal to tal­ent man­agers of estab­lished com­pa­nies that many GenFluxer´s are pack­ing up, mov­ing on and tak­ing their aspi­ra­tions with them.

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