BY ELIZABETH BASTIAN
My dad recently e-mailed me a link to an article featured in the February 2012 issue of Fast Company, accompanied by a request to peruse the work in full. “Now I know you dislike when I send you things to read (which is not true, sometimes I just don’t have time to read them), but please read this one. It’s relevant.” Upon finding myself having to wait for a substantial amount of time for a delivery while running errands during my internship this past week, I pulled up the link on my phone and began to scan the article.
Entitled “This is Generation Flux: Meet the Pioneers of the New (and Chaotic) Frontier of Business,” the rather lengthy (albeit well-written) work was an interesting read from the beginning to end. Introducing several professionals whose current careers and arrivals into the field were unconventional to say the least, author Robert Safian used these individuals to showcase the enormous changes that have happened within the job market in the past two decades.
One such featured innovator was DJ Patil, an expert in chaos theory and other such advanced mathematical disciplines. In high school, he was kicked out of math classes for being too disruptive, and only obtained his diploma by convincing an administrator to change his failing grade in chemistry. How is this possible? Patil excelled by holding job positions and conducting research that did not exist thirty years ago. At various points in time, he was chief scientist at LinkedIn, researched and taught about predicting weather patterns at the University of Maryland, worked with eBay on web security and payment fraud, and was a fellow at the US Defense Department. He didn’t plan out his entire life based on an education path or a set career; he recognized the unpredictability and chaotic-ness of life, and embraced it.
Like Patil, all the other members of “generation flux” have jumped around from job to job, adjusting their lifestyles and enhancing their resumes as they go. They demonstrate and illustrate Safian’s pressing thesis of the article. The era of the life-long job position is gone, perhaps forever. In order to succeed in the new, fluctuating, topsy-turvy world of business, one must be prepared to be completely unprepared. One must move beyond the known and the logical into the innovative and the imagined. Just as Facebook is constantly being updated and reinvented, so white-collar wannabes must constantly be on their toes, remaining flexible about their aspirations.
So what does this mean for us, the college students who are throwing themselves into school solely for the promise of a career that will follow? Is the world truly transitioning from Generation X into Generation Flux?
While I do think that a lot of what is said in this article should be taken with a rather large grain of salt, ultimately it does have a few good points. Nowadays, you truly cannot obtain a college degree and expect a singular job choice to be waiting for you after graduation. My father has always told me that some of the jobs I will have do not even exist right now, and he is right. My dad received an MBA in English, and he is now an independent corporate consultant who develops training programs for professional workspaces.