Why Multiple Careers are Becoming More Common

It has become increasingly common for people to have multiple careers throughout their lives. This means that they either have more than one career at the same time, also called multiple concurrent careers, or that they pursued several careers during different stages in their lives, also known as multiple sequential careers. In the latter case, they would have changed careers at least once in their life.

Astrid Hall in the Independent.co.uk reports about a study done in the UK, commissioned by First Direct Bank, which shows that more than half of working British are not sure if they’re in the right career. Researchers polled 2,000 people across the country and found that four out of ten planned to change careers within the next two years. I was quite surprised to read that this does not only apply to Millennials or Gen Z, but also to people in their mid-40s.

The Head of First Direct says that “It’s easy to associate career switching with the early years of your working life, but our research found the desire to do something completely different spans every age and generation. “Even 42 percent of the over-45s plan to change careers in the next two years.

Another study done by workopolis in which 4,000 Canadians were surveyed in September and October 2014 reveals that more and more of us are also switching career paths completely at least two or three times. When asked the question ‘How many different career paths have you followed, a whopping 76% of the respondents had switched career paths at least 2 times in their lives. 24% of the people surveyed had even switched careers 3 times.

Looking at these numbers I asked myself why it has become so normal for people to change careers. As someone who changed careers once so far, I understand the multitude of reasons that people have for either changing careers or adding a second one. But I sense that apart from these personal reasons there are also more macro developments driving this trend, which are as follows:

1. Longer life expectations

People now are living much longer than they used to. In the 20’s the average life expectancy worldwide was below 40 years old. When a person only had around 20 years to work, it makes sense to focus on one thing and make the best out of it. In many cases, career change is associated with a temporary setback in income, and it also takes time to prepare and adjust to the new career. But in 2015, people could on average expect to live to over 70 years old, and the number is on the rise. In the UK, South Korea, and in most of the industrialized world life expectancy even exceeds 80 years. This has dramatically increased the time during which people can have an active and productive working life.

People now have the option to work from their 20s into their 60s, and even 70s and beyond. In a longer life, there are simply more possibilities. Especially people with many interests and the wish to develop different skill sets on a professional level now increasingly see the possibility of starting a second career later on in life. Unless you have one single goal that must be achieved by pursuing one career, e.g. you want to solve the questions of ‘are we alone in the universe’ and the kind, then you have the option of pursuing a range of things on a professional level throughout your life.

2. Increase in living standards in most parts of the world

People of my grandparent’s generation would always tell stories about how tough life in the 20s and 30s were. It is safe to say that in the industrialized world at least, the majority of people enjoy an overall higher living standard than their grandparents. At a time when people were still struggling to meet their basic needs, people were grateful to have a job at all. Only lately has the term career has been increasingly used. As our needs for food, shelter, clothing are met, we now have the possibility to think about our higher needs, to seek self-actualization, self-expression, pursue a variety of interests, or even trying to seek work-life balance as far as that exists.

In developed countries, there has also been a lot of wealth transferred through inheritances from the older to the younger generation. This generation now increasingly has the possibility to pursue more lofty and varied career goals. When in the earlier part of the century career change might still have been frowned upon and multiple careers would have been seen as a luxury, nowadays people in general open to the idea of and even admiring people who successfully pursue multiple careers.

3. Fast-changing world with a lot of disruptions

We no longer live in a world where lifelong employment is guaranteed. Not even in Japan. Developments in automation and AI, as well as impacts of globalization, has and will continue to cause changes in the world of work. We hear about companies merging and re-structuring all the time. Mostly jobs that require manual labor are being off-shored, but even white-collar jobs are at threat.

As a result of increased automation and developments in artificial intelligence, many careers are already on the decline. These include typist or door-to-door salesmen careers. You can argue whether or not these are jobs or careers. But there certainly was a time where people would regard being a professional typist as a career that they would pursue seriously and take pride in. Nowadays voice recognition technology is becoming so advanced that typist jobs may soon become obsolete.

The first two developments, people living longer and increased living standards were what gave people the option to pursue more varied careers in the form of multiple careers. It gave them the pre-condition or a baseline from which they could feel freer to explore different careers. I think that this is what subconsciously drives people into the world of multiple careers. The third development, however, makes it necessary for many people to think out of the box when it comes to their careers. Will their career be among the ones that becomes threatened by disruption?

In a study done by Adobe on the future of work, one of the key findings was that 56% of the respondents predict that most people will hold multiple jobs in the future because of the impact that the working environment will have. This may say a lot not only about their expectations about their future but also to some extent how they themselves envision their working lives.

However far-reaching you believe the impact of AI and automation will be on our lives, every single career will be impacted in the future. On one hand some people want to intentionally have multiple careers because they feel a push to explore and apply other skillsets, or pursue their interest and passions. But for many other people, exploring and having multiple careers is necessary as a reaction toward these more macro developments in the world. Perhaps there is subconscious need to diversify.

It might indeed be a good idea for people to prepare for possible disruptions by preparing a second career with a better outlook such as careers in solar energy, healthcare, and many others, or work on a second career on the side. This way there will be less of a shock in case it comes to bigger disruptions in specific industries or professions.

It has become increasingly common for people to have multiple careers throughout their lives. This means that they either have more than one career at the same time, also called multiple concurrent careers, or that they pursued several careers during different stages in their lives, also known as multiple sequential careers. In the latter case, they would have changed careers at least once in their life.

Astrid Hall in the Independent.co.uk reports about a study done in the UK, commissioned by First Direct Bank, which shows that more than half of working British are not sure if they’re in the right career. Researchers polled 2,000 people across the country and found that four out of ten planned to change careers within the next two years. I was quite surprised to read that this does not only apply to Millennials or Gen Z, but also to people in their mid-40s.

The Head of First Direct says that “It’s easy to associate career switching with the early years of your working life, but our research found the desire to do something completely different spans every age and generation. “Even 42 percent of the over-45s plan to change careers in the next two years.

Another study done by workopolis in which 4,000 Canadians were surveyed in September and October 2014 reveals that more and more of us are also switching career paths completely at least two or three times. When asked the question ‘How many different career paths have you followed, a whopping 76% of the respondents had switched career paths at least 2 times in their lives. 24% of the people surveyed had even switched careers 3 times.

Looking at these numbers I asked myself why it has become so normal for people to change careers. As someone who changed careers once so far, I understand the multitude of reasons that people have for either changing careers or adding a second one. But I sense that apart from these personal reasons there are also more macro developments driving this trend, which are as follows:

1. Longer life expectations

People now are living much longer than they used to. In the 20’s the average life expectancy worldwide was below 40 years old. When a person only had around 20 years to work, it makes sense to focus on one thing and make the best out of it. In many cases, career change is associated with a temporary setback in income, and it also takes time to prepare and adjust to the new career. But in 2015, people could on average expect to live to over 70 years old, and the number is on the rise. In the UK, South Korea, and in most of the industrialized world life expectancy even exceeds 80 years. This has dramatically increased the time during which people can have an active and productive working life.

People now have the option to work from their 20s into their 60s, and even 70s and beyond. In an increasingly longer life, there are simply more possibilities. Especially people with many interests and the wish to develop different skill sets on a professional level now increasingly see the possibility of starting a second career later on in life. Unless you have one single goal that must be achieved by pursuing one career, e.g. you want to solve the questions of ‘are we alone in the universe’ and the kind, then you have the option of pursuing a range of things on a professional level throughout your life.

2. Increase in living standards in most parts of the world

People of my grandparent’s generation would always tell stories about how tough life in the 20s and 30s were. It is safe to say that in the industrialized world at least, the majority of people enjoy an overall higher living standard than their grandparents. At a time when people were still struggling to meet their basic needs, people were grateful to have a job at all. Only lately has the term career has been increasingly used. As our needs for food, shelter, clothing are met, we now have the luxury to think about our higher needs, to seek self-actualization, self-expression, pursue a variety of interests, or even trying to seek work-life balance as far as that exists.

In developed countries, there has also been a lot of wealth transferred through inheritances from the older to the younger generation. This generation now can increasingly pursue more lofty and varied career goals. When in the earlier part of the century career change might still have been frowned upon and multiple careers would have been seen as a luxury, nowadays people in general open to the idea of and even admiring people who successfully pursue multiple careers.

3. Fast-changing world with a lot of disruptions 

We no longer live in a world where lifelong employment is guaranteed. Not even in Japan. Developments in automation and AI, as well as impacts of globalization, has and will continue to cause changes in the world of work. We hear about companies merging and re-structuring all the time. Mostly jobs that require manual labor are being off-shored, but even white-collar jobs are at threat.

As a result of increased automation and developments in artificial intelligence, many careers are already on the decline. These include typist or door-to-door salesmen careers. You can argue whether or not these are jobs or careers. But there certainly was a time where people would regard being a professional typist as a career that they would pursue seriously and take pride in. Nowadays voice recognition technology is becoming so advanced that typist jobs may soon become obsolete.

The first two developments, people living longer and increased living standards were what gave people the option to pursue more varied careers in the form of multiple careers. It gave them the pre-condition or a baseline from which they could feel freer to explore different careers. I think that this is what subconsciously drives people into the world of multiple careers. The third development, however, makes it necessary for many people to think out of the box when it comes to their careers. Will their career be among the ones that become threatened by disruption?

In a study done by Adobe on the future of work, one of the key findings was that 56% of the respondents predict that most people will hold multiple jobs in the future because of the impact that the working environment will have. This may say a lot not only about their expectations about their future but also to some extent how they envision their working lives.

However far-reaching you believe the impact of AI and automation will be on our lives, every single career will be impacted in the future. On one hand, some people want to intentionally have multiple careers because they feel a push to explore and apply other skillsets or pursue their interests and passions. But for many other people, exploring and having multiple careers is necessary as a reaction toward these more macro developments in the world. Perhaps there is a subconscious need to diversify.

It might indeed be a good idea for people to prepare for possible disruptions by preparing a second career with a better outlook such as careers in solar energy, healthcare, and many others, or work on a second career on the side. This way there will be less of a shock in case it comes to bigger disruptions in specific industries or professions.

It might indeed be a good idea for people to prepare for possible disruptions by preparing a second career with a better outlook such as careers in solar energy, healthcare, and many others, or work on a second career on the side. This way there will be less of a shock in case it comes to bigger disruptions in specific industries or professions.