The future of work is an exciting topic, though it certainly makes more than few of us anxious. It comes up frequently in conversation and is the subject of many influential books and movies. To understand why this is such a hot topic, we need to go straight to the heart of the concept: what work really means for people.
At a Global Shapers Hub workshop in Toronto, I joined 40 young people from various walks of life to discuss how we view the future of work. One of the questions that drove the discussion was:
“What are the fundamental aspects of a career, and how do you see this changing?”
For those with a traditional interpretation of the “career” concept, the results proved surprising. They had considered their career to be the time and energy spent working in an office.
Others did not define their career as just their job, but their entire life. They insisted that all life choices, including education, personal pursuits, and how they earn a living were all fundamental parts of their career. This type of thinking clearly conflicts with the traditional concept and is precisely why, for example, being a stay-at-home mother was not considered a career.
In the past, people often chose jobs without considering community, social impact, or even how they felt about the work. Jobs in investment or commercial banking, or merely positions in large corporations, were popular for a sense of security and social status. However, 100% of the Toronto group participants agreed that daily pursuits matter, and that work should have a positive impact, as well as an emotional benefit.
“Career” used to mean doing just one thing, working in the same industry or performing the same function for years upon years. This idea no longer resonates. People are changing jobs, even moving to unrelated fields and industries, going beyond so-called “transferable skills.” More and more people with no coding experience, for example, are going to “developer boot camps” to become software developers in only three months. Meanwhile, engineers are seeking more creative endeavors, utilizing soft skills to address and solve social problems.
What does this mean for Japan?
In Japanese society, we can see this change slowly but surely taking place. Young people are more mindful of living authentically and following their passion—their ikigai. That said, several critical success factors must take place to activate this process and motivate people to pursue their ikigai.
For one, the government should promote private sector partnerships to support this movement at a grass roots level. Luckily, this is already taking place, with Fukuoka City taking the lead. If other Japanese cities provide similar support, change will come in no time. This movement must be discussed, supported, and nurtured to overcome long-standing socio-economic barriers, stubborn traditional values, and an aging population.
Japan must consider how it will kickstart and circulate the conversation so that families and communities can support the next generation of leaders.
As the future of work is shaped around the evolving career concept, we not only need to be aware of these changes, but also promote a space for ourselves and others to accept new, wider definitions. In this fascinating time, only mutual support among individuals, communities, and governments can see us through to a smooth transformation.