Why a career is no longer for life

As the retirement age advances, workers are more likely to switch profession

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The Independent Online

Happy new career! We are a nation of professional flip-floppers. No longer content to inch up ladders before stepping off onto reclining armchairs, today’s workers are more likely to jump between them, regenerating twice in their lives.

The news comes, naturally, from a survey. Only a third of people aged over 70 changed careers at some point, Scottish Widows reports. But two-thirds of those of us who are under 30 (I’m rounding down and including myself in this bracket) have either already made a switch or are planning to do so.

Our parents are at it, too; 83 per cent of over-50s who had switched did so when aged over 40. And, perhaps most tellingly of all, less than 30 per cent of all the people asked said that they were apprehensive about such upheaval.

However rigorous the research may or may not be, its conclusions make sense. On one level, it reflects the zero-hours instability shaking the modern workplace. Moreover, as the career ladder gets longer – 20-somethings (I have now conveniently left this bracket behind) will be expected to work until they are 70 – a job for life increasingly looks, well, boring. 

But if this also represents a growing spirit of re-invention, I encourage it. I met a policeman on New Year’s Eve who had been a sound recordist. Colleagues with different backgrounds are more worldly, less institutionalised, he said. What workplace wouldn’t benefit from more professional diversity.

I’m 31 and have had one proper job. So, what’s my next career? Ski instructor? Terrible tan lines. And I’m, sadly, too late to be a pro cyclist. Friends suggest I go for the Cookie Monster’s job, but he is reportedly some way from retirement.