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No jobs for life

Posted 09/08/2011 by KatieJ

Almost half of UK scientists and pharmacists expect to change careers within the next five years, according to the latest survey by workforce solution firm Kelly Services. ‘We are seeing a surprisingly large number of people who are actively considering the critical issue of whether they should change their careers and make a fresh start, ‘says Dominic Graham, head of professional and technical services at Kelley Services.

Also somewhat surprisingly in today’s uncertain economic environment and its impact on job prospects, according to the Kelly Global Workforce Index, the main cause for this shift from a career-for-life is changing personal interests, cited by 23% of those surveyed. Less unexpectedly, other reasons include the need for a higher income (22%) and the need for an improved work-life balance (23%). ‘For an earlier generation, a change of career would have been something of a crisis,’ says Graham, ‘however, today, it is seen as a reflection of shifts in demand for different skills and occupation, as well as changing personal interests on the part of employees.’

Almost two thirds of those interviewed said they aspire to an executive position, although 27% said they did not. Among the main reasons for avoiding executive positions, expressed by 38% of responding scientists, was a concern about pressure and stress, as well as the perception that such positions have a poor impact on work-life balance (36%). On the other hand, lack of ambition and inadequate skills were cited by 11% and 4%, respectively, of respondents.

While the majority says that experience is the most important element in a person’s career, cited by 77% of scientists interviewed, only 18% said it was formal education. But 91% of the scientists said that it is either ‘extremely important’ or ‘important’ that qualifications and skills are upgraded in order to progress their careers.

Although a comment that may seem at odds with the current economic reality, Graham believes that individual employees are taking greater control of their careers and are moving in and out of the workforce for both professional and lifestyle reasons. ‘Employers and employees will both need to adapt to this new workplace reality, where the smooth career pathway will be the exception rather than the rule’, he says.

As if most scientists did not already know it, whether in industry or academia, the main message of this survey is that career stability may be history – the career-for-life is vanishing, or indeed has already disappeared.

Neil Eisberg - Editor

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