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Emma Rosen has embarked on the ultimate portfolio career. Her goal is to have worked in 25 jobs before she reaches 25. “After university I joined the UK Civil Service’s fast track,” she explains. “But four weeks in, I realised it wasn’t what I wanted to do.”
She left and, having decided that she was interested in many different careers, opted to try them all. “In the past six months I’ve worked in 10 different jobs,” she says. These have ranged from property development to photography to farming.
Ms Rosen is doing mostly work experience with paid expenses. But her desire to sample a broad variety of occupational experiences is common among millennials and her experience is simply an extreme version of what many people want out of a career nowadays.
Much of this is the end point of changes that began in the 1980s with the flattening of corporate hierarchies and the disappearance of jobs for life. Where once staff looked for promotion and pay rises, now they look for experiences and personal development. While stability and pensions were previously desired, now “meaning” is at a premium. Workers with a portfolio career mindset expect to work for multiple employers. So how do organisations deal with their footloose younger staff?
“What companies need to do is convert the energy and passion that young people arrive with into long-term engagement,” says Payal Vasudeva, managing director for the UK and Ireland at Accenture Strategy. “What we see is that they feel underemployed and that their skills are often not being fully utilised.”
There are several ways to improve engagement, she believes. One is creating the feel of a small team or a small business — a recent Accenture survey found that only one in four graduates wanted to work for a large company.
A second is giving people a sense of ownership. Another way is providing a variety of experiences. Accenture, Ms Vasudeva says, has a system called “digital talent broking” that matches tasks that need doing with staff members. This can provide the “gig” type experience that many younger staff say they want.
Jane Barrett, a career coach and the co-author of Take Charge of Your Career, says that organisations should provide under 35s with the tools they need to control their careers. “I’ve worked with many millennials and businesses need to empower them. Show them how to master their careers.”
The problem, she adds, is that people tend to think that when they join a business they are on a track that provides them with all the direction they need. Then they discover that they are not.