Career concept: age and flexibility

Talking about people and their working lives, we usually look at what type of job the person has, in what organisation they work, how the job is attained, and what the particular job rewards are. What we also look at is the movement of the individual within the organisation over the period of their working relationship.
In this regard we start to discuss people's careers and judge the success of individuals by their careers - more specifically, we judge people's success by their upward movement within the company they work for, and more importantly the speed of this movement.
What we should also take into consideration, though, is the set of work-related experiences the person acquires gradually over a longer period of time. This tends to be very important as the work environment changes and influences organisations.


Stanislava Luptáková

Talking about people and their working lives, we usually look at what type of job the person has, in what organisation they work, how the job is attained, and what the particular job rewards are. What we also look at is the movement of the individual within the organisation over the period of their working relationship.

In this regard we start to discuss people's careers and judge the success of individuals by their careers - more specifically, we judge people's success by their upward movement within the company they work for, and more importantly the speed of this movement.

What we should also take into consideration, though, is the set of work-related experiences the person acquires gradually over a longer period of time. This tends to be very important as the work environment changes and influences organisations.

In today's rapidly evolving work environment, where companies strive to gain flexibility either by decreasing employee layers or by shifting towards team work, the number of steps in corporate ladders decreases, leaving ambitious individuals with a smaller space to climb. Moreover, the pressures of the working environment cause organisations to re-define their concepts of life-time (long-term) employment, offering less job security, and consequently the tenure of the individual within organisations is shorter. Therefore, the concept of upward movement as a sign of a successful career is more difficult to achieve and becomes more old-fashioned.

There are few other issues, except for changes in a firm, that make us think about the meaning of a career than the demographic of the active work force in the labour market, the demographic distribution within companies.

With today's ageing workforce people look to start their second careers at the age their parents were looking at retirement. But with the entry of so many new companies into our labour market at the beginning of the 1990's, there were many new job opportunities created. As most of these companies recruited predominantly young people, relatively high managerial positions are taken by relatively young people who show little willingness to move anywhere but up.

Partly because of the changes in the environment, partly because of the changed demographics within companies, the generation gap is reflected in the career concept through the different expectations that younger people have when they enter the labour market - either compared to older ones who actively work today or to their expectations when they entered working life.

Today's young people expect to stay with their first employer from 3-5 years or until they gain enough experience to move further, whichever occurs first. The more relaxed and patient attitude of people just half a generation older is looked down on.

Because of all the reasons mentioned above, a career concept should be communicated by organisations to their employees as a set of experiences that a person gains over the period of their working life and success in a career should be re-defined from a focus on upward movement to one on variety of experience and the amount of learning one does throughout one's active work life.

Organisations should therefore redefine their career management systems, as the work environment in which they operate has changed and they still need to offer some perspective of a career to their employees.

Stanislava Luptáková is a lecturer at Comenius University's Faculty of Management. Send comments to Stanislava.Luptakova@fm.uniba.sk.

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