When Jean-Philippe Michel, a career coach, works with secondary school students, he doesn’t use the word profession. Neither does he focus on helping his young clients figure out what they want to be when they grow up—at least not directly.
Rather than encouraging each person to choose a profession, say, architect or engineer, he works backwards from the skills that each student wants to acquire. He’ll aim to get students to talk about a goal.
Michel says deciding the skills you want to use leads to a career that’s more targeted—and thus more likely to bring you satisfaction.
“They need to shift from thinking about jobs and careers to think about challenges and problems,” Michel says.
The purpose, above all, is to prepare the next generation for a career in the future, which for many will be made up of numerous micro-jobs aimed at well-paid skilled workers, and not a single boss and company, he says.
Ultimately, developing precise goals helps teenagers plan for a ‘portfolio career’. This type of career is made up of somewhat disparate projects or roles and will be more prevalent in the next decade, says Michel.
“Instead of identifying your job role or description, you [will be] constantly adding skills based on what is going to make you more employable,” says Jeanne Meister, co-author of The Future Workplace Experience.
More traditional companies are catching on and offering freelance-like project opportunities to their own employees. Instead of continuing in one department under a single supervisor, workers are encouraged to choose their next projects based on their skills, or skills they want to develop, which can mean working in a different part of the company.
For companies, the payoff for experimenting with internal project-based opportunities means workers are less likely to jump from one company to the next. Micro-jobs can inspire a sense of entrepreneurial spirit and autonomy within a company, which in turn might keep us from job-hopping to the competition.
But when it comes to forging a long-term career, there are drawbacks to creating a portfolio of work, say experts.
If you constantly hop from one project to the next, the change can be jarring and leave you without a clear path to success. With fewer promotions and changes to job titles, it can be more difficult to feel like you’re succeeding even if you’re regularly completing projects, says career coach Michel.
And, of course, even though some companies are experimenting, steering past a traditional mentality on what constitutes professional growth can take years to change.
“The biggest barrier to adapting,” says Meister, “is mindset.”