I attended TEDx Tel Aviv yesterday. Rather than reviewing or saying how awesome it was, I'm just going to use the vast and bubbling inspiration and allow my thoughts to take off in various directions for the next few posts.
Not only did I hear astounding lectures, I met astounding people doing astounding things. The audience selection was indeed impressive. And I got to thinking about career expectations.
Career expectations have undergone a revolution in the last generation. You've heard people say that it used to be that people worked in one place for their lives, yadda yadda yadda. I'm not going to talk about that because I'm not old enough to have the right to do so.
I'm old enough to talk about what my generation grew up expecting in a job. (I'm middle-aged, if you must know.) In essence, there were two main streams of thought. One stream of thought, but not the predominant one, was "I'm going to get really rich." If you went to law or biz school, that might have been predominant, but certainly, in most places, that wasn't the main drive and expectation of my generation. The majority stream of thought was "I'll get a decent job and have a decent career in something I'm good at and that I enjoy."
Truly, if you have a job that you enjoy and you make a good living, you are indeed among the fortunate of the earth.
And yet, unlike in the past, people move from job to job every couple of years. And unlike in the past, many people I know, at one point or another, have started their own business. It might just be freelancing for a couple of years while the kids are growing up, and it might be doing a full-blow startup, but it seems like a growing number of people are doing their own thing in one way or another.
At TED, you start to hear something else. You start to hear it at the most base level from people like Martin Rapaport who simply could no longer bear to be part of the human rights abuses that were part of the diamond industry. It runs the gamut through to people like Paul Holman, who is looking for the coolest solutions to mundane problems, like killing mosquitoes with lasers (and, btw, in fact, bugs are much, much cooler than lasers, but you do need to look very closely to notice).
What you hear is that our generation and the younger generation are increasingly not satisfied with a good, well-paying job that they love. Increasingly, people are saying, it's not enough to do good business. We want to do good while doing good business, or at least, do no harm. We don't want a good job, we want an inspiring job. Yes, we may work at good jobs for some or even most of our life. But that's not the goal. The goal is to have an inspiring job, a job that helps other people, a job that improves our world.
If you don't get this, what we have is a completely revolutionary way of looking at a career path. I grew up knowing you should work at what you are good at and enjoy. Work is a means to an end, the end being having money to live your life and do other stuff. Work is not an end. Yes, you would hear that you should do what you love, for sure. But there was never any question about the fundamental function of work. The fundamental function of work, in the generation I grew up in, was to make money to do things that weren't work, like raise a family and be entertained, and even to give to charity.
The basic functionality of work is changing. From being a means to allow us to live, work for an increasing number of people is equivalent to contribution. They don't want to work so they can make money so they can contribute to a cause. They want to be a cause. The cause could be using lasers to eliminate malaria, and it could make a lot of money as well as save a lot of lives. In fact, it should.
In a world where we are saying that you get paid for your value, no conflict exists between doing good business and simply doing good. If your value to the society is great, you should be compensated. The way the world is today is that contribution is poorly rewarded, from teachers to peace activists. Those are not well-paid positions, and yet their contribution is enormous.
The new way of thinking is saying, all this needs to be turned on its head. Society should pay for worth beyond just monetary worth. Society should and will pay more for clothes manufactured in a humane way and for foods grown naturally. As individuals, we will work at what we believe in, and we will be compensated.
Certainly, for many people, it will be beyond their reach to have a job that is more than a means for money-making. And certainly, there will always be causes that are not-for profit, and there will be philanthropy and volunteerism.
Yet, the time is here when people are aligning with their core values, not just their core talents. People are asking not only what they enjoy and do well, but what their inner calling is, adn where their skills can make the most impact towards a better world for all.
It is astounding to live in this time. Simply astounding.