Jiva Technology

How to choose a prosperous career

I am probably not the first person to note that during an election, politicians typically generate an awful lot more heat than light (or insight) and today’s US Presidential election seems little different. But elections are a time when some of the better commentators stop for a moment to reflect upon the deeper issues facing our societies. Clayton Christen’s piece in Saturday’s New York Times is ostensibly a reflection upon the changes needed to stimulate the US economy, but what caught my eye was his analysis of which sectors of the economy create jobs and which ones don’t.

If you have children at school or university, I’d recommend you read the article and think about it deeply, because his analysis correlates very closely with my own experience. To cut to the chase, Christensen (who by the way is a prominent business school professor and author) argues that there are three types of innovation that power the economy and hence create jobs: empowering innovations, sustaining innovations and efficiency innovations. Only innovations in the first category create new jobs and new industries. If a rising tide raises all boats, then starting your career in an industry recently created by a new and empowering innovation will give you much better prospects than starting in an industry that’s cutting costs through efficiency improvements in a vain attempt to stay ahead of the pack.

Given that it’s highly unlikely that an 18 yo school leaver or even a 21 yo graduate will have insight into what an ’empowering innovation’ looks like, it’s almost certain that they will base one of the single most important decisions they will ever make, their choice of career, on false information or chance. To make matters worse, those industries and occupations that are best known will be those that have been around longest and therefore are most likely to be in Christensen’s industries that are either maintaining or cutting jobs. Makes you think, doesn’t it?

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