Why non-linear is the only career path forward

The new and true reality of the millennial generation

Imagine, you’re 22-years-old.

You’re native to the world of constant information, social media, fake news and employment instability. You’re staring down 1,000 job opportunities in a sea of what feels like none at all. The famed linear career ladders of your parents and grandparents just don’t appeal. But they still want you to find one.

You have an average student loan debt of $25,000.

Getting a "foot in the door" will likely require you to work for free, like more than 300,000 unpaid Canadian interns.

You’re living with your parents, just like 40 per cent of adults between 20-29, compared to just 27 per cent 30 years ago.

The eye-rolling response of the world?

"You’re part of the most entitled generation in history."

There’s a certain comfort in labelling generations

It helps mark eras. It creates camaraderie. It also helps distinguish ourselves from our parents and our children.

Millennials will cultivate their careers in a world that is more culturally, politically and economically complex and unstable than at any other time in decades.

No ambitious, university-educated person wants to live with mom and dad at 27-years-old. No one. Not 30 years ago. Not now. These aren’t choices.

Unprecedented student debt. Working for free. Living at home. An unstable economy and the certainty of job churn. This is the millennial reality.

The generation is also, officially, the most anxious, stressed and depression-addled generation...ever.

Unheard-of uncertainty

It’s well known that for the first time in modern history, we have three generations sharing the workplace – the boomers, Generation X, and the millennial boomer offspring. For these millennials, competition for jobs is fierce, while expectations for employment security, benefits, retirement and pension plans have been dramatically lowered – almost to the point of being accepted as the status quo.

And though all of us are feeling a bit out of sorts these days, it’s the millennials that will be tasked with finding a way out of the economic, environmental, political and overall global mess we’ve found ourselves in. It’s the millennials that will be paying for our healthcare, stewarding our environment, and supporting our quality of life as we age.

But only if they are working and fulfilled.

That’s why it’s so urgent to help this generation get their careers back on track.

Preparing for non-linear careers

The fact is career paths just aren’t the same anymore. Having a multi-pronged approach to career building is an absolute necessity today: where you build the resiliency to switch careers when you’re forced to, and the confidence to switch when you want to.

It’s time to leverage job churn instead of being victimized by it.

This new reality doesn’t just affect low-skilled or precarious workers. It applies just as equally to specialist career paths such as doctors, lawyers, and accountants – artificial intelligence is already capable of automating medical image analysis, basic legal research, and financial reporting.

The millennial generation needs to adopt a new set of professional habits to succeed in today’s working world.

  • Curating values-based mentorships to help navigate career transitions;

  • Practicing lifelong learning to learn and adapt quickly;

  • Developing transferable skills, not just specialized knowledge; and

  • Discovering passions that take you beyond just one job or one perspective.

If we reach more students, we can change more lives. That means funding modern career development programs, and a willingness to embrace technology solutions to make it all happen.

It’s true that the only constant these days is change.

And it’s time we turn this new reality into a strategic advantage.


Matthew Thomas is the Co-Founder and CEO of Paddle, a purpose-based career navigation platform. His research on non-linear careers was published by Harvard Business Review and Oxford University Press, and influenced White House staffing during President Obama’s second term. Matthew previously worked across the public, private and non-profit sectors with McKinsey & Co., Department of Finance Canada, Morgan Stanley, and The Intersector Project.

Paddle is designed with the knowledge that millennials aren’t going to lock into a job or even an industry for a generation. Instead, they need the chance to shape and mould their purpose, to learn from different sectors and to take that knowledge and apply it in new and innovative ways. Flexible. Risky. Non-linear.

The experts at Paddle know that "non-linear career" isn’t just a buzzword, in fact, they believe it’s the order of the day in the new economy. As millennials take over the reigns of the modern world, Paddle is their practical partner to ensure they are confident and prepared – just like the generations that came before them.

Sponsored content allows us to partner with key businesses and organizations that offer valuable products or services to our readers.

Other articles you may be interested in