Roots in the future

Image from Wikipedia.

I’m fundamentally a cautious man. I read reviews before buying; I don’t mind letting the crazy drivers speed ahead of me, so I’m a good distance away when they inevitably crash or get pulled over.

I can deal with moved cheese — indeed, my cheese has been moved a great deal this year, and we’re only in May — but I’d prefer to have it in the same spot if possible (and, for that matter, I’d like to know the variety).

But some of the old cautious ways are fading away. My father worked for the same company for 27 years — and probably would have stayed longer if they hadn’t offered him a package ahead of some inevitable downsizing. I’m now between jobs, as the euphemism goes, after being with the same employer for 16 years. That kind of longevity (or stasis, however you want to look at it) is foolish in today’s world.

At a meeting at a career transition firm, I was told that millennials stay in a job for three years before moving on. (Apparently this statistic came from the Wall Street Journal, and has been questioned by Ben Casselman at FiveThirtyEight, but Gallup offers backup and it jibes with something one of my former colleagues mentioned. She’s been asked by her friends why she’s stayed at her company for so long. She’s been there eight years.)

True or half-true, it makes me wonder about how American society is adjusting:

  • Despite Obamacare, our healthcare plans primarily come through our employers. Will this become a selling point — and, perhaps, force firms with crummy plans to step up their coverage – or will it eventually lead to a nationalized system like every other Western country? I see a lot of talk about “wellness,” but is that enough?
  • How do banks feel about this? Is it an opportunity to show faith in people, despite their possibly uncertain job status — after all, as long as you pay your bills, should a bank even care where the money comes from? — or will credit tighten? I spent the ‘90s as a free-lancer, and though had little trouble getting car loans, I didn’t even try to buy a house until I had a full-time position. (Again, I prize stability; I’m sure a lot of people would just as soon rent, and in expensive cities, maybe they don’t have a choice.)
  • If you’re regularly switching jobs, are you also switching neighborhoods? Cities? How will this affect community? (Here’s an article that says millennials are buying into the house/suburb thing. So much for those expensive downtown loft apartments.)

I think it’s the last one I’m really curious about. Jobs mean security; security often means a willingness to establish roots. Community has become as much a tribal and online conceit as one that requires knowing your physical neighbors. What will future generations value more? Or is it all part of the stew?

I’m sure forecasters and futurists have been looking into these topics for some time. If you’ve got interesting links or observations, send them along.


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