I am old enough to remember a world without cell phones.
I remember a time when if you needed information you went to a dictionary, an encyclopedia or a library.
The last twenty years have been a whirlwind of change. But beyond being amazed and awed by the new ease with which we can access and transfer information, I think the real transformation heralded by the internet revolution is professional.
It’s official: as of now, anyone can be anything — almost.
Many of us are now journalists, writing blogs that have impact and get attention even if we never received a degree in journalism and have never been hired by a print paper.
Almost all of us have become photographers and videographers, both of personal and of political or international events; in fact, these days a photo taken by an “amateur” could make its way to a front page ahead of the professional photographer’s shot, if it captures the moment better. And if you consider yourself an expert on any topic under the sun, you have a fair chance of establishing such a reputation: the only judge will be your online popularity.
This leveled playing field has also spread beyond the virtual world. These days, having experience and skills is far more meaningful in the job market than education and training — simply because information, education and training have become so very accessible.
Of course there are still professions where it is inappropriate — and illegal — to practice without training and certification from a recognized authority; medicine and law come to mind. There are also more traditional fields where extensive relevant training is paramount, such as scientific research and academia.
Many other professions still require a certain degree of professional training; however, that training can now be acquired in less traditional ways, such as courses and internship programs offered by professionals in the field as opposed to officially recognized government or academic institutions. Many fields have opened up to people with professional training in other areas, and the roads connecting fields and professions are becoming more and more densely populated highways.
The good news is that if you want to change fields, it does not necessarily have to mean going back to school and spending years working your way up the traditional professional ladder. Sometimes all it means is research, practice, creativity, and someone to give you a chance to show what you can do. The bad news is that now more than ever, the onus lies on the consumer to check up and make sure the person or company s/he is hiring knows what they are doing.
If once upon a time — not so very long ago — a career decision made before or just after college would likely continue to direct your career for the foreseeable future, now radical career change is possible and even probable at some point. As an HR consultant and a career coach, I see more and more diverse employment histories, and this is no longer necessarily considered a warning sign for potential employers.
Yes, it can be frightening; and yes, it is exciting. For most of us, it’s probably a bit of both. But just as we had no real choice about adjusting to the new virtual realities that have taken our world by storm, we really don’t have a choice here. So we might as keep an open mind and heart to discover our next great professional move.