Over the last couple of decades corporations have spent a great deal of effort in "reducing cost", "improving productivity" and generally competing in an ever more competitive world. Just one of the changes that has resulted from this effort has been the creation of ever more "flat" organizations, with less "middle management". This means that for most people in the workforce today there are less management positions to "shoot for" than there were 20 or 30 years ago, and yet still many people aspire to become managers. There have been a number of different trends that have also happened during this time:
The "cost reductions" meant that people who had thought they were "employees for life" lost their jobs, from even the most prestigious of companies.
Wages have risen, so the cost of labour is the largest cost for most companies.
There has been an increased interest in the concept of independent contracting for many reasons.
So … should a career be a defined path consisting of ever increasing managerial responsibility (and presumably more remuneration) … or should a career be the way that you want to spend your working hours?
I would contend that most people would be far happier if their working hours were being spent focused on the type of work that they can excel at, rather than being responsible for other people, budgets and the associated headaches.
I would also contend that if a person spent a career honing skills in specific roles and perhaps changing roles several times, then they would be a very valuable resource. In addition, they would be a very satisfied person.
None of this limits a person from taking management roles should that fit the “career” but the idea that management is a natural progression and that everybody should strive for that goal is outdated.
The 21st Century should see the rise of the worker who is technically excellent at their chosen profession, their job security will be their personal capability and their ability in the workplace … not their position on the rung of a corporate ladder. These workers will have better balanced lives than “us boomers”, will have a better perspective on what is really important and they will enjoy the rewards appropriately.
Pre-cursors to these type of workers can be seen today in the independent contractor world where skilled IT contractors can earn more money than the CEO of this staffing company and yet have only technical responsibility on a project … not all bad!