12 Trends That Will Shape Our Careers in 2023
From the Rise of the Culture Beacon to the End of the Goldilocks Economy
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It’s hard to remember a more profound “vibe shift” than the one that kicked off 2022. If 2021 was characterized by manic excitement, 2022 has been defined by collapse and uncertainty.
Over the past year, we learned just how many of our collective and individual choices were simply a product of low interest rates and wishful thinking. Much like September 11th, 2001, closed out the 90s, 2022 feels like the end of an era and the beginning of something new.
Predicting the future is never easy. But that doesn’t mean it’s not fun to speculate. I feel lucky to have pulled together 12 brilliant folks to reflect on the emerging trends from this past year and how they might shape our careers in 2023.
1. The Snap Back to Reality
The last few years were fun, weren’t they? Every asset went up and to the right, startups were raising millions of dollars on nothing but hopes and dreams, marketing budgets were blank checks, and it seemed like the party would never end.
Then the party ended. And the hangover is going to be rough.
I’m no doom-and-gloomer, quite the opposite, actually. I’m very optimistic about our future. But I suspect a lot of people, especially young people, developed unrealistic expectations about making money, building companies, and the nature of work.
Trading is hard. Turning a profit is hard. Entrepreneurship is hard. Making money is hard. And for a few years, we forgot all that.
But, now the party’s over. It’s time to snap back to the reality of what it really takes to accomplish ambitious things.
2. The Rise of the Culture Beacon
There’s at least one in every company– a “Culture Carrier” who embodies the organization’s values and keeps a pulse on team morale. Historically, this role has not been formally-appointed or recognized, but as hybrid work takes hold, this position is becoming more critical than ever.
When our offices served as a center of gravity, information flowed through osmosis–with employees trading ideas by swiveling their desk chairs. But, without the certainty of in-person conversation, companies are increasingly relying on culture carriers to monitor and maintain the mood and the health of the organization.
In this new paradigm of work, the Culture Carrier will be more in-demand than ever. Instead of shouldering the burden of “carrying the culture,” these key members will become elevated into Culture Beacons and be rewarded and recognized as such.
3. Building Identity Beyond Company
We're entering the worst job market for tech since the early 2000s. Even high performers are reckoning with the notion that their stable tech jobs may not be so stable after all.
In the wake of this upheaval, I suspect more people will look to expand their professional identities beyond the reputations of their employers. Instead of defining themselves as ex-Meta or ex-Amazon, employees will start asking themselves questions like:
What's my zone of genius? What's at the intersection of my skills, what the market needs, and what I love doing?
What's my long-term goal? What's a specific goal that I want to accomplish that ties back to my zone of genius?
What's my plan to get there? Do I really want to climb the corporate ladder, or should I choose an alternative path?
This type of introspection will ultimately lead people toward more durable careers that align with who they want to become.
4. Coaching Becomes Critical
“We have gone through a decade of under-training an entire decade of engineers, PMs, senior execs & CEOs in Silicon Valley. As a result, many companies don't have the ability to execute in an environment where interest rates aren’t zero.”
– Chamath Palihapitiya (on the All-in Podcast)
Over the past year, many leaders have found that their jobs have gotten harder. Executives are being forced to make and communicate tough strategic decisions. Managers must accomplish more with less and help their teams navigate change. Individual contributors are being stretched to take on new responsibilities with fewer resources. To navigate these challenging circumstances, more people will start to embrace professional coaching as a critical resource for performance.
The best coaches for this occasion are those who have lived through similar circumstances and know how to help leaders elevate their capacity to perform and reduce the interference that holds them back.
In the coming year, leaders at all levels will come to recognize coaching as the secret weapon for their success.
5. Will Gen Z De-prioritize Tech?
When I graduated college in 2010, the financial crisis loomed large in my mind. Despite working in wealth management, I personally didn’t invest more than 10% of my earnings into the stock market for the first seven years after I graduated. The compounding effect of that decision will have an enormous effect on my lifetime savings.
The current GenZ class graduating in 2023 may face a similar mentality shift. Seeing the sweeping layoffs in the tech sector and the implosions in crypto, they may decide these industries are too risky of bets to invest their time and money.
The previous long bull run was buoyed by a strong talent market that fled the financial industry in favor of working at late-stage tech companies. What sector will the college graduates flee to in the coming years in lieu of tech?
The psychological impact of what we’re currently experiencing will have a profound impact on the sectors, investing strategies, and career paths the next generation of college graduates choose.
6. Burnout Becomes Demystified
One of the things that we’ve learned from the pandemic is that burnout is a real thing. Large chunks of my network have suffered from burnout symptoms over the past two years. I distinctly remember sending a message to a group, going “I think I’m burning out, I’m trying all the usual tricks like meditation and exercise and none of them are working” ... to broad agreement.
As a result, I started looking into burnout research. And what I found surprised me. Burnout is a “stress experience in a social context.” Change the social context, and you protect yourself from burnout.
In other words, ‘work-life balance’ is mistaken. What matters is how your workplace is configured. If configured well, you can work long hours with less risk of burnout. In 2023, savvy workspaces will heed the research. Heaven knows we need more productive workforces. Burnout reduction is one smart way to get there.
7. Career Pathways are Essential
Americans continue to leave their jobs in near-record numbers. Counter to the media narrative, most aren’t leaving for pay or the next “it job.” Rather, they’re leaving for career pathways and access to opportunity.
According to Guild’s recent American Worker Survey, 2/3rds of workers want to be at their current company 2-5 years from now. But, 75% said that the reason they’d leave is if they were offered a role with additional education and career opportunities.
The glaring problem is that career pathways — once the stairsteps to the American dream — are fewer and farther between as too many companies drop the ball on helping their employees advance.
As the war for talent rages on, more businesses will learn that investing in career pathways and learning provides an advantage when attracting candidates and dramatically boosts retention. It also saves money when considering the costs of re-hiring and disruptions caused by short staffing.
Career pathways might have looked like a “nice to have” in the past – they’re a “must have” today.
8. Return of Recession Psychology
The career psychology of the next twenty-four months will be unlike anything we’ve seen in the last decade.
Recessions change people’s appetite for risk. Investors get more conservative. Entrepreneurs play it safer. Employees don’t venture out on their own. Despite the advice to be greedy when others are fearful, few people are able to overcome their own psychology.
All this means that the next few years will present unique opportunities for those who can stomach a little extra stress during this more conservative period. Casual entrants to entrepreneurship or the creator economy will fade away. Serious ones may, too, despite their best efforts. But, long-term success can be won by those who can endure a bit of pain and slowly compound wins through the coming financial winter.
9. Selective Vulnerability
During tough economic climates, leaders must navigate a tightrope to keep their employees motivated. When leaders are too closed off, their employees may worry that they are concealing bad news. But sharing too much emotion can diminish employee confidence and undermine authority. Navigating this tightrope requires practicing selective vulnerability.
Selective vulnerability means finding the right balance between sharing, which earns trust, and oversharing, which destroys it. This is not easy. No one wants to work for a robot. But people don't want to work for a feelings firehose either.
Leaders who will successfully weather these challenging conditions will be those who understand the power of vulnerability but recognize how to harness it effectively.
10. Companies as Career Accelerators
In a zero-interest-rate environment, companies were able to attract and retain talent on the basis of their soaring stock prices. But as markets cool off, many companies need a new value proposition for talented employees.
To entice talent, companies will start positioning themselves as accelerators that set employees up for successful careers. They will do this by offering benefits targeted at providing long-term career optionality like:
Scout funds to help aspiring investors start to build investing track records
Commitments to fund future founders who stay for at least X years
Brand-building help for employees who want to grow their audiences
Powerful alumni networks (“mafias”) to connect employees to prospective co-founders and angel investors
While not all employees will be willing to sacrifice current compensation for future opportunities, many will be glad they did.
11. End of the Goldilocks Economy
The pandemic economy was something of a Goldilocks period for content creators.
With audience members stuck at home, glued to screens, collecting stimulus checks, it was easy to earn money for online courses, newsletters, and virtual events. But, as the winds of the global economy shift, this period is coming to an end.
As the days of Quiet Quitting have been replaced with visible layoffs, elimination of perks, and a "hunkering down" mindset, many workers are feeling more precarious than ever. This will have two implications for creators:
Fewer New Creators – In this economy, fewer individuals will be inclined to give up a steady paycheck, healthcare, and a 401k and take the plunge to become independent creators.
Shrinking Creator Economy – With audiences returning to offices and focusing attention on keeping their jobs, fewer dollars will flow toward supporting creator content.
While this new era will be leaner, the creators who manage to hold on will find themselves facing less competition. Those who last will be the ones who are open to pivoting their subject matter, diversifying their product lines, and expanding their customer acquisition channels.
12. Careers Are More Than Just a Series of Jobs
Scrolling through Linkedin, it's easy to mistake our careers as nothing more than a series of jobs. But, amidst the turmoil of hiring freezes and layoffs, it's important to remember that our careers are about so much more than the companies we've worked for or the titles we've held.
The Linkedin version of our careers misses the skills we've mastered, the co-workers we've mentored, the challenges we've overcome, and the identities we've built for ourselves.
In 2023, many of us will recognize that jobs are not the only elements that define our careers. They are merely the means through which we gather the financial, social, and intellectual capital to build meaningful careers.
The Jungle Gym
Last month, The Jungle Gym hit an exciting milestone– 10,000 subscribers! Whether you’re new here or you’ve been a reader since the early days, I really appreciate your support and attention. I’m excited to continue sending good stuff to your inbox in the coming year.
Career Moves – Building Something New
In the last issue of the newsletter, I hinted at a big career update. While I’m still not ready to make a formal announcement, I’m increasingly excited about the opportunity.
Over the past few months, I’ve been having lots of conversations with HR leaders, CEOs, and investors about how to support employees to perform at their best. If that’s a topic you’re thinking about right now, drop me a note.
More updates to come in the new year!
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Until next time,