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I’ll start with a disclaimer. I don’t work in 2013. What I write is based on my reading, and conversations with people (mostly in India) who do. The world of work is so very different from the times when I began my career in 1974. As far as the number of years go, 39 years have gone by, which is not very significant in the larger context as a number. However what is significant is the huge amount of change that has taken place since those faraway times. Changes so impactful that those seem almost like pre-historic times. Here are some of the most significant:

  • One firm vs many: In the old days people joined one organization, and stayed there! It was fairly common, indeed expected, that if you were selected as a young man/woman in a “good company” you stayed there for the rest of your working life. “From cradle to grave” kind of sums it up. Nowadays, largely due to better and more opportunities, the focus is not on “loyalty” to the company, any more. The key loyalty is to one self. If you have stayed for years in one company, it could well be a disqualification in today’s age.
  • The Company Brand vs Brand Me: Closely linked to the first point, in the old days you were in a sense, “the company you worked for.” Now the focus is on you as an individual. The needs to boost Brand Me over ride any other considerations. People make career choices, life choices and other choices to be more in tune with their interpretation of Brand Me than anything else. “How do I gain from this deal?” and “What’s in it for me?” are thoughts that frequently overpower the much weaker, ” What can I do for you?” be the other party a customer, colleague or subordinate, if not a family member.
  • Work Time vs All the Time: In the old days, there was pressure of work, there were demands made but the extent was much less. Now thanks to technology, one is at work literally on a 24×7 basis. The difference between “work hours” and “all the time” have blurred or become insignificant. You are to be on the ball all the time. The rewards in terms of compensation are undoubtedly much higher these days but you employer’s demands on your time make up for any increase in the compensation and benefits you get.
  • “All work and no play..” vs. The New Age Parent: In those days, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” kind of summed it up. You were expected to, and did have, enough time to pursue non-work interests, which included, may I add, parenting! Hobbies, “extra-curricular” interests were encouraged and by and large people had adequate time to spend with their families. In today’s world one of the victims of the ruthless pressures of work has been parenting. “I see my kids only for a short time in the day and for a little more time in the weekends. I want them to have happy memories of their childhood, so I give them whatever they want,” said a parent. The equations have changed in parenting and often the children determine what will be bought, done etc. The parents fortunately seem to have enough money to meet all the demands so both are seemingly “happy.”

For all that both times had their share of thrills and challenges. It would be great to have the best of both worlds. But you and I know this is not always possible. However, I believe, with more effort on our part, we can try to minimize the harmful effects of today’s work environment and cash in ( pun not intended) on the great opportunities we now have.

What’s your take on this?