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Sustainable careers and employability for the new-collar worker - An Exploratory Study

The volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity of the emerging world of work, prophesies turbulent times. The rapidly transforming ecosystem is characterized by radical technological innovations, in-step with a unique millennial workforce. And this will be most significantly evidenced in the impact on the behavior of individuals and groups in organizations. The pursuit of sustainable careers would require these individuals and groups to challenge and evaluate their career strategies, engage in forward planning, anticipating and preparing proactively for embracing and championing change as part of their daily lives. The agile learning, feedback seeking behavior, on-going self-evaluation, reflection and re-prioritizing are some key skills that will be demanded of the new-collar worker running in order to remain abreast of new technologies. Individuals’ careers, key ingredient for successful organizations, would be significantly impacted, and their ability to nurture career sustainability appear to be of significance in the changing world of work. Prevailing wisdom of how careers are strategized and managed will need to accommodate for the newer paradigm of career sustainability in the face of the emerging nature of work, jobs and skills that the workplace will require. Career theories to begin with, explained career as the fitment of skills with job requirements. They moved on to define career as a drive or pursuing passion, and progressed further to define career as a unique life-long pursuit that the individual author’s and uniquely creates. Sustainable careers might challenge all of these theories, challenging the new-collar workers to pursue careers as well-evaluated, marketable, intellectually stimulating and personally challenging, strategies. The element of VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) in the career strategy itself, as a result of disruptive technologies inherent in today’s work world, would propel the millennial to pursue career sustainability in-order to remain successful. The new-collar worker will need to adopt a nuanced approach, balancing the grit to survive the grind, constantly replenish skill / knowledge, with the values of flexibility and perseverance, that supports the building of sustainable and successful careers. This will benefit the individual as well as organizations and in-turn the economy of the future. Enhancing career development and increasing employability through the use of sustainable career strategies will become critical within the context of an increasingly complex and rapidly changing workplace. This paper explores the changing paradigms of sustainable careers in general and its impact on employability, in particular. Literature on sustainable careers, the new-collar worker, attributes of the millennial is reviewed to propose a model for career sustainability. Attempt is made to define and conceptualize career sustainability attributes, methods used to nurture it, and adaptive techniques that could support the process. It strengthens the context of what it takes to nurture sustainable careers in today’s organizations who are under constant pressure to meet market demands and retain financial health. The importance of nurturing sustainable career is espoused in Charles Darwin’s famous words “it is not he strongest that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change”. Key words: Sustainable career, new-collar worker, employability