by Winnie Jiang
Why some people seamlessly switch occupations while others struggle to reinvent their careers.
A stable job offers more than just a pay cheque; it provides a sense of belonging, self-worth and purpose. However, job stability is increasingly at risk. Technological advancements and economic shifts are challenging established roles, compelling workers to acquire new skills, change occupations or even re-evaluate their career paths to stay relevant.
By 2030, a significant portion of the global workforce – ranging from 3 to 14 percent, equivalent to 75 to 375 million workers – will need to switch occupations and learn new skills, according to aMcKinsey report. In advanced economies like the United States and Japan, this figure rises significantly to 32 percent and 46 percent, respectively.
Navigating career disruption can be particularly difficult for individuals who strongly identify with their profession and consider it a fundamental part of who they are. In contrast, research suggests that those who hold “multiple identities” are more resilient in the face of job loss, as they can use other identities as a protective buffer. In other words, when their work identity is threatened after being laid off, they can draw on other identities, like being a parent or community member, to derive a sense of self-worth and successfully change careers.
However, my recent research with Amy Wrzesniewski from The Wharton School reveals a different pattern. We focused on the field of journalism, which has experienced widespread job cuts and closures. Although all former journalists in our study considered their profession as central to their identity, there was a notable difference in their responses to losing their job. Some found it challenging to recover, while others quickly rebounded and reinvented their careers.