Which Career to Choose? Certainly Not Finance…

A NY Times article on Friday asked “With Finance Disgraced, Which Career Will Be King?” As if a single career needs to be “King.” That’s elitist, totalizing, and sexist….but….

According to the article, massive distributions in intellectual capital are now at hand: “[T]he industry whose troubles are having the greatest impact on the rethinking of careers, especially at the nation’s elite universities, is the one at the center of the country’s economic downturn — finance. For years, the hefty paychecks and social status on Wall Street proved irresistible to many of America’s brightest young people, but the jobs, money and social respect there are much diminished today.”

The article concludes that it isn’t definitive, but early results, based on grad school applications and course enrollments, preliminary job-placement results, and the anecdotal accounts of students and professors, indicate that there is “a new pattern of occupational choice” emerging. “Public service, government, the sciences and even teaching look to be winners, while fewer shiny, young minds are embarking on careers in finance and business consulting.

That’s interesting, but I don’t see these changes as permanent. Nor do I think finance is coming back the way it was.

Recall that, in a post in the fall, I talked about the way Harvard Marketing Professor John Deighton discussed (and foresaw) some of these changes, and indicated that marketing might be the b-school field to succeed finance. That’s still very possible.

Look at the options.

  1. Public service. The great young minds of today being civil servants? Possible, yes. But the bureaucracy, the very system they will serve will need radical change. It may happen. I hope it does happen. But in the meantime, a lot of good people will not be able to tolerate it.
  2. The Sciences. Basic science ain’t for everyone. What we need, and what a lot of young people today are attracted to, is applied science. Science education is shifting (to a more applied model, like in Germany), and that’s a good thing. But everyone can’t be a scientist.
  3. Teaching. Academia, again. Bureaucracy and public service, again. Again, not everyone is going to have the stomach for this.But it is totally, vitally important that we support and(re)build our education systems as never before.

Where do we need some of our powerful innovation and new thinking today? In education. From primary right through to post-secondary.

We’re going to see demand for new, boundary-stretching education and boundary-stretching jobs that better help us learn about and adapt to the rapid changes all around us. The results won’t be basic or applied science, fundamental or advanced education, public or private orientation, but things in-between and changeable.

I’m thinking about programs that can teach a combination of innovation, sustainability, design, customer-centricity media, and technology. There are overlaps in all of these areas, but they are all needed for actual innovation to take place.

Will marketing play an important role in such programs? Absolutely. But perhaps it won’t be called marketing any more. Many of marketings theories, tools, and techniques will be brought to bear.

But maybe the Age of Marketing (as such) is drawing to a close.

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