A frequently asked question I get as an educator is “can I get a job as a futurist? I tackled this important and relevant question previously. I’d like to suggest a different question, or perhaps a different approach, here. I’ll answer that question here with a question: “well, what do want to do, or accomplish?” Thus, getting a job (jobbing) versus wanting to do or accomplish (doing).
In foresight, if the answer to “doing” is money, I might point one many other fields. In other words, there are probably lots of easier ways to make money than as a futurist. But I actually encounter very little of this. More often, it’s along the lines of, “I like foresight, but I also need to make a living.” It is a quite reasonable expectation, to want to be able to support oneself and/or one’s my family. My experience, though, is that those who become futurists are to some degree slightly unreasonable people. I mean that in a good way. That is, we are often compelled to follow our vision, even when it’s not the most reasonable thing to do. There are probably easier ways to support oneself and one’s family.
Thus, when a prospective student comes to me with lots of analysis on the potential job market or asks about starting salaries, I’m thinking, “too reasonable.” They probably won’t take the leap, and are likely to be unhappy if they do. That is, they’ll spend a good deal of their educational experience obsessing about their future job – jobbing – instead of search for what they really want to do – doing.
Of course, we get some who are just on fire for foresight and they just have to do it. I would put myself in that camp – I bought at $200 Plymouth Galaxy with no reverse gear, piled in some trash bags full of clothes, and drove south to the Houston program. I know some of you readers are nodding your heads. Probably most of our students are somewhere between this “what are the starting salaries?” (jobbing) and “hair on fire/have to do this” (doing).
“What do you want to accomplish?” is a really, really big question. Probably most prospective students aren’t quite sure what is is they want to do — I sure wasn’t — so, we go on the educational quest in large part to find that out!
In our big study for Lumina on the future of student needs, one of our conclusions was that higher education may be doing a disservice to students in being maniacally focused on job market preparation (jobbing). The alignment to the job market makes is again quite reasonable today, perhaps moreso in the recent past. Our findings suggest it will be less reasonable in the future. If we believe our findings about the future of student needs, it is more about finding purpose. The real challenge will be to find out what you want to do, and then look for the ways to do it. It will be less and less about “jobs” in the classic full-time sense and more about the work we want to accomplish. Perhaps, as has been said in other contexts, the future will be more aligned to the unreasonable, and thus more friendly to futurists. Andy Hines