Career Development as a Revolutionary Force

A compelling theme in the Egyptian ousting of Mubarak was hope.

As is often the case with countries with marginal economies, a small elite skims off the cream of the countries’ efforts to enrich themselves. The situation has echoes of a the TV series, Arrested Development, in which family members spend business assets on whatever they fancy at the moment without a concern for the business’s viability. Someone has to pay for these excesses.

Careers aspirations are a powerful force, and for good reason.

  • First, people want to make the most of their abilities. They want to have an impact on the world that furthers what they truly value.
  • Second, people experience forces that interfere with fulfilling their hopes to be arbitrary, destructive, and unjust.
  • Third, careers need to go somewhere. The idea of movement and progression is built into the word, career. A career that has stopped is no career at all.
  • Fourth, education provides the strongest driver of social mobility. It permits knowledge and ability to trump class limitations and family connections. While far from a guarantee of success, it opens possibilities.
  • A system that denies the career aspirations of its citizens challenges a powerful force.

    Much has been said about the social media as enabling the revolution in Egypt. It played an undeniable role.

    But the critical point is that the media was only relevant to the extent that it touch something deeply human and compelling.

    The power of these aspirations will be sorely tested in the months ahead. The head of state was not the sole barrier: to some degree he was one major player; to another degree he was a symbol of lost opportunity. Beneath this symbol lies a complex entangled economics system with many entrenched positions that will not welcome change in the least. For one dimension of that problem, this Planet Money podcast describes the extensive involvement of the Egyptian military throughout the country’s domestic economy [read more here]. Controlling 40% of the domestic economy leads to a vested interest in the status quo.

    Opening that system to the light of day will prompt a new beginning. But it will take considerable effort to open that economy and to keep it open.

    It is also important to acknowledge that youth unemployment is not solely an issue for countries with marginal economies. In 2011, youth unemployment in Spain is 40%. In the USA, 25% of those aspiring to enter the economy are unable to land their first jobs. In economies that value current knowledge and sophisticated capacities in information/ communication technologies, it does not take long for unemployed to turn into unemployable, creating problems for individuals and for society at large.

    Encouraging and supporting career aspirations is not the sole domain of government. It actually reflects a diverse range of action by individuals, workgroups, and organizations as well.

    How does your organization create opportunities for people to thrive?

    What can be done on the local or national level to open more opportunities for more people?

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