Let's start with a few quotes...

“A man is a success if he gets up in the morning, and gets to bed at night and in between he does what he wants to do” : Bob Dylan

“Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life”: Confucius

Famous quotes about careers span millennia, from the teachings of Confucius in ancient China to leading public figures in modern politics and popular culture. The notion of a career is clearly not a new phenomenon. The word derives from the Latin “carrus”, referring to a chariot, and its modern meaning pertaining to a course of one's public or professional life starts to appear around 1800.

The changing face of the 'career'

A great deal has changed in the world since the word first entered our vernacular. Initially used to refer to positions of status held in public office during the Roman Empire, men of rank and file progressed through different levels based upon their age, length of service, and personal attributes. It was a somewhat rigid, structured system not to dissimilar to what we see in many bureaucratic companies operating today.

The word "career" is now commonly used to describe a range of aspects pertaining to an individual’s life, learning and work. Dare I say the term is now used far more loosely than in days gone by, but nonetheless it’s important to understand where we’ve come from to determine where we might be heading.

I’ve been in the fortunate position during my own career to help thousands of people to alter their career path. This has been humbling, exciting, challenging and fulfilling. From the new parent looking to balance work with family life to the young professional who strives for more responsibility and increased earnings. From the enlightened thinker looking to do something more meaningful, to the mature individual looking to give something back.

I always managed my own career in quite a structured, methodical way

Like many in my field I fell into my industry, but I quickly saw the career path on offer; increasing levels of interesting senior level work, staff management, business planning, the ability to shape long term strategy. I was fortunate enough to work for companies who didn’t see my age as a stumbling block. Yes, I might have been in my twenty’s but why shouldn’t I manage a large team and why shouldn’t I hold a seat on the Board; a true meritocracy where output and achievement were suitably rewarded.

After achieving most of my career goals at a relatively early age I guess it was only natural for me to ask the question, ‘is this it’?

Dreams of big job titles, responsibility, status, and high levels of earnings are somewhat juxtaposed against a reality of long hours and perhaps increasing levels of stress.

On the whole I had great fun though. I look back on the first part of my career as a whirlwind of making new friends, surpassing my goals and ambitions, and enjoying the fruits of my labour. I’ve banked a lifetime of fond memories which will stay with me forever.

My career even delivered the future Mrs Ferguson to me, and 12 years later our baby boy. So, not a bad innings!

During childhood most kids have a wide range of hobbies, interests and club affiliations. Football, golf, netball, dancing, Scouts, Cubs. A close tight knit group of friends who they see regularly. Mixed, varied social gatherings. A wild imagination as to what’s possible.

However, as people start to carve out their careers much of this is unfortunately lost to long hours, deadlines and a constant pressure to impress and to strive for more. Weekdays are spent working. Nights are spent studying for professional exams. Weekends are often spent in a hungover daze facilitated by the need to escape the pressure.

Fast forward to your 30s and 40s and although you are smashing your career goals, at what cost to your personal life?

Fear not...the world is changing

There is good news on the horizon. Millennials and Gen Z are already showing that they want more out of their lives. What’s gone before is not necessarily an indication of what the future holds.

Many countries, including The Netherlands and most Scandinavian countries, are shining examples of what can be achieved when progressive working practices are employed. These countries rarely work over a 40 hour week, with 35 to 37 being the new norm. This almost feels like part time by UK’s standards!

Several companies in the Western world are trialling four day work weeks as standard. That's four days, on full pay, with no increase in working hours during the four days. Productivity has actually been shown to increase rather than decrease in these companies. Job satisfaction increases. Sick days are reduced. Engagement goes through the roof.

80% of the hours but more than 100% of the output. Why is this? It’s about employees using their time more wisely and efficiently. It's about being trusted and treated as an adult. Sceptics say it won't work; however trial after trial shows the opposite to be true.

What is very clear is that work is changing. The notion of a career is changing. Some countries, and companies, are leading the charge whereas others are lagging significantly behind. The key as an employee or as a manager is to really identify what is important to you at your current stage in your career. Once you identify this, the next step is to make sure that you are in the right place to achieve your goals.

It’s not an easy thing to do. But it’s absolutely worth it.