Charles Handy spent his early working life as a Shell International executive.
Along the way he picked up a philosophical bent, but much of the material in his book, The Age of Unreason is practical.
Handy looked forward to a world where telecommuting was an everyday reality, where the people no longer regard marriage – or any other aspect of their lives – as being for ever and where vast numbers of workers were no longer employed in organizations, but were either employed on a temporary basis or hired as professional consultants.
In other words, Handy anticipated today’s job market.
Although Handy suggests answers, the book mainly asks readers to think in new and radical ways about a constantly changing world.
For instance, Handy explores the contradiction that employers want to hire staff that have both knowledge and experience even though it is impossible to get experience without first getting a job.
He suggests that there are professions where young people move through the ranks to the point where they can switch careers. Journalism is an example where young people have huge amounts of responsibility early in their careers.
Another idea is people have shorter careers in the past, but that they work harder so over the length of their working life they do as much as earlier generations.
Handy says people now spend longer in education so they start working later and employers encourage them to leave work at an earlier age. So a career in, say, international banking might last from the age of 25 to 50, just 25 years. In earlier generations the same career might have lasted almost 50 years from 18 to 68. Handy missed one twist on this, today’s employees work longer hours.