Charles Handy spent his early working life as a Shell International executive.
He had 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. One where people no longer regard marriage – or any other aspect of their lives – as being for ever. He predicted organisations would no longer hire vast numbers of workers. A world where they are either employed on a temporary basis or hired as consultants.
The Age of Unreason predicted the gig economy
In other words, Handy anticipated today’s job market. The gig economy.
While Handy suggests answers, he asks readers to think in new and radical ways about a changing world.
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 says there are professions where young people move through the ranks to the point where they can switch careers. Journalism is an example. Young journalists 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 many hours as earlier generations.
Handy says people spend longer in education so they start working later. Yet 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, that’s 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.