The career growth and young people’s development are closely related to changes in the economy and society. After more than 40 years of reform and opening up, China’s social structure has undergone profound changes, social mobility has accelerated, and new occupational groups and social groups have emerged. Marketization, globalization, industrialization, urbanization, new economy, new culture, new technology, and new media are changing our society. Under such impacts, young people have become a special social group that relies on new occupations.
The Middle and Long-term Youth Development Plan (2016–25) emphasizes that for the development of cause of the Party and the country, the young must first develop. In the context of economic transformation and upgrading, emerging young people constitute a new driving force for renewing economic vitality and promoting economic and social transformation and development. Especially with the increasing popularity of the internet, the rise of new media and WeMedia, and the rapid iterative growth of technology, emerging young people have also become an important force in the development of culture and the dissemination of values.
Therefore, capturing the characteristics of their career growth, understanding their career dilemmas and development aspirations, and promoting their faster and better growth are of great significance to the future development of youth and the cause of the Party and the country.
Bittersweet career growth
The emergence of new occupations has given young people a wealth of career choices and huge room for diverse development. More outlets have been established for them to excel in life. However, the new and iterative nature of the new occupations is exposing young people to more confusion and anxiety about their growth.
First, interest has been successfully brought into their careers, but the growth path is fraught with uncertainty.
Careers in emerging fields give young people a greater sense of meaning and gain, and also allow them to find a “circle” of like-minded people. Compared to young people in traditional workplaces, young people in emerging industries are more willing to combine their interests with their work, increasing the degree to which their careers match their interests and abilities. Using their interests as a starting point, these young people are expanding their career paths and realizing long-cherished aspirations of career success and satisfaction in sideline pursuits.
Whereas traditional occupations tend to tie workers to specific organizations, emerging occupations give them more freedom and autonomy. With emergence comes exploration, and with mobility comes uncertainty. The occupations in which emerging young people work are mostly new sectors, and so they do not have certainty in their career trajectories and career planning through comparisons with their contemporaries.
Second, skills are relied upon to achieve value satisfaction, but professional skills face constraints in cultivation.
Career choices and life trajectories for young people in emerging fields reflects a strong sense of individuality and subjectivity. Many of them no longer follow the traditional 9-5 work routine, and institutionalized organizational models or lifestyles, but pursue a working style that is centered on their own abilities. They attach more importance to personal freedom and individual expression and pursue value satisfaction and self-fulfillment in their work.
In emerging fields, most young people rely on the skills they have spontaneously developed through the practice of their personal interests to earn a living. However, new occupations place greater demands on transferable skills and rapid turnover is common. After entering the workplace, many young people engaged in emerging work become anxious about the lack of vocational skill training.
Unlike traditional occupations where systematic training is provided by organizations or institutions, young people in emerging industries are faced with a lack of training providers. Although many young people are eager to receive more structured skill training in order to further improve their professional skills, there is a lack of market channels for vocational training in emerging industries, which are less mature. The lack of professional skill training has created a new sense of insecurity among young workers, who are worried that their lack of skills might affect their career development.
Third, there is a strong sense of cultural community identity, but relatively low social acceptance.
The continuing trend of culture entering an age of segmentation has given young people the opportunity to freely form cultural communities based on similar interests and professions, interacting both online and offline, and showing a high degree of loyalty and activity in their “circles.” The formation of youth cultural communities is further facilitated by the clear functional planning of offline cultural spaces.
Young people in emerging fields give occupational connotations to new forms of culture, enabling them to draw on a wide and novel range of knowledge and establish unique cultural transmission pathways.
However, a large number of new occupations in emerging fields are not included in the occupational classification system and generally lack formal recognition in official documents.
For many young people in emerging occupations, there is a strong desire for their work or professions to be recognized by mainstream society. Subjective social recognition is low for young people in emerging industries, and they consider themselves to be on the margins of society, with relatively low satisfaction with their professional prestige and social status. In addition, their professional identities and social attributes have not yet been generally recognized and accepted by society.
Career development for young people in emerging occupations is both a new area and a new challenge for policy formulation. To solve this problem, we need to take full account of their career attributes, group characteristics, and the development aspirations of these young people and implement effective policies.
First, we should take the pulse of this new group and guide their professional growth.
We should strengthen mentorship for young people in emerging industries and give full play to the cultural influence of opinion leaders.
For these young people, with significant cultural influence, especially KOLs and influencers, we should guide them to actively participate in publicity campaigns and education activities with positive themes, and film positive micro-videos to promote core values.
In terms of communication methods, we should innovate our publicity methods, pay attention to the discourse patterns and language habits of young people in emerging occupations, and make full use of new media platforms such as WeChat, Weibo, Douyin, and Bilibili.
Second, we should enhance the professional strengths and advantages of young people in emerging fields and improve institutional mechanisms for them to participate in social governance.
We should improve institutional mechanisms for young people in emerging occupations to participate in social governance and public affairs at the primary level, and to help emerging young people access their professional expertise and their own strengths in urban development.
We should also focus on finding and highlighting typical examples of success among this group, publicize and report on them through various media channels to create a social atmosphere conducive to the growth of young people in emerging industries.
We should regulate channels of online expression for young people in emerging work, stimulate and spread positive energy, and create a healthy, civilized, and orderly space for online participation.
It is necessary for us to explore the establishment of a feedback mechanism to monitor public opinion online, harness the influence of this emergent group in cyberspace, and strengthen their sense of responsibility in online social governance.
Third, we should focus on the core demands and solve the pain points and blocking points within emerging industries career development.
We should investigate and perform research on the development of young people in emerging occupations and build a comprehensive and effective service system based on a deep understanding of the real needs of this group.
It is also important to establish and improve a contact mechanism to connect with young workers, grasp the current situation and development demands of people in emerging fields through regular contact, visits, by listening to their voices, collecting their opinions, and other means. Various exchange activities such as sports, entertainment, friend-making activities, cultural events, and public services should be regularly organized.
Furthermore, we should improve mechanisms for protecting the employment rights and interests of people in emerging industries, build a labor arbitration system, improve social security services for young people in emerging fields, and explore solutions to the practical problems faced by young people in terms of social security.
In addition, it is essential to provide legal services to young people in new fields, provide legal advice, and protect legal rights and interests in response to the special needs of young people in emerging occupations.
We must also monitor the health of young workers, promote knowledge of occupational diseases and prevent occupational diseases in this group, and strengthen healthcare guarantee.
Meanwhile, we should provide mental health education for young people in new types of work, identify at-risk groups in a timely manner, and establish an early warning assistance mechanism.
In addition, we should call on government departments and enterprises to design and develop appropriate training programs, provide training support and career planning guidance according to the career development characteristics of emerging occupations, and help young people establish programs for the development of professional skills.
It is also necessary to promote the development of a policy system to support innovation and entrepreneurship among young workers, and improve services to help young people start their own businesses.
Qiu Ye is an associate research fellow from the School of Business at Beijing Institute of Fashion Technology.