My father toiled 43 years for U.S. Steel, back when many of this country’s biggest corporations had a now-unthinkable compact with workers: employee fealty in exchange for, essentially, cradle-to-grave care.
Dad was a company man, right down to the starched white shirt, silk necktie, and wingtip shoes he wore like a uniform for all those post-World War II years. The trade-off? He’s still rocking his company pension more than 30 years after he retired, and now, at 97, he has set his sights on 107—the record age to which the oldest U.S. Steel pensioner lived, or so he’s been told. It’s good to have a goal.
As I fledged into the world after college, Dad recommended the same approach for me. By then, though, the world had changed. For my generation, pensions were mostly replaced by 401(k) accounts, and company-provided medical coverage eroded. Notions of employee fealty and employer loyalty now seem as unlikely as they do quaint, like a rhinoceros at high tea. The digital revolution and the Great Recession only complicated things.
But there’s good news for millennials and anyone else now embarking on a career, especially in O.C. The new way of working is dynamic, creative, and entrepreneurial. What it lacks in security it makes up for in flexibility, quirky perks, innovative workspaces, and the kind of work-life balance (Surf break, anyone?) that my father never could have imagined. We dispatched our smartest staffers and contributors to explore that brave new world, and their report, “Work It!” The only downside for us is that those same people now are eyeing our mirrored conference room for Zumba classes and measuring the lobby for a golf simulator.