Careers & Employment Information

The Changing Values Landscape of the U.S. and How It Impacts Midlife Job Searchers, Part Two

The values landscape of our nation is changing, and with it your personal values landscape is changing as well. What does this mean and what does it have to do with midlife?

Researcher Dr. Paul Ray says that the predominant values set held by Americans has been one he terms Modernist, with roots in the Renaissance. Modernists presently represent 88 million U.S. adults, or 47% of the population, but the numbers of Modernists are shrinking as those who hold these values are increasingly leaving this subculture and choosing instead the values of one of the other two subcultures ray has found, the Heartlanders (representing traditionalist values) and the Culture Creatives (representing newly emerging integral values, never before seen in human history). Heartlanders represent 29% of the population, or 56 million adults, while Culture Creatives represent 24% of the population, or 44 million adults.

Those with a Modernist perspective tend to value religious and lifestyle pluralism, career achievement stepping stones, consumerism, a "winning" lifestyle, capitalism; tolerate societal fragmentism; and welcome the technologization of life. Many Heartlander values are the polar opposites of Modernist values: simplified and unified lifestyle options; an emphasis on putting families, not careers, first; buying in accordance with budget and values; a family-oriented lifestyle; a deemphasis on individualization and capitalism; a great desire to heal the fragmentations of American society; and a dramatically lessened interest in and dependence on technology.

Now, what about the Culture Creatives? Who are they and what do they believe? Ray names this subculture this way because this is the group that is coming up with the new ideas that are transforming society as we know it. Culture Creative values tend to be person-focused and environment friendly and include: psychology; spiritual life; self-actualization; self-expression; mastering new ideas; social concerns; and women's issues.

Dr. Ray sees American society as approaching what he terms a "Great Divide" in which the mainstream Modernist subculture is shrinking as members move instead into Heartlander or Culture Creative camps. Midlife acts as your own personal "Great Divide" and challenges you to choose your own values. Are you a Modernist? Will you remain one? Or are you really more of a Heartlander and just beginning to recognize yourself? Or are you a Culture Creative who never before could name what you knew you were becoming? What about your present family and friends? Or your family of origin? Or the people in your faith community? Are you surrounded by likeminded others or those with contrasting values?

Review the informal lists above and see which subculture feels most like you. Consider reflecting on the questions raised in the last paragraph to help you explore your own personal values landscape. If you are surrounded by supporters, then no matter which category you live in, the changes ahead will be easier for you. If, on the other hand, you are surrounded by those of other subcultures, then not only the societal changes ahead but your own midlife changes will be more chaotic as well.

Most critical of all, though, make sure you incorporate your Modernist, Heartlander, or Culture Creative values into your resume summary, cover/follow-up/thank you letters, and interview responses. By doing so, you dramatically increase the odds that you'll end up working next to likeminded others, which, in turn, should assure you some measure of career satisfaction over the long-term.

Cheryl Lynch Simpson is a Spiritual Director and Solutions Coach who helps women discover and create the life they've always wanted to live. Cheryl is the author of over 30 print/Internet articles and the founder of Coaching Solutions For Women, a coaching website that produces and showcases career, business, and life solutions that improve the life balance of today's busy women. For a complimentary copy of her latest e-book, Ten-Minute Stress Zappers for Women Service Business Owners, visit

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