Job Hoppers: Stick It Out Without Standing Still
Posted February 9, 2015, by Marni Williams
I recently learned that Generation Z (the post-Millennials) will have 17 jobs, 5 careers and 15 homes in their lifetimes. If I believed that change really was as good as a holiday I might be envious of them, but I’ll be honest: that actually just sounds exhausting to me.
The truth is that today’s workforce job-hops almost as much. Social research company McCrindle says that the average person stays in their job for four years, and this is set to drop to just three years by 2020. We talk about stability, but that’s a new job for every election!
More of us than ever before are attending university, and often that important milestone comes with the expectation that we will not only walk straight into a dream role, but that we can move on quickly once the sheen has worn off. Apart from the enormous costs to businesses of staff turnover, I fear that by hitting the restart button too often we could be missing out on something significant – a good slow burn.
No one’s disputing that the days of holding out for a gold watch are long behind us. Job hopping has certainly become more acceptable to recruiters than it used to be (42 per cent of us even think it’s beneficial to our careers). But does that mean it’s actually getting us somewhere?
There’s still a lot to be said for paying your dues in lower-level roles and working your way up. Stay somewhere long enough and you get something highly valued in today’s market: time. With time you’ll develop an irreplaceable corporate memory, you’ll be able to build relationships with mentors and you can make mistakes without the added pressure of being the ‘newbie’.
Staying put is a strategy I rate highly: my longest stint in one company was eight years (which involved four job changes) and while I now work in a completely different industry, I am positive that I couldn’t have made the move successfully without sticking it out there first.
So what’s stopping so many of us from putting down roots? We can’t all be thinking that the grass is greener somewhere else, can we?
Actually, three-quarters of us appear to be thinking just that.
Job search website SEEK says that three in four Australians are either actively looking for a job or monitoring the job market. But what exactly are we all looking for?
Well, it turns out that SEEK wanted to know, too. They asked more than 4,000 Australians to select their reason for joining the job hunt. The results were overwhelmingly related to job satisfaction and lifestyle, which is perfectly logical, but the question remains: is leaving really the best option?
I believe that there are ways to stay where you are and get what you want at the same time. So before we all move on to job number five and wonder where the time went, maybe we should all take a moment to think about staying put – and why that doesn’t mean standing still.
‘To feel challenged.’
‘To try new skills and experience a new industry.’
To follow your interest/passion.’
‘For higher earning potential.’
‘For a better work-life balance.’
If you can smash through your KPIs standing on your head, with no hands and probably even without a head, then you’re right: it’s time to move on.
But ‘moving on’ doesn’t have to mean changing jobs – if you can find a way to make your current job more interesting. A good way to begin is to look back at what you’ve achieved in your time in the role and see where your strengths lie.
Could your company use your skills elsewhere? Are there things that you haven’t been able to work on yet? Having a frank discussion with your boss will show them you’re serious about your work and highly motivated. If you don’t establish your value, they won’t know how to use it.
And if you’re not quite ready to demand a shot at the next level, then taking on a new project, sitting in on a new initiative or studying in your free time can certainly open up new avenues and allow you to develop.
Feel like your talents are being wasted? Or that business is waning? Before you jump ship, have a think about testing the waters.
If you want to try a new skill then you can ask to be seconded to another department or office, you can put your hand up to run a side project or even volunteer in a new industry outside of the office.
Volunteering has been shown to make you 27 per cent more employable, so it’s a great way to try another skill or make contact with another industry without closing a door behind you.
If what you’re doing is simply not getting you out of bed in the morning, then you may ultimately need to steer yourself in a new direction. But that doesn’t mean you need to ditch your job, mortgage your house and christen a start-up in order to follow your passion.
Online study is a good way to build your interests into a career move, and with so many MOOCs (i.e. free online courses) available, you can satisfy your soul without any impact on your wallet.
If you’re further along and are looking to back yourself up with qualifications, then hort courses can get you up to speed in new areas while you continue to pay the bills.
Reports continually show that while there are certain professions that pay more (try, anything in health), the number of hours worked almost always goes up along with the pay bracket. If you’re making a move for the pay alone, then don’t forget that a workplace’s culture can be just as important as the money they put on the table.
If you want to avoid the workload creep, then perhaps you should be looking to work smarter, not harder. Get yourself a bit more coin by proving you’re worth it and asking for a pay rise. Or ask your boss to put you on a course so you can increase your skillset. Getting your efforts recognised and having your boss invest in you could be worth more to you in the long run than making a dash for cash — studies show that making more money doesn't necessarily make you happier.
There are ways you can find a better work–life balance without leaving your job. With communications technology moving forward in leaps and bounds, working from home has never been a more viable option, and never more common.
These days it’s much more acceptable to suggest working remotely for a day or two a week, requesting a job-share arrangement or negotiating flexible hours.
While there may be many reasons to leave a job, there are almost always as many reasons to stay. You might even say that a job is like a relationship: quit prematurely and you will always wonder what could have been, but if you’ve tried everything and it’s still not working, then you can move on knowing you gave it a red hot go.
Sticking it out might not feel as rewarding in the short term, but it’s bound to be a hell of a lot easier than putting yourself on the market every three years!