How many jobs have you had? How many careers? If you're like me, you may have had eight to 10 jobs and/or three to four careers in your lifetime. Yet, as I progressed in my career and deliberately moved from one job to another after a tenure of approximately three to four years, I remember my father saying, "Why can't you keep a job?"
I also remember reeling in shock and annoyance because, for the most part, all of my job and career changes were planned and deliberate. I knew I wanted to try different experiences and build up my skills repertoire. What surprised me was my father labelled my moving from one job to another as "job hopping" and felt it would be detrimental to my career. And then just the other day, a gentleman put the same question to me: "Why did you move around so much in your career?"
Frankly, first of all, I firmly believe that in today's world, there's no such thing as a guaranteed job, nor are careers simply a linear progression up a career ladder. So, from that viewpoint, this means if individuals don't continue building their skills and experience in every way they can, they'll face the risk of being caught with outdated skills and expertise in the next wave of downsizing and rightsizing.
And believe me, it's no fun being out of work for an entire year while facing the challenge of looking for new work. So, my advice is to deliberately consider job mobility as one of the many strategies for your career-planning process. How do you do this? The following tips might help you along.
Follow external leaders -- we all have individuals we admire. Get as much information as you can regarding their successful career path. Ask to meet these individuals and inquire about the various jobs they held. Inquire as to why they sought out their various jobs and what skills they learned to bring them to their current role? Ask for guidance and advice.
Assess internal career paths -- look around your own current organization. Follow your own leaders through their career path. Did their career path include tenure in marketing, finance, human resources or another operational departments? Did their path include field work and/or a move to another province? How has their career path impacted their career? What skills did they learn and what can you learn from their experience?
Investigate available career paths -- check within your current organization and identify the various career paths available to you. What skills and experience would you gain if you moved from one department to another within your company? Meet with various managers and leaders and inquire about corporate goals and where you might fit in the future. Keep your eye on opportunities to contribute to special projects that might lead to a new job within your company.
Investigate career enhancement -- most of us recognize a particular skill that we love to engage in. Look toward the future and assess how a particular skill might lead to a totally new career path. For instance, the occupations of workplace health and safety, lean facilitators, or professional project managers didn't even exist all that many years ago. I'm sure there will continue to be new occupations developing in the future. Pay attention, get in on the ground floor and get in on early training and certification.
Investigate career change -- many people start their career in one profession and then change professions completely. Take an assessment of your transferable skills as well as your likes and dislikes. Determine where else your skills lie and investigate how to move into that profession. Typically, this will require retooling some skills and building new professional networks. It may even require that you take a dip in your pay rate, but in the long term, job satisfaction is what you are seeking.
Consider geographic mobility -- many employees find themselves rooted firmly in their community and fail to even consider a geographic move, but, if others aren't willing to jump on this opportunity, perhaps it is a good option for you. That's because in many cases, a geographic move will enable you to take on higher levels of leadership, or in other words, to scale the career ladder at a faster pace. It gives you an opportunity to learn how to master a change in environment, a change in community and to make a name for yourself as "willing and able."
Seek professional development -- take some time to examine the various skills you want to learn. Know that as you progress to higher-level organizational roles, you'll need a broader base of skills. Typically, these skills include strategic planning, human resource planning, operational forecasting, business modelling, contract negotiation and/or logistics management. Find out where and how you can learn these skills. Seek out professional certification where appropriate.
Build a unique network -- reach out beyond your professional network and build a broader base of personal relationships. Take on a volunteer leadership role where you can learn and apply higher-level skills, get a deeper breadth of experience and get known for your accomplishments. This also enables you to become a "known entity" in a totally different environment and will often lead to other job opportunities.
Seek out larger employers -- there are numerous large employers that have worldwide offices and offer opportunities to individuals interested in career mobility. In today's global world, these are prized opportunities to experience different cultures and different ways of approaching business. Check them out and go for it!
The old-world career path where employees were able to stay with one company for 30 years is long gone. People are simply more mobile today and deliberately look for opportunities to learn and grow. At the same time, a rule of thumb is that it takes at least one year or more to become proficient in any new job and therefore individuals need to stay for a reasonable period of time. For most people, this time frame is approximately four to five years. The key to success is to always focus on ensuring the right match to your skills, communication style and personal motivators so that you create a satisfying career.
Barbara J. Bowes, FCHRP, CMC, CCP, M.Ed. is president of Legacy Bowes Group. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org