Career Checkpoints

Last December, Right Management, a division of Manpower, conducted a survey and found that 84% of employees planned to search for a new job in 2012.  It takes a lot of planning, effort, and networking to find the right new employment, and therefore the majority of the 84% didn’t do much about it this year.  Because of this, most people stay put.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, as some people may not have a valid reason for change quite yet and might be better served staying a while longer.

Evaluating your career is a valuable ongoing activity to do.  There are times when one should be proactive and start to look for something else that would be a better fit for their gifts, talents, and desires.  For others, salary, career advancement, or simply moving to a different location can be the major motivators.  Some endings are necessary.

From numerous career discussions with others over the past 13 years, I’ve noticed there are five main checkpoints in employment tenure when they are most likely to consider new options for work.  Each stage is different, so I’ve included some guidance on each.

6 months – “Do I see myself here for 2 years?”  Generally speaking, I wouldn’t suggest most people start looking for a new job after only six months because the desire to leave so soon is a warning signal for most employers.  Usually by this point the honeymoon period is over and things have settled in.  While there are some valid reasons why someone may need to make a change, I’d usually recommend trying to get to the two year period if at all possible.

2 years – “Do I see myself here for 5 years?”  This has become the most common period for people to look for and successfully find different work.  Two years is usually a great time to demonstrate accomplishments that would be valuable to a potential new opportunity.  Of course, your current employer may offer a great environment and provide new challenges that make continuing with them the best option.  For others, however, if they feel the challenge and rewards have plateaued, or have been less than they wished, then this is a great time to start being aggressive about finding new work.

5 years – “Do I see myself here for 10 years?”  I would suggest that this group is a 50-50 split between those who are quite satisfied with their careers up to this point, and those who regret not having done something back at the two year checkpoint.  If you’re doing well, and feeling fulfilled, the thought of going anywhere else may be fleeting or non-existent as you cruise forward another five years.   If you’re in the latter category, it is extremely important to start networking with others before the regret gets any worse.  If you’re unsure of how to do this, I’d suggest reading an earlier post on where and how to network.

10 years – “Do I see myself here for 20 years?”  This is probably the last truly pivotal time for people to look for new work, if necessary, and make a significant change.  Bringing a decade of good experience to a new employer is still seen as a positive to a new organization.  The decision gets harder, though, for a variety of reasons.  Work relationships now have deep roots that would make going somewhere else very challenging emotionally.  Also, benefits such as vacation time and other perks may have accumulated that can sometimes make accepting another offer at a new environment seem like a step back financially.  While the desire to change may be there, most people at this point often end up staying.

20 years – “Do I see myself here forever?”  When a person gets to twenty years, one last attempt may be made to see what else is out there.  Usually though, this attempt is more feeble in nature as they’ve truly become an institution of tribal knowledge and experience for their current employer, and it would be very hard to voluntarily start over again at a brand new place.  Also, unlike at ten years, many new employers don’t necessarily value a candidate with two decades of experience at a single establishment.  It could be seen as a potential negative at this stage because it is uncertain whether a new hire with this much experience all with a single employer could successfully adjust to a new culture and way of doing things at this point in one’s career.  This type of tenure is

“…many older workers would be wise to plan
for a potential unexpected job loss.”

very rare these days and will become even scarcer going forward.  I would caution people who find themselves in this situation not to become too relaxed or start to coast towards the finish line.  With the high cost of employer provided health insurance combined with a constantly changing economy, many older workers would be wise to plan for a potential unexpected job loss.  I’ve seen many people who have been let go late in their careers, sometimes only a handful of years away from their own personal retirement goal, because the employer had a different timetable that was exercised.  If you’re concerned about this possibility or interested in learning more, then I’d recommend reading an earlier post onadvice for “older” workers.

It is important to actively manage your own career and not simply leave it up to your employer to do so.  I’d recommend seeking out wise counsel from trusted relationships periodically to discuss your career and to help you avoid potential blind spots.  Life and work should be a team sport, as you continue to seek to combine your occupation with your vocation.

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