When did our jobs become a game?
More importantly, when did this game become an essential part of success?
Perhaps I’m old-fashioned. Perhaps I haven’t adapted to the changing times as smoothly or as quickly as I should. Perhaps you have no problem with the current environment. But, whatever happened to finding a job, making it your own, and holding it (progressing up through the direct chain of positions as opportunities become available and as desired) until retirement?
I understand that our current economic situation has played its part in the downfall of that sort of career, but setting that factor aside there would still be a large amount of job hopping going on: this new game where the winner is the employee that can successfully jump from position to position to advance their “career.”
I work for a major company: multi-national, over 200,000 employees, large presence in the market, etc… We are a key player.
It isn’t official policy, or documented in our procedures, regulations, or anything like that, but there is an unspoken directive that employees should job hop every two years. The idea is to follow this timeline: the first six months is the learning period where you figure out the how and why of your new position, the next twelve months is the “own it” period where you do just that – own it – excel, improve upon current processes, etc…, and the final six months is spent looking for the next position to jump to.
Some people have no problem following this unspoken rule. They move from position to position seamlessly, learning, growing, advancing. It’s these people who move up the ranks and are eventually selected for executive roles.
Don’t get me wrong, I can see the benefit of it: by learning firsthand all different aspects of the company these employees have a better idea of how all the pieces fit together and are, therefore, better at understanding how their decisions in one department can affect the rest of the company. It’s good to have employees like that. It’s good to have them advancing through the ranks.
But to desire it from all employees, in all types of positions? Is that really necessary? Whatever happened to doing rotating internships to discover what you are really passionate about and then pursuing that as your career for the rest of your working life?
What if I really only like one aspect of my industry? Should I continue to swap my positions and take on roles and responsibilities I’m not passionate about, that I’m not good at, and that leave me feeling unfulfilled, unhappy, dreading work each day? How is that good for the company?
My company has not been an exception in the last couple years. There has been round after round of layoffs, restructurings, and the like. Sometimes those layoffs made sense: the roles were surplus or related to functions that were no longer going to be needed going forward. Sometimes those layoffs only made sense when you thought about this unspoken rule, this game of job hopping, and realized the people being shown the door had become stagnant – they hadn’t changed positions in a few years. They were good employees, they were good at their jobs, but they had stayed in the same role for too long.
I find myself worrying about that. I don’t like the idea of job hopping. I don’t like this new game. This is in part due to my sense of loyalty to the managers who gave me a shot at the positions I’ve held – I want to repay their trust by being good employees for them. I also don’t like the idea of purposefully switching jobs so frequently, especially in our current economic crisis, because it doesn’t seem very stable – what if I choose the wrong job to hop to and that’s the group that gets downsized, displaced next?
I’m not sure I have it in me to take that chance…
Then again, I’m not sure why I’m worrying at all. Due to the layoffs and shifting departments within my company I’ve had four different positions, five different bosses, in four different departments in the last five years (including a four-month spell unemployed), so I’m well within the two-year timeframe anyway.
As long as that trend continues I’m good to go, right?
I really don’t like this game.
How about the rest of you? Are you experiencing similar trends in your positions and/or industries?