Who Needs a Gold Watch, Anyway?

How long have you been employed in your current job? If it's much longer than three or four years, you're in the minority. According to experts, including the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, we're spending fewer years with the same employer and more time perusing digital equivalents of the want ads. Remember them?

Although your gut instinct might be to view frequent job-hopping as millennial behavior, you'd be only partly right. A survey conducted last year by iCIS, a leading recruitment company, found that a whopping 63% of all full-time employees are actively seeking new jobs. When broken down by age, this accounts for 71% of employed millennials and 66% of Gen-Xers. But get this: Forty-four percent of baby boomers are also looking to make a move.  

See also: Quitting Your Job: Dramatic Exit or Inappropriate?

What happened? In my generation, the idea was you'd work with one company, go as far as you could, and then, when you hit 65, note your retirement with that proverbial gold watch or diamond bracelet, and then go take up painting, travel, golf, or tennis.

Whereas employees were once labeled as flighty or unreliable if their résumé showed job changes every three or four years, today it's not only the norm, but it's also becoming the new desirable.

Why the change? One obvious answer is that you can usually make more money by changing jobs and negotiating a new salary than you can by staying where you are and wheedling your boss for a few extra dollars over a cost-of-living bump.

Another answer is that employers don't offer the same benefits they once did.

Pensions? Nowadays it's a 401(k) and the employee's responsibility to fund it. Security? Sure — until your company is taken over, merged, or sold and you're downsized.

Healthcare? No matter who's in Washington, the plans get more miserly every year.

The fact is that the myth of the employer as a warm and fuzzy parent has exploded. We have to take ownership of managing our future and we know it.

And that leads to what I think is by far the most compelling reason for pulling up stakes every few years: personal growth. Despite what you might think of Bob Dylan as a Nobel laureate, his observation that “he not busy being born is busy dying” ain't far from the truth.

When the bright and beautiful Mechele Flaum and I wrote The Best Thing that Could Ever Happen to You, back in 2013, we were talking about overcoming career reversals. But as I explore the trend toward shorter terms of employment, I realize that there's no need to wait for an unexpected pink slip.

Why not turn your career around now, while you're still in the driver's seat?

Perhaps we should always bear in mind the need to periodically reinvigorate and reshape our careers. Instead of thinking about what we have to lose, maybe we need to ask what we have to gain?

See also: 40 Different Ways to Reshape Healthcare

Here are a few potential benefits you might find across the street or across the country: More money. Expanded business relationships. New skills. Less stress. Renewed energy and pride when you head out for the office every morning.

And if you're the boss, in­stead of looking for employees who won't leave, why not con­sider creating opportunities and rewards to encourage your stars to stay. Ideas to think about include: Flexible hours. Child care. Lateral transfers. Help with student loans. Guest speakers monthly. Paid sabbaticals. Be creative.

And forget about those gold watches. They never kept good time anyway.



Sander Flaum is a principal at Flaum Navigators. 

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