Career Paths

Why must we commit to one career for the rest of our lives? Why are we pushed to find one thing to be amazing at, when there are a million things we could be good at? Why are we bashed for leaving jobs after one or two years because we want to try something new, change things up, be different?

This is not a post about millennials. I don’t know what your opinions are on millennials, but I don’t care right now.

I care about the fact that we, as a collective society, are living under this illusion that we have to be one thing for our entire lives. This may be great for some people. Maybe all you’ve ever dreamed of being is a stay-at-home parent. Watching your kids grow up and being with them 24/7 brings you so much joy that once they grow up, you start watching their kids. Maybe you’re an amazing artist and all you want to do for the rest of your life is fill the world with your art.

For the rest of us, the idea of being stuck doing the same thing for the rest of forever until maybe we have enough money to retire is mildly (or hugely) terrifying. I love what I do right now. I work for an amazing company that treats their employees well. I love talking to people and getting to know them and figuring out what their life dreams and passions are, so being a recruiter is great for me.

But I don’t have plans to be a recruiter for the rest of my life. Maybe I will be and maybe it’ll work out that way, but I’m not going to close my mind off to the potential of learning new skills or exploring opportunities when I’m only in my mid-20’s!

When I see a resume that has a bunch of short stints at various companies, that’s a red flag. Because from a company perspective, we don’t want to hire someone who is just going to move on in a year and leave us for another company. I get that. Companies need to have that security. High turnover is a pain for everyone involved.

But what if, as companies, we shifted our focus?

What if we stopped just dismissing people that appear to have jumped from job-to-job and we gave them a chance to explain themselves? What if we asked them this:
What do we need to do to keep you at our company for longer than six months? For longer than a year? For longer than five years?

And what if we asked ourselves this:
What value can this person provide? What can they accomplish in six months? In a year? In five years?

Maybe this person is a rock star and your company would be lucky to have them, even if it’s just for a short period of time. They might accomplish more in six months or in a year than the rest of your employees have accomplished in the last five years! Maybe it’s worth it to bring them on-board, even if they leave you a year later to live on a boat and write a book, or go back to college, or start their own company, or work as a bartender, whatever they want to do.

I moved to Utah on a whim and was only planning on being here for about a year before moving back to Oregon. But then I found an amazing job and I am now planning on staying at this company (and staying in Utah) for the foreseeable future. But I haven’t sat down and said okay, we’ll stay in Utah forever or we’ll stay in Utah for exactly five more years. There are so many factors involved in that decision and I think my energy is better served living in the moment and not worrying about it.

You have to decide if you want to be a part of this person’s career path. Don’t ask them to sell their soul to you for the rest of eternity, and don’t look down on them for not wanting  to commit to a certain company or a certain career. You’re taking a risk with everyone you hire, regardless of what they tell you about their current and future career goals, regardless of how perfect their resume seems.

Take a chance on these people who aren’t afraid to leave a job after six months or a year because they’re not happy or they know they can do better. Because if your company is the right fit for them, they will be your greatest asset. They may still leave you after a few years, but they will be your hardest-working, most passionate employees. And if they decide to leave you, it’s because their heart’s just not in it anymore and they do not want to be the employees that do sub-par work. They care too much about you and your company to do that.

Give these people a chance and stop calling them flighty, lazy, noncommittal millennials (I know, I said this wasn’t about millennials but I know someone is still thinking it is). They may not want to work ten, fifteen years at the same company or in the same industry, but don’t ever assume that means they aren’t hard workers. They care so much about their jobs, their companies, and their talents that it’s unthinkable to them that they would waste their own time or their company’s time if they want to move on and do something different.

Side note: there are genuine lazy, flighty people in the world who leave jobs after two months because they don’t like working. There are probably people on unemployment who sit around smoking pot all day, but that doesn’t mean that everyone who smokes pot is lazy, does it? No. So remember that not everyone who has a tendency to change jobs every year or two is flaky. Don’t lump everyone into one stereotype or generalization just because of a couple of lazy bums.

I do have a few suggestions, which really apply to anyone who is currently job searching or will be in the future:

  • Be transparent & honest. If you’re just looking for a job to pay the bills, be up-front about that. If you’re looking for a specific salary range, don’t be afraid to bring it up (but back it up with data). If you’re looking for your dream job, don’t apply for jobs that don’t fit your dream job requirements.
  • Ask questions. If you’re serious about a job, ask a million questions during the interview process. Ask about everything that’s important to you. Ask about salary, ask about work-life balance, ask about free lunches or casual Fridays. And most importantly, ask about the role. The last thing you want to do is get hired and find out that the role is completely different than you thought.
  • Make a list. Write down everything that is a must-have in your next job. Write down everything that you would consider to be a deal-breaker. Rank everything so that you know what is most important to you, because no company is perfect. You may not find everything you’re searching for but you can probably find about 90%.
  • Be realistic. Even if you love your job, chances are you’d still rather get paid millions of dollars to sit on the beach and read. You will still have days where you don’t want to come in to work or you’re frustrated with a project and suddenly feel like you don’t like anyone you work with. These are fleeting moments. We all have them. Don’t let one fleeting moment be the reason why you leave a job you love.

And for the love of all that’s holy, make sure there are no typos in your resume!

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