Adaptability In The Ever-Changing / Paradigm-Shifting / Cheese-Moving Business World – Keeping Up with the “Priorities Du Jour”
In today’s constantly evolving business landscape, it seems impossible to plan ahead for any long term career in any one area. Years ago, a common interview question was “where do you want to be in 5 years?”, and the expectation was that you would be furthering your career in the organization who was interviewing you. But we all know that times have changed
Although years ago, if you had a resume showing a large number of job changes in a short amount of time that was a mark against you, but in today’s world this is just how things go.
Recently at a parents weekend at my son’s college, the career advisor flashed up a slide indicating that on average, by the time the current graduating class reached age 30, they would be working at their 6th job! Think about that – if they graduate when they are 21/22, then take on 6 different jobs 8 or 9 years later, this means that on average they stay on a job for less than 2 years. I know this is true as I interview young folks coming out of school and they tele me that 5 years in a job is considered very long and most people entering the workforce today don’t expect to be in the same job or same organization in 5 years.
This is not the fault of the young people having short attention spans. This is just the current environment where priorities and objectives and direction of business is constantly evolving at a rapid pace and organizations must be able to constantly turn corners, adjust course and make shifts almost instantaneously. The results are – what was important yesterday is not important today, and what you are doing now will not matter tomorrow because something else will be the priority du jour, until the next day.
So what can you do to survive in this type of environment?
A good way to approach planning out a sustainable future in the business world is to broaden your experience in different areas and focus on moving horizontally across an organization rather than vertically in order to increase your skill set to enable you the flexibility and adaptability to find a new job (not necessarily in the same specialty) should a shake up happen.
Years ago when I was starting out I decided it would be best to try to move into different areas to learn new skills rather than seeking to move up to higher level positions in the same area. Some people thought this was not a great idea to be a jack of all trades and master of none, however 30 years later I can tell you this has worked out very well as I have been able to move into different areas and get around some of the re-organizations and move to new positions and organizations which were challenging and rewarding.
Since I’ve been out of school I have worked in multiple industries in most departments. I have worked in IT, Engineering, Quality, Technical Writing, Manufacturing, R&D, Marketing, Sales, even worked in the laboratory for a while and designed product labeling for bit. I have been an individual contributor and I have managed as many as 20 people at one time. Four years ago I came very close to being a middle school science teacher after a major reorganization (the company I had worked at for 7 years, with excellent performance reviews, decided to layoff all US employees and move the headquarters overseas to save on taxes and salaries…even though we were doing well…), but before I could submit my paperwork to study for my teaching certificate, an online recruiter spotted some of my skills in manufacturing that I had learned 25 years ago…so I jumped on that opportunity….
My thinking is that if change is a good thing for companies to keep doing, why not for me? With the experience I’ve gained across different organizations in differing roles, I have some options to choose from. It’s never too late to learn something new. And the time to broaden your skills is now.