When Leonard Nimoy as Star Trek’s Mr. Spock first uttered the words “Live long and prosper” in 1967 he was not referring to the length of one’s career. Although by extension, longevity in one’s chosen profession isn’t a bad thing to wish on anyone. And when the original series aired, the supposition was that most people would stay with one employer and career for the majority of their working lives. But this hasn’t been true for over a decade. In fact, it is becoming less likely that an individual will stay with the same firm for more than 3 or 4 years, and just as likely they will change careers 5 or more times in the course of their working lives.
Yet many people are inclined to keep working for the same employer for the long haul believing that staying put offers better long-term job security and opportunities for advancement, especially in positions that have tenured status. Important considerations in our current economy! Others stay put because of the familiarity with the work being done, the surroundings, and the chance to accomplish things with the same people whom they have known for many years, when coworkers become friends. These factors contribute to social interaction, work-life balance, and the building of community.
Here are some numbers: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of January 2012 the average time workers spent with a single employer was 4.6 years. And twenty one percent of all workers 16 years and up had a year or less with their current employer.
The trend currently is for workers to spend fewer years with the same company. Gen Y and Millennials seem to be keeping this trend moving forward, although the latter group doesn’t yet have a long enough employment track record to prove if this trend will continue. Younger workers seem to believe that leaving one company for another ensures them of salary increases, better benefits, faster advancement, and other perks.
Regardless that some employees have delusions of grandeur and erroneous perceptions of their own value, most employers don’t appreciate the turn-over trend, believing that employees leaving one company for another before establishing a track record of accomplishments and experiences, is premature. Quick employee departure provides no real benefit to the worker or to the company, and eliminates any potential return on the employer’s investment in that hire. HR people often refer to those who don’t stay in one place too long as Job Hoppers, and will frequently ignore applications from those who don’t have a minimum of two years or more with one company.
Some industries are notorious for high turnover rates and rapidly revolving doors. Few are lucky enough to stay with one employer for ten years or more. In fields such as radio and television for example, one’s longevity is determined in great part by ratings and fickle management whim. Lengthy single station stays (15, 20, 25 or more years) are rare. Those with lengthy careers have likely worked for multiple stations, but possibly maintained employment with a single corporation. That’s no small feat these days in any industry!
Give props to those who start out in low end entry level positions, slowly gain experience, demonstrate their skills and work their way up to top management positions with the same company where they started. Longevity of this nature is increasingly rare, yet it was once what almost every worker strived for.
So, what does it take to achieve longevity in almost any job or career?
It starts with the Desire to stay put, and the Tenacity and Commitment to make it work for you.
An ability to Cooperate with management and coworkers.
The Demonstration of Leadership and the ability to Coordinate resources.
Continually proving the Effectiveness of your skills and their value.
Continuous Professional Development, Skills Enhancement and ongoing education.
Adaptability and Flexibility to change on a dime and do what needs to be done.
Effective Communication with all levels of staff, management, internal and external personnel.
Being a Team Player willing to go to whatever lengths to see that projects are successfully completed.
Learning and understanding the processes of all areas in the company.
Support and encouragement from those higher up than yourself, who want to see you succeed and grow.
But a wide variety of factors including personal satisfaction, achievement and professional recognition will also influence one’s ability to achieve longevity on the job and in their careers. Unhappy, unmotivated, unengaged workers are more inclined to switch jobs more frequently.
Will your job and career be one of longevity? It starts with your desire to pursue one thing, and your commitment to keep at it, sometimes in the face of adversity. You won’t know what you can achieve unless you commit for the long term.
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