The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that those entering the workforce today can expect to experience 14 job changes by the age of 38. Their predecessors will likely see jobs come and go at similarly unprecedented rates. As in the past, some of those changes will be driven by employers, but in the emerging era of career activism, others will be initiated by individual working men and women.
Indeed, this extraordinary job abbreviation effectively rewrites the employment contract in America. The 20th Century norm of an omnipotent organization dealing with a subservient worker will be replaced with a more sustainable arrangement between two equals. Just as corporate employers will add and subtract positions and the talent which fills them, so too will employees go to work for and leave employers to suit their own career needs.
In the past, such continuous churn in one’s work record was viewed as evidence of a lack of stability. It meant a person couldn’t hold a job or worse, that they were undependable, disloyal or too uppity for their own good. So, what did employers do? They branded these workers with a scarlet label. They called them “job hoppers.”
A 2009 Harvard Business Review headline, for example, exclaimed “And they’re still job-hopping,” when noting that 20 percent of corporate America’s best workers—those they call their “high potentials”—had “jumped ship” during the 2007-9 recession. The implication was clear. Something was terribly amiss in the workforce because the best and brightest were now deserting before the ship sank or whenever a better ship hove into view.
And, that self-reliant behavior is spreading into other segments of the population. More and more people are recognizing that constant movement is the only form of security in the 21st Century workplace. There never was any safety or even any stability in standing by an employer or hanging in there to help it out. Downsizing, rightsizing and offshoring saw to that.
Today, immobility is the new risky behavior. It threatens the progress of a person’s career and undermines the continuity of their employment. That’s why the number of long-term unemployed workers is now at its highest level in recorded American history. And, that’s also why those high potentials the Harvard Business Review was clucking about took matters into their own hands.
The only way working men and women can protect themselves from the continuous change in the modern American workplace is to stay ahead of it. Each person must put change to work for them. Each individual must set themselves in motion—choosing the direction and course the change will take. Each must become the proactive master of their career so they don’t end up its passive victim.
Thanks for reading,
Note: The above post was drawn in part from my new book, The Career Activist Republic. To read more, get the book at Amazon.com, in many bookstores and on Weddles.com.