07:01:35 am on
Thursday 13 Dec 2018

Career Longevity
Hilary Thompson

By changing jobs, you have the opportunity to renegotiate your income and working conditions. Sounds great, but perhaps isn’t.

Oh, there’s a catch. You must become familiar with a new workplace, again. You must learn an entirely new set of on-the-job interpersonal dynamics.


A new job can be exhausting.

In a new job, with a new employer, you must discover how your new managers engage each other and with workers; is it line, staff or line and staff. You might need to relocate, too, uprooting your family and community ties. If that sound exhausting, you’re not alone.

Although more workers are changing careers more often than ever before, it’s worth considering and seeking career longevity. The employment firm, Kelly Services, reports workers that stay with a company for longer periods may find protection against layoffs as well as more career development opportunities and more resilience, personally and occupationally. Workers that stay through difficult times for his or her career as well as the employer, develop attitudes, skills and, in some cases, corporate loyalty that those that leave don’t and won’t.

For example, learning to solve company problems takes time, often years. Unless you contribute to a company and job year after year for several years, you may not be able to measure how your efforts paid off in the big picture. You won’t know your true worth or how effective you are in your job.

Seeing long-term success is only one example. Without the distraction of finding a new job, you can give your full attention to excelling in your current role. Yet, staying at a job is harder, even if you aren’t interested in job-hopping; sometimes, though, workers must leave a job because the company closes its doors.

The job cycle has decreased slightly from 4.6 years, in January 2014, to 4.2 years, in January 2016. This means, on average, employees are staying in a job for a shorter time than before, roughly a half a year less. If your co-workers are leaving at regular intervals, your employer may assume you’re going to follow suit. If you want to stick around, you must show a commitment for the long haul.

For those working in fast-moving careers such as technology or marketing, the relentless pace can feel exhausting. As well, career longevity is difficult to come by, given industry forces you can’t control or even influence. By shifting industries, moving to one with greater career longevity, you may feel more confident in your ability to make long-term plans.

For example, teaching, law, sales and finance still provide much longer than average career lifespans. Of course, each of these areas requires specialised training, often several years of such training. Although the idea of staying with a single technology company for twenty or more years or more sounds absurd, many teachers and lawyers stay with their employers for much longer; long life spans and the roll back of mandatory retirement laws will extend these careers to fifty or sixty years. Even if you have to invest in additional education, the peace of mind through a career with more longevity may be worth the cost.

Workers reporting high levels of job satisfaction often report much, much higher life satisfaction, such as relations with co-workers, on and off the job. Thus, those with whom we work are likely more important, when it comes to career longevity, than where we work, that is, in what industry or for what employer. Co-worker support is invaluable as is the time spent developing your ability to resolve interpersonal conflicts.

If you're someone that co-workers enjoy and you add value to your organization, it’s likely there will be a place for you. Even if you aren’t naturally a people person, you can improve office relationships through deliberate learning and practice. Off the job socialising also helps improve on-the-job relations.

Fifty is the new forty, claimed Steven Tyler, of Aerosmith, in 1998, and he was right. Two generations ago, forty was the age when women and especially men realised work-related adjustments were required; memory seemed to slow down, as did reaction time, and employers began to think of replacing a worker.


Seventy is the new fifty.

In 2018, Tyler likely claimed sixty is the new forty. He definitely said seventy is the new fifty on his seventieth birthday. Tyler is the baby-boom version of Jack Benny, a radio sitcom star whose vain character was forever thirty-eight years old.

Job change for the older worker is more complex. Employers may be reluctant to hire someone, regardless of expertise, that might retire in five or seven years. Will the corporate investment have time to pay off is a key consideration for the employer.

Accepting some age-related adjustments, being realistic, is necessary for older workers seeking new occupational challenges. News reporting, although it is remarkably interesting work, is demanding, physically and mentally. A sixty-year-old is unlikely to find the stamina for the job, even though she or he has superior intellectual skills.

Changing jobs is likely the wisest decision for an older worker. The older worker has some distinct advantages. For example, he or she likely built a network of industry contacts, over time, and self-actualisation, is more the goal than is money, although a better salary would be welcome.

How can you develop career longevity, especially if you’re in a fast-changing field, such as technology, marketing or social media? Here’s what I’ve learned from watching coworkers that have successfully stayed with an organization long-term.

It’s essential to take care of the basic skills needed to become an expert at your job. Don’t just show up and expect complete on the job training. Those that are serious about staying in a role long-term become experts, that is, someone too valuable for the company to lose.

In addition to basic competency, make sure to do the little things right. Show up on time. Reliably do your job.

The skills that earned you a job, in the first place, aren’t enough to keep you there forever. In some industries where skills and tools change quickly, it’s even more important to stay up-to-date with your skills. Use the internet to research your job, informally, but on a regular basis.

Even if you’re not working in a fast-moving field, consistent progress, of your knowledge and skills, delivers long-term longevity. The white paper on digital marketing is not just true for marketing; in every industry, you have to be good at a little of everything. You should know what every department in your company is doing and why as well as a little bit about how they do it.

If you’re not sure where to begin advancing your skills, consider attending an industry conference. Every industry has at least one annual conference, there many regional conferences, too. Your employer may happily cover the cost of attending. When you attend a conference, you discover current trends facing your industry and its workers.

At a conference, you may discover contacts that might help you make an effective job change, such as into management. Moreover, you gain insights into the problems, tools and opportunities expected to change your industry, in the next few years; you can begin preparing for such changes now.

If you don’t have time for a full conference, there are local and online workshops, reading industry blogs or simply connecting with other industry workers to help you identify skill improvement areas. Once you identify what you need to learn, there are online courses that provide the knowledge and skills mentoring you need.


Strategy is most important.

Career longevity isn’t an easy goal to realise. Most anyone can learn it, but developing a strategy is most important, as there are forces beyond your control. Begin putting strategy into action to set up for long-term career success.

Hilary Thompson is an active freelance writer, on the environment and business. She is a mother of two. She runs on coffee and fumes.

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