Friday, May 18, 2012

Is It Unrealistic To Expect a "Career Path"?

It's time to change jobs again. Several factors are involved. The simplest way to explain is is, once again, the learning curve has flattened out and I'm ready for more responsibility, but it's not available in my current position. I'm not the kind of person who can simply do the same job for 20 years with little or no change.

I've had quite a few jobs in my life. I've done time as a janitor, paperboy, fast food worker, sailor, alarm installer, field engineer, engineer, Realtor, IT manager, and Project Manager. I even worked part time in a liquor store for a while.

There was a time when I would take a job hoping to be able to stay with that employer long term. I'm not sure if it was something I picked up from my dad, who retired from the Air Force and will eventually retire from a government job. That's the way it USED to be.

But in my experience, I do a job for about 2 to 6 years and decide the best way to move up is to move out. Sometimes I get tired of the conditions (U.S. Navy). Sometimes I need more money, like when we had Joshua in 2004 and our goal became allowing Christina to stay home with him. Sometimes I'm just bored and want more responsibility, like when I graduated from the University of Phoenix and my company had nothing for me. Once the company and I both decided we weren't a good fit for each other, and I lost the game of chicken (I'd been looking for a job for months by the point, but they laid me off before I found anything).

I used to ask about the career path during the job interview. I'd mention I want to find a company that I can grow within; that as I learn and gain experience, I can move up and provide mentoring to newer employees and eventually have a say in leadership and strategy decisions.

I've reached the point where I realize the employer is just as expendable to me as I am to them. As long as an employment relationship is mutually beneficial, I'll stick it out. I'll do the absolute best job I can in exchange for a paycheck. Knowing the employer can pretty much dump me at any time is a reminder that I have a similar luxury.

I've also been told in the current economy, if you stay in the same place for too long, people start to wonder what's wrong with you. Moving around provides you with different perspectives. You serve different missions. You get to work with different people and styles. To me it's more of an adventure to move around every couple of years. I get to meet new people and do new things. I get to learn. I get bored very quickly when I'm not learning. It's an aspect of my personality I've had to understand and accept.

When I look people who have made it high up the career ladder, I don't see very many who have been in the same company for a long time. Most of them have done different jobs with different organizations and have a vast wealth of experience.

I have essentially given up on a "career path" provided by an employer. I have accepted my career path is a "make your own zone". Although every time I start a new job, I ask "Is this the one I can stay at for a while?" because a job search and the interview process is a HUMUNGOUS PAIN IN THE ASS.
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