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Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Workers change jobs more often than believed


Dave Langman has changed jobs four times in the past 20 years. Each switch was an adjustment, but the last one was the biggest: Langman, who lives in Orangeville, Ont., went back to college to become a teacher after two decades working as a mechanical engineer.


Dave Langman has changed jobs four times in the past 20 years. Each switch was an adjustment, but the last one was the biggest: Langman, who lives in Orangeville, Ont., went back to college to become a teacher after two decades working as a mechanical engineer.
"I thought, instead of doing something I'm not really enjoying, maybe it's time to move on to something I like to do," says Langman, 48, who started teaching high school math last week.
It turns out Langman is far from the exception. According to a recent study in the United States, Baby Boomers and workers from the "younger Boomer" generation -- those between ages 39 and 48 -- switched jobs over the course of their careers at a much greater pace than thought.
The study, conducted over 25 years by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, tracked the employment histories of 9,964 workers who were 14 to 22 when first interviewed and 39 to 48 when interviewed last. It found that the average younger Boomer has held 10.5 jobs throughout their careers. That works out to a job change about every 2 1/3 years. A job was defined as an "uninterrupted period of work with a particular employer." A promotion or change of position within one company was not counted as a different job.
The trend is comparable in Canada, recruitment experts say, where corporate restructuring and downsizing has led to fewer opportunities for upward mobility.
Job hopping today is considered an important part of career development, says Don Nolan, president of Nolan Associates, an executive recruitment firm in Toronto that specializes in recruiting individuals with salaries of more than $100,000 a year. Twenty or 30 years ago, many employers believed somebody with two or more jobs on their resume would be an employment risk. "But that type of thinking is long gone," he says.
"The people who do move around are far more appealing to an employer because they have had an enriched career. They have seen more than one culture, more than one industry and organization," Nolan says. He points to big corporations luring top talent from other fields, such as Alan Mulally, Ford Motor Co.'s new president and chief executive, who came to the automaker from Boeing Co., an airline manufacturer.
However, Nolan warns holding too many jobs throughout a career can be a liability. "In our shop we refer to somebody that has moved 2 1/3 years consistently over their career -- which would mean 10 jobs by the time you are in your 40s -- as a 'two-year person.' We tend to avoid those people because it's a pretty obvious predictor that you're not going to be on your next job for more than two years."
The U.S. study did not pinpoint the reason for the job changes. However, Jeff Rosin, president of Korn/Ferry Canada, an executive recruitment firm, says about one-third of people who change jobs do so because they don't feel sufficiently challenged or don't expect further career growth in their current jobs. Another 20 per cent leave because of ineffective leadership, while about 17 per cent are looking for other opportunities. Roughly 15 per cent are let go by the company and 10 per cent undergo a complete career change, Rosin says.
Others change jobs because today's corporate culture prohibits upward mobility within one company, says Andrew Gilchrist, vice-president of Nolan Associates. "Twenty to 30 years ago, companies had multiple layers of management opportunity, which meant employees could spend the bulk of their careers with one company and still have upward mobility," he says.
"Over time, restructuring, downsizing, the number of opportunities as you go up the corporate ladder have been minimized. Opportunities within your organization are not there the way they were 20 to 30 years ago. A lot of times, individuals will get frustrated because there's nowhere for them to go -- the boss isn't going anywhere, and there are no moves within their organizations -- so they have no other choice but to look outside."
The findings support conventional wisdom that younger people move jobs more frequently than workforce veterans. The study found that the workers averaged three jobs while they were 22 to 25, compared with two jobs from age 36 to 40.
"Young people are challenged to figure out what they want to be," Nolan says. "Most people spend the first five years [of their career] figuring what the hell they want to do."
Men generally spent a larger percentage of time employed than women, the research showed. Men worked about 85 per cent of the possible work weeks during the period of study, while women worked 70 per cent.
Surprisingly, Rosin says less than five per cent of people leave a job because they feel they are under-compensated.

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