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Life begins at the end of your comfort zone: career changes are no longer a thing

In days gone by, a career change was an event. It was a thing that some people did, that changed everything for them, and people’s perception of them; it changed them from being a… into being a… Harrison Ford was a carpenter. Arnie was a bodybuilder. John Grisham started out as an accountant!

In the old days, people used to hold jobs for life. Then it became the norm to hold a job for ten years or so. Now it’s more like two.

I started out as an accountant. Then I became a banker. Now, I’m a recruiter. These titles defined me professionally, and each step was a significant one not just in my career but in my life. The career changes I made were based on a mix of dissatisfaction with certain parts of the previous position, a desire for more of the parts I liked about the current job, and blind opportunity presenting itself. Indeed, any career change is probably a mix of these: dissatisfaction, the prospect of something better, and opportunity arising.

But the truth is, the world has changed now. Career changes are now so prevalent, and their frequency so generally high, that they barely raise an eyebrow. The career change has ceased to be a thing. We are now no longer a…. but, vitally, we have the skills to…

This is a leap in the world of employment. It means, instead of recruiting professions, we recruiters are recruiting people, humans, collections of skills to answer a particular need of an employer. Skills like communication, leadership, change management, team management. The greater the number of transferable skills one has, the greater power they enjoy in the job market.

This change in the employment landscape presents both benefits and challenges for all of us: job seekers, recruiters and employers. Job seekers face a competitive market in which their qualifications may not be adequate to secure a job, as the position is now open to a variety of transferable-skilled individuals who are usually open to moving for a suitably compelling proposition. Recruiters face the challenge of deciphering the truth of job seekers’ assertions of skills, and placing them within an organisation looking for those skills, not simply a piece of paper. This is a complex task. And, finally, employers face the significant challenge of hanging onto skilled individuals who are open to better propositions elsewhere. The pressure on employers to compete in the realm of providing a comfortable and flexible working environment has never been higher.

All in all, this fast-moving and competitive environment no doubt presents challenges – we are all perhaps pressurized by both this and technology to perform at a higher and constant level than ever before. However, it also presents an opportunity like never before for us to iterate towards the right profession over time. In this job market, employees can try and never really have to buy: they can gather skills from each position they hold, and move towards the next one better equipped than before. They can keep looking for the perfect job, even as their idea of perfect job changes over time. They can face the edge of their comfort zones and enjoy constant professional growth. Employers reap the benefits of a widely skilled workforce. And even if employees don’t stay as long as employers would like, employers gain the benefit of dynamism, innovation, and freshness of ideas that can only come from a diversity and through-put of skills and experiences.

To me, the new world is a good one.

Where did you start your career? Where have you ended up now? Was it a ladder climb, or a series of lateral movements?

Is the reduced longevity of jobs a good or bad thing for you? Please share your thoughts!

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