Career change is an endless loop now

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Here’s what I mean by an endless career change loop:

  • You get a new job and are vaguely excited about it
  • The onboarding process isn’t great, but you think “That’s OK, it isn’t great at most places”
  • Eventually you meet 2–3 people you didn’t know of during the hiring process who seem to do something very similar to what you do
  • Now you’re worried about your job role a little bit but you still find ways/reasons to brush it off
  • But now your manager isn’t communicating — and sometimes is even a real jerk
  • Like 41% of the global workforce in a given year, you decide to look for a new job
  • But because you’re not very far into this position, openly looking deems you a “job-hopper”
  • HR departments stigmatize job-hoppers
  • Unless you have good connections, it becomes hard to get past the gatekeeper level
  • You stay at the less-than-stellar job 12–18 months longer than you anticipated you might
  • In general, it’s pretty depressing
  • Then you move to a new job
  • Go back to the first bullet point

Some people do this every three-four years for, oh, 40–50 years and call that “career development.” Hint: it’s not.

Bottom line: pretty much the only way you can make a quality living for yourself monetarily in the modern age is/are:

  • Relentlessly focus on execution at a big company and get in with the right “rabbis”
  • Job-hop
  • Do it yourself

Unfortunately, all three are somewhat of a challenge (for different reasons). But now we’ve got some new research (ish) underscoring the problems of the great career change circle.

The career change, monetarily

This is from Forbes in 2014, but got some attention recently. The basic idea: staying employed at the same company for 2+ years will earn you 50% or less over your lifetime. Yes, less. Remember the days when your grandmother said “get a good job with a good firm?” Those days are mostly gone.

Here’s a pull-quote from 2014:

The average raise an employee can expect in 2014 is 3%. Even the most underperforming employee can expect a 1.3% raise. The best performers can hope for a 4.5% raise. But, the inflation rate is currently 2.1% calculated based on the Consumer Price Index published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This means that your raise is actually less than 1%. This is probably sobering enough to make you reach for a drink.

Now, the 2016 numbers were a bit better:

  • Lebanon: 11.5% wage growth for 2016
  • China: 6.3% wage growth for 2016
  • India: 4.7% wage growth for 2016
  • Germany: 2.7% wage growth for 2016
  • United States: 2.7% wage growth for 2016
  • Canada: 2.6% wage growth for 2016
  • United Kingdom: 2.3% wage growth for 2016

Real wages are averages adjusted for inflation.

Let’s say we went 1.5% to 2.7% U.S. from 2014 to 2016 for real wages. That’s not bad. But 20–25 years ago, 5% real wage increases annually were normative in advanced economies. That’s come down quite a bit.

Why?

I’m not out here trying to write a macro-econ paper, but I can give you two quick reasons:

Broader, more nuanced: Market forces, increased globalization, etc.

Easier to say at a cocktail party: Upper levels of companies hoarding more wealth for themselves, including creating job titles for their friends

What does this all say about loyalty?

Nothing great, but it shouldn’t be breaking news that both employee loyalty (to the company) and corporate loyalty (to the employee) have been in decline in recent years. I personally kind of came to think that most work is a means to an end for many, but some still take it very seriously — whether or not that’s true or how they believe they need to behave is a case-by-case evaluation.

Can we do anything about the career change hamster wheel?

Get off it. The three bullets you need are above. Either:

  • Hit the Gig Economy (which has many flaws itself)
  • Find a “rabbi” at work and execute like a dog for him/her
  • Keep doing the career change every four years deal

It’s your call, Jedi. But as hiring processes become increasingly worse, I’d probably avoid the third bullet. Health insurance can be a racket on the first bullet, and executing like a dog for a higher-up sometimes gets you nowhere (50% less career earnings). It’s a tough road out there. Career change is just one part of it.

Oh, and while we’re here, bosses do have a major role to play in development and pursuit of career goals, including framing up “career conversations,” but many never understand this — and that plays big into the career change circle we all get on.

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