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Do You Really Want To Become Institutionalised Like Red From Shawshank Redemption?

Knowing when is the right time to change roles or seek progression via networking

There’s a famous saying which says you should ‘Always listen to your parents’. On this occasion can you please not listen to your parents!  Your family come from an era where job stability is the key words in every conversation. They watch the news, the read about the economy and they believe that if you have a stable, secure job now then you should stay in it irrespective of what the goal is for the next 5, 10 or 15 years.

My advice? It’s the exact opposite. In my 8 working years I’ve averaged around 2 years per role and personally that’s been long enough for the roles I was involved in. I’ve watched individuals institutionalised into an organisation because they have been in the same company for the past 10 years.

Of course there’s an exception. Those who continue to progress in a number of different roles, improve their skills set and ultimately drive personal development from the organisation they are part of. These in my opinion are few and far between. For the most part individuals become stagnant in their roles. Family come along, they buy a dog or have heavy direct debit payments to make on a new car. Other things take priority and the job becomes just that…..a job. An end to a means and a means to an end.

There’s a time and a place for that type of shit and if you’re a Generation Y child then your 20’s to early 30’s is not really that time. You’re relatively fresh in your career and have so much to learn and take in. It’s the time you take risks, make mistakes and make strides in your career. Watching people stumble on in the same role for years on end reminds me of Morgan Freeman’s character in Shawshank Redemption. His name was Red.

Red is known as the man who can get you ‘things’ in Shawshank prison but outside the Prison Red’s skills are limited, tailored to the system he is part of. This echoes the corporate world. Individuals stay in one job for too long, their skills are relevant within the organisation but redundant elsewhere. This is corporate institutionalisation. They are HR’s around the Globe right now trying to retain staff members but sometimes you need to think of your long term goals and strategy. Does the organisation get you to where you want to be in the future?

This advice isn’t going to sit well with all. Some may believe staying with one company brings stability, a managerial development plan and security. That could be the case but it can also highlight some of the fundamental flaws for those who decide on this route.

High Tech Industry/Digital industry changes so fast:

Fast Paced Industry

Some industries are fast paced. You need to keep up!

My audience is the high tech/digital savvy audience of which is an extremely fast paced industry. My previous organisation was extremely slow to force change which worried me from a personal development perspective. I would excitedly read blogs of new strategies to implement sending through to my manager with glee to be told that we run an increment cycles and that change could take at least 6 months. Talk about an enthusiasm killer?

The digital industry is fast paced and the skills you are implementing at your current job could be out of date for the rest of the industry. This is fine if the job is recession proof however a skills set not on track with the industry ‘standard’ skills set will leave you behind in the recruitment game.

Non Transferable Skills:

Staying in the same industry, working in the same company on the same job role will mean you have a specific skills set. The longer you work in this position there’s a strong chance your skill may be non transferable. For example: My previous organisation was using the online analytical program Omniture. My skills in Omniture were improving the more I used the program however the vastly used program within the industry was Google Analytics. Given my day to day role involved Omniture my knowledge of new Google Analytic advancements failed to progress.

Given the majority use Google Analytics my skills in Omniture are non transferable as this is typically not the tool of choice for the industry.  The reach of your potential role net then becomes smaller as you’re looking for companies who use predominantly the program you are used to.

Always assess which tools are industry preferred and make changes at your organisation to implement these tools. You need to keep your skills set in the whole game and not just the organisations game.

All your eggs in one basket:

All Eggs in One Basket

Is it right to put all your eggs in one single basket?

Staying in the same industry and the same role limits your ability to find alternative employment. What happens if your company runs into financial difficulties? What if you have to locate for a family members new job? By staying in the same role in the same industry limits your job search moving forward.  By having a rounded CV consisting of a number of industries and a variety of roles you essentially open yourself up for further opportunities in the future. Always think 5 years ahead and not short term.

Comfort Zone:

Comfort in the workplace for many may seem like the dream but this can also lead to complacency. You know the role you are doing like the back of your hand, the daily routine becomes the norm and you breeze through weeks and months without concerns.

The key to the comfort zone is how you assess it. Is the business landscape changing? Is there a reason to be worried about having the same job for a sustained period of time? If your role is still relevant within the business and externally then the comfort zone is not necessary a bad thing. You do however need to keep an eye on the ball.

I’ve seen companies begin implementing changes to strategy, move the organisation more digital yet employees have been blissfully unaware of this as they are in they are comfortable in their role without assessing the company’s strategy and where the company wants to be in 2,3,4 years time. Comfort zone is fine as long as your role within the comfort zone still has you developing your skills set on bar with industry standards.

Meeting new people:

Work is where many make lifelong friends. At the same time work is where I have made some of my best business connections. I received an email around 2 weeks ago from an ex business associate who needed some consultancy help. This was 2 ½ years down the line! By building that connection within a previous role the client still remembered me and the service I offered. This is a connection I may have never had if I’d have stayed in the same organisation.

Although staying in a business for a sustained period of time means you have great connections within the organisation you are limited externally as your dealings have been focused on a specific product/service and those individuals associated with that.

Ultimately I have met some of my best business connections by changing roles when the time is right and continuing to progress. You cannot measure the value of people and by meeting new associates within new industries, varied walks of life you inevitably build up a great support network. You never know when you may need these people or you never know when the right opportunity may arise for you.

Knowing your Sell by date:

Every role has a sell by date. Whether you’re the managing director of a global business or a marketing assistant for a regional organisation there’s always a time you have to progress internally or externally. In most occasions the progression will more likely be external as Generation Y’s have a tendency to want to progress quicker than a company dictates.

The key with any job role is knowing when it’s time to move on and this is the most difficult decision for most of us. We all have mortgages, bills to pay, families to feed and clothes to put on our backs but no move is ever going to be perfect. With any move there’s an element of risk but fundamentally if you are confident of your abilities within the workplace and what you can offer then seeking progression is healthy.

Analyse where you work, seek knowledge on the vision of the organisation and assess whether it’s the right time to stay on the train or jump off.

About the author

Ryan Gibson

Hey! I'm a 28 year old digital marketing guy residing in Leeds, England. My skill is in search marketing and I have gathered over 6 years experience of working on large multilingual campaigns for a number of FTSE 250 Organisations. After accepting a role with a business based in Singapore I began questioning traditional business practice and employee retention. This blog GenerationY.com was therefore born with focus on Y in the workplace. A millennial child at heart I aim to provide a voice for the 'misunderstood' generation and my goal is simply to change perception and corporate mind set on work/life attitudes; inspiring companies and individuals to seek change.

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