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Michael Page International

Opinion Page

Are the days of the traditional job for life really over?

Posted by on Jun 27 15:29. | Edit

Listening to a colleague tell me a story about a once successful and high profile investment banker who unexpectedly resigned to open his own macaroon bakery got me thinking – do people still believe in a job for life? Sitting comfortably in the same job with one company for decades is now much more unusual. Increased competition, ever developing technology and changing economic conditions have raised a company’s expectations of its employees – pushing them to continually prove that they are active and progressive. In fact, while speaking with one of my long standing clients, Tim Carlier (ex-sales director, Barclaycard Business & Worldpay) about the topic he suggests that the infamous saying, ‘last in – first out’, is a thing of the past.

So what makes someone more appealing to a new company – a decade of loyalty or a history of diverse experience? Consider the following: Candidate one is a person who has had only one employer lasting ten years. Candidate two is a person who has had a number of more brief jobs. Both pose advantages and disadvantages, as well as questions. The first may bring loyalty and consistency, equally they may be unable or unwilling to adapt to new ideas, lack motivation or show an unattractive aversion to innovation. Candidate two may bring modernity and colourful experience. However, is a lack of previous loyalty indicative of a person who may never be professionally monogamous? Another of my clients, Dean Skidmore, sales director at Ingenuity Digital believes that as an employer the thought of becoming the next stepping stone is hugely unattractive.

There are varying preferences within industries about which employee history is best, for instance in my speciality area, sales, short tenures are much more common and accepted. This is because the sales world is very dynamic, so the skill set and service provided is not attached to a specific company. Whereas, for Tim in the corporate world, a series of 12 to 18 month tenures sets alarm bells ringing because for a failing employee this is a typical timescale for an employer to affect an exit. However, overall it is quite normal for people to change their jobs every four years.

On the other side is recruitment, where long-standing commitment to a company gives you the best opportunity to build long-standing relationships which stay with you for your entire career. This trust between a consultant and candidate/client doesn’t happen overnight but takes many years of providing expert market knowledge and advice. Should you change companies these relationships are likely to be disrupted.

As a global recruitment company, where our people are the heart of our business, we believe that long standing commitment is essential for recruitment. Therefore we very rarely hire externally for senior positions and heavily invest in the growth and development of our best people so they are with us from the ground up. In fact, 87% of our directors and above have been promoted internally.

At the end of the day sometimes people find themselves in one boat or another so what can you do to ensure you are presenting your experience in the best way – whether it is in one company or 10?

1. Be able to explain your actions. Kevin Fisher, HR director at Jerrold Holdings summed this up to me recently, saying that neither end of the spectrum goes against a candidate that he is interested in, as long as they make clear why they have moved or stayed in the same place. So always remember to write your CV with this in mind, making it clear why you have made choices to stay or move, and particularly highlighting what skills you have developed.

2. Show progression – even if you have stayed with one company. This is particularly important to my Finance colleague Nicholas Kirk and to Tim Carlier who both stressed that the most important thing for them was to see progression over a specific period. This means showing significant promotions on a regular basis and a pattern of development and change within an organisation.

Although the traditional ‘job for life’ might be a dying trend in some industries, the tips above help any candidate to not be pigeonholed as restless or stagnant.

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