Wis­dom of stay­ing put

Peo­ple who stay in the one place a long time know some­thing worth hear­ing, writes Alison Aprhys

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Weekend Career One -

WHILE most of us ac­cept the fact that we will change jobs or pro­fes­sions sev­eral times, there are still a lucky few whose first work­ing ex­pe­ri­ence was so ful­fill­ing that they are still there, many years down the track.

Nearly 25 years af­ter found­ing the pop­u­lar Avalon surf shop in Syd­ney, Beach With­out Sand, David Wat­son re­mains en­thu­si­as­tic.

‘‘ I was liv­ing and surf­ing in Avalon and do­ing an ac­count­ing de­gree at univer­sity when I de­cided to set up BWS,’’ he re­calls.

Wat­son and his friends were frus­trated that the near­est surf shop was sev­eral sub­urbs away, so he de­cided to set up his own. BWS is now a lo­cal in­sti­tu­tion, with a new gen­er­a­tion of surfers visit­ing the main shop — still in its orig­i­nal North Avalon lo­ca­tion.

‘‘ The BWS Avalon shop is more for the core surfer who wants more tech­ni­cal ad­vice,’’ he ex­plains. ‘‘ Whereas our Palm Beach store is more sea­sonal, so we have lots of hire boards and sell rashies, sun­block, ice creams and drinks.’’

Wat­son says he is happy he fin­ished a busi­ness de­gree; it’s come in very use­ful. ‘‘ When I started BWS I’d done most of the de­gree, and then I took a cou­ple more years to fin­ish it off,’’ he says.

En­thu­si­asm for the busi­ness can wax and wane, but he says he has a won­der­ful lifestyle: ‘‘ Some­times I have to go into town, and when I see all the traf­fic and think of the com­mute, it would drive me crazy. The surf­ing lifestyle is im­por­tant and I ap­pre­ci­ate that my chil­dren go to lo­cal school and work in the shop. It gives me the op­por­tu­nity to be here and see them grow up.’’

Wat­son has also in­spired staff loy­alty, with his as­sis­tant and fel­low surfer Chris Friend clock­ing up some 20 years. ‘‘ He’s an in­te­gral part of the busi­ness,’’ says Wat­son.

Ac­cord­ing to the Aus­tralian Bureau of Sta­tis­tics, of the 10.8 mil­lion peo­ple who were em­ployed last year, fewer than 2.5 mil­lion had been with their cur­rent em­ployer/busi­ness for 10 years or more.

‘‘ To­day’s re­al­ity is that we are all part of a highly mo­bile work­force that likes to gain ex­pe­ri­ence in a num­ber of en­vi­ron­ments — the con­cept of a ‘ job for life’ is fairly out­dated for a lot peo­ple th­ese days,’’ says Julie Mills, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Re­cruit­ment & Con­sult­ing Ser­vices As­so­ci­a­tion. ‘‘ The buoy­ant labour mar­ket is also con­tribut­ing to this, as peo­ple feel there are lots of op­por­tu­ni­ties out there. It’s a case of the grass be­ing greener.’’

For or­nithol­o­gist Peter Hig­gins, work­ing 18 years on a project for Birds Aus­tralia (BA) was a la­bor of love. ‘‘ When I started work­ing on the Hand­book of Aus­tralian, New Zealand and Antarc­tic Birds (HANZAB), I was an edi­to­rial as­sis­tant . . . some­one who could write, but more im­por­tantly knew birds and had con­tacts in the bird world,’’ re­calls Hig­gins.

BA is ded­i­cated to the con­ser­va­tion, study and en­joy­ment of Aus­tralia’s na­tive birds and their habi­tats, and HANZAB is a highly re­garded and award-win­ning en­cy­clo­pe­dia of seven vol­umes. Be­fore work­ing on this mam­moth tome, Hig­gins stud­ied zo­ol­ogy and worked as an as­sis­tant war­den at a bird re­serve in West­ern Aus­tralia.

By 1997 he was a se­nior ed­i­tor. ‘‘ I in­tended to stay at HANZAB a few years but ended up see­ing it through to the fi­nal vol­ume, as I wanted to fin­ish it in the spirit of the way it was started,’’ he says. He is now writ­ing a chap­ter on the 180 species of hon­eyeaters for a book of 11 vol­umes, this one for a Span­ish pub­lisher.

Melinda Bufton, di­rec­tor of Periscope Mode: Ca­reer Ad­vice for the 21st Cen­tury, be­lieves that we should be lis­ten­ing to the wis­dom from peo­ple who are de­fy­ing the ‘‘ dis­pos­able job’’ trend. ‘‘ With a few ex­cep­tions, the ex­pe­ri­ence of work­ing in the one job for 20 years or more is a gen­er­a­tional thing,’’ says Bufton.

‘‘ Be­cause the trend over the past 10-15 years has been in the op­po­site di­rec­tion, to­wards con­tract work, ‘ port­fo­lio ca­reers’, and fre­quent mov­ing as a ca­reer de­vel­op­ment strat­egy, so there is now a ten­dency to be dis­mis­sive of those who’ve stayed put,’’ she says.

‘‘ But peo­ple stay in their job for di­verse rea­sons, and one is that they love their work. Most of us would se­cretly love to en­joy our work so much that we never want to leave, so we should lis­ten to those peo­ple who have this, and see what they have to say.’’

In one spot: David Wat­son started his surf shop 25 years ago and is en­thu­si­as­tic in keep­ing it go­ing

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