Wisdom of staying put
People who stay in the one place a long time know something worth hearing, writes Alison Aprhys
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mobile workforce that likes to gain experience in a number of environments — the concept of a ‘ job for life’ is fairly outdated for a lot people these days,’’ says Julie Mills, chief executive of the Recruitment & Consulting Services Association.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