The old switcheroo

Chang­ing jobs strength­ens the re­sumé

Winnipeg Free Press - Section H - - FRONT PAGE - BAR­BARA BOWES

HOW many jobs have you had? How many ca­reers? If you’re like me, you may have had eight to 10 jobs and/or three to four ca­reers in your life­time. Yet, as I pro­gressed in my ca­reer and de­lib­er­ately moved from one job to an­other af­ter a ten­ure of ap­prox­i­mately three to four years, I re­mem­ber my fa­ther say­ing, “Why can’t you keep a job?”

I also re­mem­ber reel­ing in shock and an­noy­ance be­cause, for the most part, all of my job and ca­reer changes were planned and de­lib­er­ate. I knew I wanted to try dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ences and build up my skills reper­toire. What sur­prised me was my fa­ther la­belled my mov­ing from one job to an­other as “job hop­ping” and felt it would be detri­men­tal to my ca­reer. And then just the other day, a gen­tle­man put the same ques­tion to me: “Why did you move around so much in your ca­reer?”

Frankly, first of all, I firmly be­lieve that in to­day’s world, there’s no such thing as a guar­an­teed job, nor are ca­reers sim­ply a lin­ear pro­gres­sion up a ca­reer lad­der. So, from that view­point, this means if in­di­vid­u­als don’t con­tinue build­ing their skills and ex­pe­ri­ence in ev­ery way they can, they’ll face the risk of be­ing caught with out­dated skills and ex­per­tise in the next wave of down­siz­ing and right­siz­ing.

And be­lieve me, it’s no fun be­ing out of work for an en­tire year while fac­ing the chal­lenge of look­ing for new work. So, my ad­vice is to de­lib­er­ately con­sider job mo­bil­ity as one of the many strate­gies for your ca­reer-plan­ning process. How do you do this? The fol­low­ing tips might help you along.

Fol­low ex­ter­nal lead­ers — we all have in­di­vid­u­als we ad­mire. Get as much in­for­ma­tion as you can re­gard­ing their suc­cess­ful ca­reer path. Ask to meet these in­di­vid­u­als and in­quire about the var­i­ous jobs they held. In­quire as to why they sought out their var­i­ous jobs and what skills they learned to bring them to their cur­rent role? Ask for guid­ance and ad­vice.

As­sess in­ter­nal ca­reer paths — look around your own cur­rent or­ga­ni­za­tion. Fol­low your own lead­ers through their ca­reer path. Did their ca­reer path in­clude ten­ure in mar­ket­ing, fi­nance, hu­man re­sources or an­other op­er­a­tional de­part­ments? Did their path in­clude field work and/or a move to an­other prov­ince? How has their ca­reer path im­pacted their ca­reer? What skills did they learn and what can you learn from their ex­pe­ri­ence?

In­ves­ti­gate avail­able ca­reer paths — check within your cur­rent or­ga­ni­za­tion and iden­tify the var­i­ous ca­reer paths avail­able to you. What skills and ex­pe­ri­ence would you gain if you moved from one depart­ment to an­other within your com­pany? Meet with var­i­ous man­agers and lead­ers and in­quire about cor­po­rate goals and where you might fit in the fu­ture. Keep your eye on op­por­tu­ni­ties to con­trib­ute to spe­cial projects that might lead to a new job within your com­pany.

In­ves­ti­gate ca­reer en­hance­ment — most of us rec­og­nize a par­tic­u­lar skill that we love to en­gage in. Look to­ward the fu­ture and as­sess how a par­tic­u­lar skill might lead to a to­tally new ca­reer path. For in­stance, the oc­cu­pa­tions of workplace health and safety, lean fa­cil­i­ta­tors, or pro­fes­sional project man­agers didn’t even ex­ist all that many years ago. I’m sure there will con­tinue to be new oc­cu­pa­tions de­vel­op­ing in the fu­ture. Pay at­ten­tion, get in on the ground floor and get in on early train­ing and cer­ti­fi­ca­tion.

In­ves­ti­gate ca­reer change — many people start their ca­reer in one pro­fes­sion and then change pro­fes­sions com­pletely. Take an as­sess­ment of your trans­fer­able skills as well as your likes and dis­likes. De­ter­mine where else your skills lie and in­ves­ti­gate how to move into that pro­fes­sion. Typ­i­cally, this will re­quire re­tool­ing some skills and build­ing new pro­fes­sional net­works. It may even re­quire that you take a dip in your pay rate, but in the long term, job sat­is­fac­tion is what you are seek­ing.

Con­sider ge­o­graphic mo­bil­ity — many em­ploy­ees find them­selves rooted firmly in their com­mu­nity and fail to even con­sider a ge­o­graphic move, but, if oth­ers aren’t will­ing to jump on this op­por­tu­nity, per­haps it is a good op­tion for you. That’s be­cause in many cases, a ge­o­graphic move will en­able you to take on higher lev­els of lead­er­ship, or in other words, to scale the ca­reer lad­der at a faster pace. It gives you an op­por­tu­nity to learn how to mas­ter a change in en­vi­ron­ment, a change in com­mu­nity and to make a name for yourself as “will­ing and able.”

Seek pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment — take some time to ex­am­ine the var­i­ous skills you want to learn. Know that as you progress to higher-level or­ga­ni­za­tional roles, you’ll need a broader base of skills. Typ­i­cally, these skills in­clude strate­gic plan­ning, hu­man re­source plan­ning, op­er­a­tional fore­cast­ing, busi­ness modelling, con­tract ne­go­ti­a­tion and/or lo­gis­tics man­age­ment. Find out where and how you can learn these skills. Seek out pro­fes­sional cer­ti­fi­ca­tion where ap­pro­pri­ate.

Build a unique net­work — reach out be­yond your pro­fes­sional net­work and build a broader base of per­sonal re­la­tion­ships. Take on a vol­un­teer lead­er­ship role where you can learn and ap­ply higher-level skills, get a deeper breadth of ex­pe­ri­ence and get known for your ac­com­plish­ments. This also en­ables you to be­come a “known en­tity” in a to­tally dif­fer­ent en­vi­ron­ment and will of­ten lead to other job op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Seek out larger em­ploy­ers — there are nu­mer­ous large em­ploy­ers that have world­wide of­fices and of­fer op­por­tu­ni­ties to in­di­vid­u­als in­ter­ested in ca­reer mo­bil­ity. In to­day’s global world, these are prized op­por­tu­ni­ties to ex­pe­ri­ence dif­fer­ent cul­tures and dif­fer­ent ways of ap­proach­ing busi­ness. Check them out and go for it!

The old-world ca­reer path where em­ploy­ees were able to stay with one com­pany for 30 years is long gone. People are sim­ply more mo­bile to­day and de­lib­er­ately look for op­por­tu­ni­ties to learn and grow. At the same time, a rule of thumb is that it takes at least one year or more to be­come pro­fi­cient in any new job and there­fore in­di­vid­u­als need to stay for a rea­son­able pe­riod of time. For most people, this time frame is ap­prox­i­mately four to five years. The key to suc­cess is to al­ways fo­cus on en­sur­ing the right match to your skills, com­mu­ni­ca­tion style and per­sonal mo­ti­va­tors so that you cre­ate a sat­is­fy­ing ca­reer.

Bar­bara J. Bowes, FCHRP, CMC, CCP, M.Ed. is pres­i­dent of Legacy Bowes Group. She can be reached at


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