Developing career resilience
Developing career resilience

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1 Careers and resilience in the modern world

In the Evan Davis video that you watched in Week 1 Activity 5, Davis mentioned that the median (average) time for employees to remain in a job is four years. You may have thought that in a time of economic change people move more frequently – young people in particular (see Table 1). Younger people are more likely to move jobs after a shorter amount of time with their employer, but the tendency to remain in a job longer as an individual has changed little since the 1980s.

Table 1 Median years of tenure with a current employer in the US, January 2014

AgeLength of employment (years)
(adapted from BLS, 2014)

Movement between jobs is an important part of career building as people test options, build experience, gain skills and seek to earn more. In Week 1 you noted that employers are taking on less responsibility for career development than previously, shifting the responsibility to the employee. So are people wanting promotion now more likely to seek it outside their company than they would have done before?

Katherine Chudzikowski, an academic based at the University of Bath’s School of Management, compared how business studies graduates from the 1970s and 1990s experienced job moves over the first 15 years of their careers. She found that the graduates from the 1990s reported ‘having made significantly more career transitions throughout the first 15 years of their career than their 1970 counterparts’ (Chudzikowski, 2012, p. 304). They had moved more frequently to new organisations and also more often within their own organisation. Even so, the traditional route of obtaining promotion in their own organisation remained the most common form of career development. However, career-building tactics vary by sector.

How far does this research from 1990s chime with what you see in your sector and with your experience?

You might be in a role where frequent changes of employers are the norm, or you may work in a sector where stability is the norm, or where any opportunities for promotion or even stability can feel scarce. You may remember the discussions from Week 1 about growing numbers of people moving to self-employment.

Which are the tactics you see around you that you might try out?

It is important, too, to distinguish between changing jobs in the same field and making a career change where you draw on different skills and experience. For example, a career change could be from managing construction work to teaching young people construction skills. As a teacher your practical experience is key, but you will be using new skills in the classroom to explain, and make lessons helpful and engaging.

For increasing numbers of people, holding off on thoughts of career development while we take any job to pay our way and regroup – a stepping-stone role – is also common. These could be short-term stopgap roles to cover a rough patch or out-of-hours second jobs in a whole new area to increase earnings. Any of these might be responses to changes in the external environment and require resilience in different ways.

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