Career Paths and Generational Gaps

Approximately three months ago I made the decision that I wanted to change jobs. I was choosing to leave my job for a variety of reasons, that I'll get to later, but this decision revealed to me how different career paths are for those entering the full time workforce now vs the time when our parents would have. I mentioned to my mom in mid-August that I was looking for a new job. Her response to me was, "I swear you're going to be the death of me child." I had no idea what she was talking about.

Over the course of my search as I reached out in the community to find opportunities, applied to different jobs, and eventually interviewed at different companies I had conversations with my mom that lead me to one very important realization; my generation doesn't view career paths as a linear, vertical trajectory. When my mom got her first full time job, she planned to stay there for as long as possible and work her way up. That was the only way she saw it. She saw changing jobs as something you only did out of necessity, not out of a desire. Meanwhile, although I loved my job originally things had changed in a way that made me want something different. So I just went out and found it. To my mother this was absolutely insane and she was terrified I wouldn't find a job and would need to move home (despite the fact that I love my mom and she is my best friend, heck no would I ever want to do that!).

The Facts


In previous generations job changes most frequently happened when people were forced to change jobs. That is to say their company experienced lay-offs, they moved, etc. Don't get me wrong, some people still switched jobs just because they wanted to it was just less common. Generation Y is currently changing jobs 22% more frequently than Generation X is  (Gen X vs Gen Y Job Statistics). This is especially true in the tech sector. Even top technology companies such as Tesla only have an average employee tenure of 2.1 years (Average Employee Tenure at Top Tech Companies).

Younger generations are becoming incredibly used to a society in which there is a great deal of uncertainty. We are accustomed to things changing, so why not our jobs? We make it a point to be ready for everything that we can be and deal with things the best we can when they go awry. The fact is, our generation is prepared for and expecting to have non-linear career paths. There is an excellent quote "It's time to leverage job churn instead of being victimized by it" (Why Non-Linear Is The Career Path Forward) Those are great stats to throw out there but what does it mean for new people entering the industry? It means this ain't your mommas career path!

My Two Cents


We grow up being taught by those older and wiser than our selves. But the fact of the matter is that things change over time. Career paths are one of those things that have changed. It took me longer than it should have to realize and understand that I didn't need to stay at one place forever. So I'm going to share the three biggest takeaways I have from why I changed jobs and things that I will now always ensure I have in any job moving forward:

1. Know Your Goals

This is an important part of any career path. You need to know what your goals and aspirations are in order to make a plan for how to get there. For example, I know that my goal is to eventually become a technical manager. That means I want to still be involved in the day to day work of the team, in my case testing, while also having the ability to take on more management aspects of the team as well. Knowing this allows you to formulate a plan for how to get there. It allows you to identify and work on areas that you know are crucial to develop to eventually succeed. 

If you find yourself in a situation where you aren't getting the support you need to reach those goals, or where those goals are unattainable to you for whatever reason (i.e. constantly hiring from outside with no internal promotion) then it may be a sign you need to look elsewhere. It's always good to remember to always talk to your manager or higher-ups in case there are opportunities, they just aren't obviously presented.

2. You Come First

If you ever find yourself in a situation where the work you do day to day is having a negative impact on your life, something needs to change. Stress is a regular part of every job, but continual stress day in and day out is not. Especially if you find that the stress of your job is negatively impacting other aspects of your life outside of work it's a sign you need to focus on yourself. 

The other side of this is ensuring you don't stay in a job just because you think they will suffer without you. As much as we would all like to thing we are the lynch pin that holds everything together, most of the time we aren't. The company and team will continue on, and they will find a way to work through it. Ensure that you are putting yourself above everything, because at the end of the day a job is just a job and you are worth so much more.

3. Have a Mentor

Sure, mentors aren't vital to career growth but they definitely help. Having someone that you can look up to, ask questions of, and learn from is important especially in the beginning of your career. Without that advice and feedback from an ally it is hard to grow and understand the areas that you may need to work on to further your career. I found myself in a situation without a direct mentor in my workplace and it was only after I left that I realized how drastically my growth had slowed without that personality in my workplace.

Additionally, mentors outside of the workplace are also a great resource for career growth. They can give insights into different jobs, different situations and different environments which can help you to identify things you may wish to do in your future career, or things you will realize you never want to encounter or experience. 

Bonus

Always be open to opportunities. You should never turn an opportunity down before you fully understand what is being offered to you. If job offers come your way, ensure you hear them out and understand the opportunity, the benefits and the risks that come with it. You can never make a decision without all of the information, otherwise you may make a decision that you regret. There are so many amazing opportunities out there, find them and be open to them finding you. 

And So

The people who teach us and raise us do so with the knowledge that they have, but remember that there is always more to learn. There is no right or wrong way to grow your career but you have to make the decisions that are best not only for others but you need to make the decisions that are best for yourself. Ensure that no matter what you are doing that you are constantly improving, learning and growing not only in your career but in your life as well. The best piece of advice I can possibly give to anyone beginning your career is this: Remember that it is YOUR career, and do with it what makes you happiest.


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