A Rock vs A Rolling Stone
Some say being a long-time ‘loyal’ employee has its benefits; some say being a job hopper is the only way you can be a smart careerist.
While I am cool with the casual approach among the Gen XYZs who think the next gig is just a click away, it is important to revisit the ABCs of grinding out a living under often trying circumstances. Let me remind people that work conditions aren’t exactly conducive during the pandemic, even for those with copious talent, drive, qualifications, and that magical ingredient that can take a career to the next level: vaulting ambition. Sounds Faustian and dark, but it’s true and can be an eye-opener for the millions considering jumping jobs or switching careers.
This pandemic is a dark but hopefully passing phase, hence building a career and staying the course takes time, patience, intelligence, experience and renewed effort in the middle of the health crisis that is coming in waves. It also needs a generous helping of luck, loads of sacrifice, and some skewered pride. Definitely not a walk in the park. Millions are starting from scratch or staring down the barrel as traditional jobs are drying up — thanks to disruptive technologies like AI. According to the World Economic Forum, AI could replace 85 million jobs across the world by 2025. The silver lining: it is expected to create 97 million by the same year. Data can be a great leveller.
While we wait for the worst to happen, I would advise job-seekers and those clinging on to their jobs to start small, think big, strive and wait for the employment scene to unravel. Meanwhile they will encounter horrible bosses, deal with poor pay and terrible work conditions. The trick is to stake it out. Holds true then and now. This may sound boring for the young and restless but it works in the long run. It’s better than being penniless and being out there on the job hunt.
I am still young, but I am less restless to switch jobs in my 40s than I was in my 20s, when I changed five jobs in the first ten years of my career. I even tried my hand at corporate communications which left me fatigued and spent. Modern spinmeisters and career gurus — and there are plenty of them — call such a situation a burnout. But for those with fire in their bellies and an appetite for hard work, anything is possible. Over the years, I have become a philosophical worker. Age and experience are a strange combination; they change one’s perspective. My boss recently asked if my younger self would have joined the news business of today which is struggling to draw the line between the social and virtual side of life. No, I said without a sliver of doubt.
So why stay in a job? Stability. Familiar faces at the workplace. Some of them become friends. Routine. Habit. A steady income. Insurance. Annual trips. Throw in the daily commute on the same roads, passing the same signals, watching the buildings and vehicles go by, which I like — it can be calming on stressful days.
Meanwhile, I am having ‘casual’ conversations with ‘super successful’ friends on their fabulous jobs and the good life they lead while I earnestly believe I do fruitful work in a shaky profession. I am thankful but I can’t miss the strain of condescension in people’s voices when I say I have stayed in my current job for 16 years.
They wonder why I am so stuck up, others think I should just chuck it and explore new opportunities before I hit my fumbling 50s. One guy who I detest owns five condominiums in Miami. He’s modest about his achievements, our mutual friends tell me. He’s jumped 15 jobs and moved up with his business acumen. But I like ‘hanging on’ to my job (as they call it) during what is being billed the ‘great resignation’ era. That’s because I was and am still passionate about the media and those small changes it does to lives; those little changes we make as journalists indeed matter. Many of my contemporaries are tech leaders, others are entrepreneurs. Still many more walk the corridors of power in government.
I may have missed the bus because I lacked courage. I was loyal if that is explanation enough. Meanwhile, HR experts proclaim that now’s the time to reskill, upskill and kill myself under the weight of expectations that I can’t possibly meet. I laugh as data pundits throw chunks of that junk at me. It seems the bold, the brash, and the beautiful are changing jobs at the drop of a hat during a global economic crisis; they are shaking things up and shouting: “Take this job and shove it!”
For me, it’s all a figment of the great imagination; it indeed is. Believe me. No one’s going anywhere. But before I go, here’s a rather bleak outlook on the employment front. The International Labour Organization projects that 207 million people in the organised sector will be unemployed this year. “There can be no real recovery from this pandemic without a broad-based labour market recovery. And to be sustainable, this recovery must be based on the principles of decent work — including health and safety, equity, social protection and social dialogue,” the ILO has said.
Idealistic jargon from a global organisation that has few executive powers. Baloney. I don’t buy it, nor should you. In modern jobs, only staying power matters. Passion, emotion, and ambition can wait. Stop being a quitter.