Jobs for Life: Time to shed the cobwebs!

800 371 Kamal Karanth

As a recruiter, I obviously like people who change jobs. Furthermore, I frown on people who haven’t changed their employer for the last 10 years or so. You can rubbish my opinion as a conflict of interest. But, I strongly believe you are missing out on an opportunity to evolve if you don’t change your job once in a while. Now, don’t rationalise saying I did five different roles with one company or grew every two years. The exposure and skills acquired by staying is never the same as working for another Employer.

Let’s now leave aside people who are going to retire from their current job and focus on the job leavers. More than 1 crore people change their jobs every year in India. That’s a large number of workers who are making the move for various reasons. Some of them may be even fired by their previous employer. Whether it’s a forced change or voluntary, employees moving on is now an acceptable social behavior.

Jobs for Starters

Recently in one of the MBA campus interviews, a Pharma major was describing their career progression. They highlighted the opportunities and presented a case study of how their MD has risen through the ranks to become a CEO in 15 years. One of the students promptly asked what she could learn in the first 3 years. She wanted to know what happens immediately in her career as that’s all the horizon she had. When she asked that question most of her peers in the room nodded in agreement. The embarrassed HR manager quickly recovered to talk about the initial exposure at the firm. Most executives and people entering the workforce have shorter career horizons.

Employees typically tell themselves “let me see how it goes this year and then decide to continue or leave”. Much of the decision after the year is dependent on the raise, job satisfaction, boss, and growth kind of factors.

If we have such shorter horizons with our employers should the nature of arrangement matter?  Let’s imagine that your employer reciprocates this thinking and offers a ‘short-term contract’ for a year. What would be your reaction? I think we would frown at it. Let’s decipher why?

The Fixed Term Bias

It’s difficult to comprehend a contract or a temporary job for a variety reasons

  1. End date of employment offer means insecurity. Though we would like to have short-term plans with respect to our employers, the other way around takes away our bargaining power.
  2. Our upbringing, much of our society worked in public sector or government. The constant chat at home once upon a time was about security. These surroundings now have significantly changed to private sector jobs.
  3. Contractor as a term is frequently used to about people who get done the so-called menial repair works. The stigma of that word is difficult to erase.
  4. An end date in employment also means low value for talent?
  5. The assumption of contract jobs not having other financial benefits creates further doubts about the role.
  6. We don’t work part-time while studying which molds our mindset in a particular way

Jobs in the new world 

Carefully look at the western world from where we copy most of our work or lifestyle choices from. Part-time or temp jobs occupy a significant portion of student life. In advanced economies 2-3% of the workforce is on fixed term contract. In some of the high skilled technology companies, almost 10% of the workforce is under contract. These employers are high performing and most admired blue-chip companies. People strive to join them even if it’s on contract.

The millennials have a different outlook on jobs. They surely bring the confidence in their ability and also possess clearer mindset about exposure than the arrangement. This could also be supported by the private sector working parents or relatively better economic situation at home. Lifestyle choices like flexibility, freedom have overtaken survival instincts like security and comfort. This mindset change needs to transfer beyond the new age workforce.

Leadership jobs on the roll

It’s time for even senior executives to change their thinking. After all, the tenure of CXOs too has dropped by half in the last 5 years. The job changes at the senior level are attributed to the rapid growth in certain sectors or creation of new sectors. But the larger cause is also the mindset change at the leadership level. Leaders either are getting bored with their jobs or tired of the politics at the top. They are also finding it difficult to cope with the pressure of consistent performance at senior levels. So, if the role at the top is getting shorter why not opt for short-term assignments which give the freedom of exploration and liberty of expression?

Whether it’s the CXO roles or entry-level jobs we are accepting shorter tenures for different reasons. In reality, our collective behavior suggests that there are no lifetime jobs in private sector today. In spite of our own infidelity towards our employers, we find comfort in so-called permanent jobs. Though this permanent job can only last till your boss fires you or your company indulges in mass layoffs. Many still work with the fear of every day being their last day at work. But, the lure of a permanent job still continues.

Many of us are happy with the comfort of a single employer. Some of us may still retire after working with a single employer. Except for Government jobs, the security of one employer for life is getting diminished every single day.

In the world of Airbnb, Uber we own nothing but enjoy the engagement and comfort. Similarly, is it time to shed the permanency mindset on our jobs and to keep walking?

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