Remember when people worked for the same company for years and years until they were ready to retire? Well then you must be a baby boomer for sure because that doesn’t happen much anymore. Millennials change jobs the way some people change cars…at least once every three years.
A recent poll by Associated Press-Center for Public Affairs Research showed that among workers over 50, 41 percent had spent two decades with the same company. Eighteen percent stayed with the same employer for at least 30 years. That last group includes me. This year will mark the 30th anniversary of working for the same company and with the same business partner, and no one is more surprised about this than me.
At the beginning of my working life it seemed like I was destined to move from one career to the next, trying my hand at different tasks to see what appealed to me. It didn’t take very long to figure out what I wanted to do based on what I thought my strongest talents were. Likewise, I didn’t expect to team up with a business partner whose skills and ethos integrated so well with mine.
Hitting the 30 year mark seems like a good time to look back and wonder if we missed anything by not exploring more employers and careers as so many workers do now. I doubt that I would have been comfortable with the stress of swinging on the jungle vines, leaping from one job to the next and trying to fit into a new work culture every few years. We tend to think that would have been hard to pull off, but would it have been any less stressful than managing to keep our small business going through good times and very tough times? The range of different experiences might have been very appealing as well but so was the ability to create a career with so much longevity.
Worklife has changed so much in our lifetimes that it’s hard to predict the trends for coming years. Global strategies, outsourcing, the end of pensions and the overall coarsening of the employer-employee relationship all have contributed to a general sense of workplace instability. There’s not much loyalty to go around when workers think their employers care more about their stock price or their image than their employees, and employers believe their workers are not as productive as they should be.
It would appear that we were lucky (most of the time) to find a career that’s still going strong with the same company. Future generations of workers may marvel at that feat.