Recently a government official was complaining on television that millennials treat their careers like a jungle gym. He further noted that they move from job to job without a real commitment. If an opportunity opens up and looks interesting, millennials move on, just like a kid running from one piece of equipment to another on a playground.
Previously, careers were more analogous to a rock climbing wall than a playground. A person had to climb steadily and carefully to make it to the top. Frequently, the path included lateral moves and detours, even backsliding. It was more effort than fun, and trying new things was not considered as positive as the tried and true.
The work environment of today is evolving. Many employers no longer offer incentives that encourage long-term company loyalty. Unions are few and far between, and employees must fend for themselves in negotiating salary and benefit packages. Add to the equation the fact that many young people graduate in substantial debt because of college loans, and jobs in other organizations frequently look more attractive than the position currently held.
Changing jobs may be the best option for advancement. Sometimes, however, you get to that new job and you find the work environment is more constraining than you were expecting. Or the work may be less challenging than you had hoped. Perhaps there are generational or team conflicts, or you need three sign-offs for every small decision.
What happens if you quickly realize that you have made an error in job judgment, that your new job isn’t much better than your last job, or it’s even worse? Usually there is little chance of returning to an old job, so looking backward isn’t helpful. Instead, figure out how you can best move forward with a 12-18 month plan.
Start by reviewing the assessment and evaluation of the new workplace that you completed before accepting the job. You did do a thorough assessment, didn’t you? See how your assessment lines up with the reality of actually working there. Meet as many coworkers as you can. Listen but don’t complain or express your disappointment in the workplace.
While you are at it, be alert for any opportunities or assignments that might interest you or any work teams you might like to be a part of in the future. Volunteer for some tasks or projects. Stay as busy as you can. Nothing makes a new job worse than being bored. As you settle in, you may find that the job has more possibility than you at first thought, or that you may be able to transition internally in a few months. .
Even if you are certain you can’t stay in the job for the long haul, don’t do anything foolish like quitting. Don’t whine or let others know you are unhappy or that you realize that you made a mistake in changing jobs. Don’t burn any bridges.
Employers look at a potential employee’s work history. Recruitment and training cost them money. They may not take a chance on someone who has only been in their current job for a few months, or who has a history of job hopping from place to place.
While you don’t want to be locked into a bad job or one with a poor salary, give careful thought to how—and when—you change jobs. Sometimes you may need to try the rock climbing approach for a while.