Is the grass really always greener? Or should we be focusing more on the job in front of us?
In a recent Fast Company piece, Anya Kamenetz suggested career starters forget dreaming of a 20-year plan and settle for something closer to a four year horizon – that’s how fast tech, industry and the world in general is moving these days.
And when I spoke to James Marshall Reilly, founder of The Guild Agency Speakers Bureau and Intellectual Talent Management and the author of Shake the World: It’s Not About Finding a Job, It’s About Creating a Life, a few weeks ago, he suggested something similar. Young careerists, he felt, should stop trying to carefully plan and reduce risk and instead dabble boldly in whatever catches their interest. Only through repeated experimentation can most of us locate a career path where we’ll thrive.
But not everyone is so taken with this frenetic, constantly shifting approach to work. In fact, some note that always searching for the next newer, better gig can get pathological. Brazen Careerist founder Penelope Trunk, for one, has cautioned against perpetually searching for that perfect job and advised readers to settled into whatever gig they can get, focusing on excelling where they are at least for the immediate future.
WSJ columnist Alexandra Levit gives similar advice in a post entitled, “The Perfect First Job Doesn’t Exist.” Stop imagining the grass is always greener, she advises, and focus on what’s in front of you. She even cautions against rushing to get promoted, suggesting you “enjoy this time in which you don’t have to worry about anyone but yourself.” CAREARREALISM has also warned professionals of all ages about getting obsessed with finding your dream career.
A Delicate Balance
So which is it? Should we be constantly roving with an ear out for the faintest rumble of a new opportunity, eager to jump ship the first chance we get? Or should young careerists fight the impulse to believe there’s always something better out there and focus on whatever work is in front of us now?
Both paths have obvious risks. Spend all your time daydreaming about what you hope to be doing next, and you’re likely not only to be restless and unhappy in the present, but also less than stellar at the job you have now, missing chances to learn and develop new skills.
Plus, building a network and a solid professional reputation generally takes time and commitment. By changing paths often, you may end up skidding sideways rather than building up to better things.
Hunker down in a less than awesome job, however, and exciting opportunities could pass you by. You may even regret your lack of experience and adventure when you’re older.
As with most life decisions, the answer probably comes down to self-knowledge and finding a balance. Clearly, the two extremes of frantic job hopping or decades’ long cubicle drudgery are bad bets, but that still leaves plenty of choices between those two poles.
To decide where you should be on that spectrum, you’ll need to honestly assess what makes you more unhappy: missing an opportunity or the constant stress of watching out for one. Answers will almost certainly vary by personality and may change over time, but it’s a question each of us needs to ponder when choosing between career ADD and settling in professionally.
Which do you fear more: too much professional change or too little?
London-based Jessica Stillman blogs about generational issues and trends in the workforce for Inc.com and GigaOM.