This blog is about leading a work life worth living.
In FORTUNE (print) this week Jena McGregor, based on a survey by the Corporate Executive Board, reports that 27% of “high-potential” employees plan to leave their current job in the next 12 months. It’s 1 in 5 for the general employee population. Some may think that’s bad news. It’s not. In fact it’s good news for employees and companies.
McGregor continues to explain that perks hold some sway in keeping people around, but the potential for growth is the powerful motivator: “They want a mix of recognition and challenges that stretch them without completely stressing them out.” I had a conversation with Fast Company about this very topic 10 years ago.
Many people take jobs for money, but when they leave, most go when they quit learning.
One way to read the finding is that about half of us want to change our job every 2 years. Why is that?
People leave jobs when the no asshole rule is triggered, or when someone makes them an economic offer they can’t refuse, or most often, when they’ve learned 80% of what they can in a role and it’s time to take on the next challenge.
People stay in jobs when something about their current role affords more growth and learning, or when their personal expenses require them to stay.
There’s an assumption, really a mindset at this point, that changing roles is a bad thing. The refrain: It shows a lack of commitment. It signals low achievement. It’s disloyal to the company. It shows a lack of focus, the kind that comes from someone who doesn’t know what they want.
In my experience, not true.
In fact the opposite is more often the case: people who have an idea of what they want, even if not crystal clear, work their way toward it through trying on different responsibilities, creating results, then importantly moving on to do what’s next.
These people are the ones I want in my company. They see the work we can do together in part as a means to their own personal learning end. I can provide income and perks and a healthy culture, but there’s no motivation that I can provide that will ever be greater than the individual’s motivation to pursue and learn about something that fires them up.
The fact that people want to leave their job is a strong signal they’re taking their professional growth seriously. That’s as commitment- and achievement-oriented as I could wish for. Yes, there are exceptions. Some people perform poorly, some approach the relationship solely for maximum personal value extraction, and some aren’t ready to complete the work we need (which means I made a bad hiring decision).
Nevertheless, I look for someone who walks in and says “over the next two years, I want to see for myself whether I can X.” My job as a manager is to pair our needs with theirs — it’s to help them get the kind of experience they’re looking for while they’re creating the results we need.
Remember, changing jobs does not need to mean changing companies. At the end of two years, the best next step may be to do more work together but in a different capacity, or it may be for them to go get different experience elsewhere. The road is long, if the relationship is good, there’s always a chance we’ll meet up again.
I’m glad to see people want to leave their jobs. I can’t wait for the number to be higher.
When we first asked what will you do with your one wild and precious life, this is exactly response we found ourselves answering with
There are hundreds of thousands species of work that you’ve likely never heard of. If the one you’re in isn’t firing you up, don’t settle. Explore your options. Find something that both meets your financial needs and your growth needs. Many people take jobs for money, but almost all leave them when they quit learning. We want to help you seek out a life worth living. And it looks like Holstee does too.
In the fun chat with Lindsey Pollak last week I mentioned the freedom that comes with asking different questions — in particular, making the first step in the job search more manageable by asking two specific, time-bound questions: Over the next two years, what do you want to be better known for? Over the next two years, what do you want to go see for yourself?
If you’re interested in some of the why behind these questions, and why taking a prototyping point of view is helpful, here’s a short talk (13 min) I gave on the topic at AshokaU’s TEDx event at Google DC earlier this year. This talk is a partial introduction to the larger prototyping framework at Endeavor Prep.
If you haven’t met Ashoka yet, founder Bill Drayton gave rise to the term “social entrepreneur” a few decades ago, and since then Ashoka has been at the center of catalyzing change in nearly every corner of the world. AshokaU is their initiative bringing change-making to university campuses.
Video doesn’t always tell the full story of the participants in the room, but as a guest I can tell you they were great. AshokaU and their partners organized a very impressive two-day event. They’re doing some great stuff over there.
I had the real pleasure today of chatting with Lindsey Pollak over on her MyPath BlogTalkRadio Show. Lindsey of course is one of the central (& IMHO one of the best) voices describing career and workplace issues for Gen Y (see e.g. Getting from College to Career). She’s also recently been working with LinkedIn as they start to roll out tools for students.
In the short podcast (10 min) we cover why it’s so hard today to learn about the jobs that are out there and some of the more interesting ones. My favorite question is when she asks “Did you struggle at all?” to which the answer is definitely Yes. Interviews can so often be sterile and she makes it human.
Here’s the clip:
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