When I was a little girl I played hopscotch. I don’t remember the rules, although I know it involved jumping up and down on one foot from one small square to the next, clumsily pivoting on same foot, and returning to base.
Names matter. I get the hopping part but am baffled by the scotch. The imbibing of distilled spirits from the Hebrides didn’t seem part of the play, although I’m sensing a whole new college drinking game in the making. Move over beer pong!
Like most everything nowadays, millennials believe they invented the idea of job hopping. As Gallup announced: “The millennial workforce is predominantly “checked out” — not putting energy or passion into their jobs. They are indifferent about work and show up just to put in their hours.” Which is their attempt at explaining why the young ‘uns keep leaving your organization and why you better get with the program and make work more exciting and interesting or you’ll only have a group of grey haired, knee replacement baby boomers hobbling around wistfully missing their Blackberries.
Oh for Pete’s sake. Millennials aren’t job hopping – they’re thinking that daily labor will be as entertaining as Snap chat or killing Nazi zombies on Call of Duty. And when it isn’t, they want to find the place that is. Can work be as mind numbing as video games? Sometimes, sure. But we don’t wake up and say “I have to go to play”. Work is a verb, not a noun.
Real career jumping is (as my octogenarian father would say) a whole ‘nother ball game.
I’m talking about the multipotentialites (aka multipods) as profiled in The New York Post last month by Virginia Backaltis. She writes about multiple career jumpers who describe themselves as life long learners; intellectual multi taskers; creatives who have skills in multiple areas and don’t see why they have to choose. The gig economy as recently profiled in The New Yorker is another example of those who choose the idea of career as quilt versus one of continual progression in a single field.
I was one of those job bunny rabbits that Backaltis interviewed, and there’s nothing that haunts you more than seeing your own words in print:
“I get to a point in a career where I think, ‘I can’t stay in this any longer,’” says Halpern. It can take as much as a decade before she reaches that, but once she’s there, she makes the leap. “What else can I do? I’m motivated by an odd cocktail of fear and curiosity,” she says.
It’s true. My first career was raising money for the arts and running a ballet company. The second? Touring garment factories in Asia and Central America and negotiating with overseas vendors. The third – now twenty years in play – working with organizations to reduce friction between leaders and their teams. Some things I took with me to every job and each role; others I had to leave behind.
Like that hair. And the baggy linen suit. Man, did I hate the ’80s. All things definitely deposited in the dumpster of the past. #workinggirl
But there you are, you Melanie Griffith you, gazing at that skyline, wondering where you could make your mark, what else you’re capable of. So how do you do it? How do you stitch together a professional life of varied interests and different skills without starting at the bottom each and every time, staying interested and being successful?
- Pick a single success metric. Mine wasn’t money. Mind you, I like money. I like it a lot. But it wasn’t my primary motivator. That would be doing interesting work that I cared about and that made a difference to someone else. I earned enough, and more important to me, I loved every job I had (bosses are another matter….)
- Connect the dots. I’m a huge fan of mind mapping. So when I desperately needed to get out of the retail industry I laid out all the things I enjoyed about the job starting with negotiation, which led to a volunteer stint as a mediator which I despised so much that I realized it was communicating with other cultures I enjoyed, not the actual topic or the act of wrangling.
- Change the venue. You can hop at different heights and in different directions. Sometimes the change of environment opens up possibilities. Tired of big pharma? A small bio tech might reenergize you. Long commute got you down? Investigate distant companies with a tight talent market who would be open to remote hires.
- Take a risk. Sniff out how your world is changing – those who made the leap from print to digital at the right time amassed incredible skills in what turned out to be an exploding new industry. Take a small step down with a small salary cut if it positions you in something new that you find exciting and full of opportunity.
- Stay hungry. Read, talk, question, learn. Being intellectually restless is the best guarantee that when something intriguing crawls, limps or races across your mind’s radar you’ll pick it up and make something of it. Engage with others to see what’s on their mind, what problems are they grappling with. Volunteer to solve it.
Work can be playful, and you be joyous about it. So if you find yourself playing the game of “if you could be any animal in the world what would you be” you can truthfully, and contentedly, say: “a bunny rabbit.”