There’s a popular sentiment running through the modern workplace: switching employers every few years is the best way to make meaningful progress in your career.
It’s a particularly potent belief among millennials. But as an executive who works closely with many colleagues in that cohort – one that will account for an estimated 75 per cent of the global workforce by 2025 – I don’t believe that you need to regularly jump the professional ship in order to diversify your experience and rise through the ranks of corporate Canada.
Over the course of 16 years, I have advanced from the role of junior manager at one of the world’s leading financial institutions to one of the company’s most senior roles in Canada, and I did so by staying put.
Here’s why I believe you don’t have to move around to move up and tips to get the most out of your current workplace.
Staying with one organization has its benefits
There’s no doubt millennials are prone to moving from employer to employer: about one-fifth have changed jobs in the past year, more than three times the number of non-millennials who switched jobs in the same period, according to Gallup. But, there are a myriad of benefits to remaining with one organization when the fit is right. As a deep-rooted part of a company, you are able to collaborate in a team environment and build strong, consistent relationships with mentors. You develop a close rapport over time with a dedicated group of colleagues, managers and stakeholders.
Moving companies, conversely, can have its drawbacks: if you move frequently from one organization to another it can be stressful to ramp up and prove your worth at each new workplace. The results you leverage can reflect a moment-to-moment snapshot in time rather than a sustained period of scalable returns. It is harder to build a reputation for reliability, with a track record of results behind you. Often, you will need to initiate a new network from scratch at each organization, and can miss out on building and maintaining the workplace relationships that are so vital to employee engagement.
When you’re looking for a new opportunity, it might help to consider how prospective organizations will be able to support your long-term career goals. The right organization will give you access to a range of diverse new experiences through cross-training or by switching departments or disciplines.
You have an employer that supports your needs
A key reason I’ve spent the bulk of my career with one organization is that my employer has always unequivocally supported my needs: they have always had my back.
When you look for a long-term employer, there are some key traits to keep in mind. First off, consider your own values and seek out an organization whose values match your own. Does the organization reflect your values in areas such as community involvement? Will you have access to strong sponsorship and mentorship opportunities to guide you along the way? Do they prioritize an inclusive and diverse culture?
Supportive leadership is integral to an upward career trajectory: good leaders will listen to your career goals, help you grow in creative ways and give you increased responsibilities. Engaging in this sort of open career collaboration with your employer requires that you know where you fit within your company’s overall business strategy. Doing so will give you a sense of certainty that your organization has your interests at heart, and will give you the confidence to stay put and succeed.
It’s a two way street: navigating your career with a long-term employer
A fulfilling career within an organization isn’t just about finding an employer who will support you. It’s a two-way street that requires you to take ownership of your career path. Don’t be shy when it comes to new challenges. Volunteer for projects and seek out new experiences that build and diversify your capabilities. Action truly speaks louder than words: if you want to succeed, you need to put in the work and demonstrate your skills.
Growing a strong professional network helps. I have sought and received solid career guidance over the years from mentors, sponsors and allies both inside and outside of my organization.
Finally, do not be afraid to make your career goals very clear to those around you. Voice concrete aspirations to your employer and work together to identify a path that will help you achieve those goals.
While it may be true that millennials switch jobs readily in the early stages of their careers, there’s evidence that they are happy to stay put when they find an organization that meets their needs. A recent survey commissioned by American Express Canada and Catalyst Canada found that 72 per cent of millennials have worked with multiple companies throughout their careers, but more than half (53 per cent) of them intended to stay at their current company for a long time.
A supportive and growing organization could be the best work partner for you over the duration of your career – something we can all aspire to.
Content produced by American Express Canada. The Globe and Mail was not involved in its creation.