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Playing the Career-Longevity Game in a Shortsighted World

As changing jobs becomes more frequent and normalized, career longevity seems like less of a realistic possibility for many young professionals. Luckily, young employees can still take steps toward long-term career growth.

Is the idea of career longevity dead? For many, it certainly feels that way. At the end of 2018, The Muse surveyed more than 8,000 young professionals and discovered that 58% of them planned on changing jobs in the following year.

Frequent role changes are now the norm, and the notion of staying at one company for the long haul continues to lose popularity. Achieving career longevity and an upward trajectory without succumbing to burnout or dissatisfaction is a difficult line to walk.

I take great pride in my tenure with Sotheby’s International Realty. Prior to joining the brand, I built up my own successful real estate firm, which I eventually sold to the country’s largest real estate company at the time. My background helped prepare me with the experience I needed when I joined the Sotheby’s International Realty network early on in my career. Here I am 39 years later — as president and CEO — and still loving the work.

The Case for Longevity

The Muse’s survey also revealed that job seekers keep two factors top of mind when choosing a company: learning and growth opportunities and work-life balance. Compensation comes in behind both of these factors. Although the potential for a higher salary or more impressive title might seem like viable reasons to jump ship, the things job seekers want most are actually more achievable the longer they’ve been with one company.

The more you demonstrate your worth and commitment to a company, for instance, the more that company will be willing to invest in your growth as an employee through new learning opportunities. The more connections you build with individuals at the company over time, the more likely you are to be seen as a reliable resource. Deepening your connections gives you a better chance at gathering best-practice knowledge, exchanging information with your colleagues, staying up-to-date on industry news, and gaining different perspectives from around your office. Side benefits of longer relationships can include increased flexibility based on trust, such as the ability to work from home or build your own schedule. Every time you switch jobs, it’s like hitting a reset button. Giving your connections time to grow is a better strategy for building a work environment that fits your needs.

The New Struggle

For younger generations, changing careers is often a more enticing proposition than staying in a current position. In fact, 35% of Millennials feel dissatisfied with their current jobs due to a lack of opportunities to advance. This shift is something that all companies are experiencing, and I’ve seen this happen in my industry as well.

Millennials and Generation Zers grew up in a unique environment where social media exposed them to a wide variety of alternative options. Sites such as Glassdoor and Indeed, for instance, make the job hunt easier than ever. Many young workers feel they need to make a move to advance their careers because they might not be recognized at their current job; they see taking their skill sets to other companies as a way to keep climbing the success ladder. But I believe moving around might not necessarily be the right way to advance one’s career. In my experience, talented employees that communicate their desires and possess a good work ethic will advance.

Also, jumping from job to job can sometimes do more harm than good. If I’m interviewing someone for a job and I see that he or she has moved around a lot, that tends to raise red flags. And I’m not alone in this — according to a 2018 Indeed survey, around 80% of employers reported deciding not to interview a candidate with a history of short-term jobs.

Training and development are large investments, so employers want new hires to stick around for a good amount of time. If a candidate moves jobs every two years, employers might question the return on investment of hiring that individual. In fact, the cost associated with every lost employee conservatively costs a business an average of 33% of the employee’s base pay. That means the expense associated with replacing a $60,000-a-year employee will be around $20,000. It’s no wonder a business would be reluctant to hire someone with a track record of job-hopping.

The grass might just be greener on the other side. However, jumping that fence sometimes means walking away from the equity you’ve built up in your current role. It takes a while to get to know people, for them to get to know you, and for you to gain their trust. If you move too frequently, you might be hurting your career path — when you leave a job, you let go of the trust-building work you did within your relationships, and you have to start from scratch. A 2018 survey by Know Your Team found that 91% of managers and employees value trust “highly.” This indicates that if you don’t have the built-in trust from being at a company for a number of years, it’s possible you might miss out on opportunities for advancement in favor of colleagues who appear more trustworthy.

How to Stay Put

Satisfying career longevity is still achievable. Here are just a few of the strategies I’ve employed throughout my career to keep myself on an upward trajectory without changing jobs:

1. Form (and maintain) strong relationships. Building an enduring work environment is about the quality of your relationships with teammates, customers, and competitors — not just the work you do. These quality relationships give us a sense of belonging in the workplace, which makes us more productive, motivated, and engaged. It also makes us 3.5 times more likely to contribute to our fullest potential, according to research from the Center for Talent Innovation. Sometimes, creating belonging is as simple as remembering people’s names, which isn’t always an easy task. Our company, for example, has more than 23,000 agents, so it would be a superhuman feat to remember every single person by name. But simply putting in the effort to study attendee lists or matching names and faces before a meeting can go a long way toward showing people that you’re invested in their success.

Another tactic for building and maintaining strong relationships is to never enter conversations hoping to “win.” Whether you’re talking to a staff member or negotiating a deal, it’s never a good idea to see the person you interact with as an opponent. Begin every conversation with the goal of finding out what the other side wants and figuring out how to deliver that — provided it fits within the model of what you need to achieve.

Even though I’m a salesperson, I don’t feel like I sell. It’s more about solving problems. The same goes for internal conversations: I try to understand why others do what they do and what struggles they face. Then, I attempt to help them crack the code on their current challenge. If you approach these interactions in a respectful, empathetic way, everyone will work more smoothly together.

2. Get to know your company at a micro level. Also, be sure to connect with people from all different levels and positions in your company. Getting to know your company on a micro level means understanding the individual roles and responsibilities that make it operate. Start by introducing yourself to individuals in each department and asking them about what they do. Listen actively and ask questions until you truly understand their role, how it ties into the bigger picture, and how it contributes to the overarching company mission.

The more you understand the various roles within a company, the more clearly you see where you fit within the organization. And when you need a helping hand from a different department, you’re more likely to get it if you’re already on familiar terms with the person you reach out to. The better you understand all the moving parts and how they work to make the company run, the more efficient your work becomes. I’ve had to allow some of our most talented team members to take other positions on different teams. And though their departures felt like a short-term loss, it was best for them and the company in the long run.

3. Be clear about your goals. It’s frustrating to feel stuck at work, and not everyone has the luxury of switching jobs whenever he or she wants to. Combat your frustration by looking for opportunities to learn and communicate with your manager about the things you want to achieve in your role. Expressing interest and showing initiative means that when an opportunity comes up, your name will be at the top of everyone’s mind.

This kind of dialogue also goes a long way toward making important conversations (about things such as wage negotiation and promotions) less tense and more transparent. The more you can practice voicing your interests and identifying areas of growth, the more ownership and autonomy you’ll gain at the office — and the more you’ll be able to advance your career.

Over the course of nearly four decades at the same company, I’ve built relationships that I cherish to this day. Today, I love my job more than at any other time in my history. So the next time you think about jumping ship, take another look around you and ask yourself what you’d leave behind. You might find the path to a successful career is closer than you think.

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