In the ‘60s and ‘70s, a prospective employee who worked for more than two employers in the preceding ten years was suspect. Where was his or her loyalty? Why wasn’t the individual following in the footsteps of his or her parents, proudly receiving their 30, 40 or 50 year recognition pins?
During the latter part of the last century and into the current decade, employment tenure took on a new twist. The dot.com revolution produced a whole new generation of technology driven companies. Capital flowed into start-up and early stage companies with ideas from great to marginal. Public offerings made many wealthy beyond dreams. Similar circumstances were encountered in the financial services industry. Greed set in. Job changes were driven by the search for higher salaries, major bonuses and stock options. Everyone wanted to get on the bandwagon. It was not uncommon to jump ship for another more promising job after less than two years.
In 2001, the dot.com bubble burst and the same thing happened to the financial bubble in 2008. Employment in many technology sectors slowed down and a major retrenchment has taken place in the financial services industry. If you had a good job, you stuck with it. Stock options and financial incentives based on future outcomes as a lure to a new position lost its attractiveness. Now salaries and more predictable cash bonuses became the tenure magnet. Then the economic down-turn of 2008 and 2009 hit, and hit hard. Unemployment is rising to levels that had not been seen in decades. Employers have become concerned about both the size of their payrolls and the costs of hiring employees. Professionals and managers at all levels have seen their jobs eliminated. The management consulting industry flourishes. What is this all about?
In tough economic times companies seeking to keep their embedded cost to a minimum are motivated to engage management consultants and interim managers for specific projects and tasks rather than take on full-time, “permanent” employees. Project or task-specific “employees” are just that – “engaged” for a period of time with no long-term obligation.
Usually benefits such as medical insurance or vacation pay for those engaged professionals are either very modest or non-existent. These professionals aren’t viewed as employees in the traditional sense and can be terminated at any time without notice or severance costs. The employer’s unemployment insurance premiums are not affected. The work is done- thanks and good bye.
This new job market environment is likely to continue for a number of years. To thrive in it, one must first recognize that on-going career transitions will be more prevalent. Having a solid understanding of what you have to offer and how and where to market your services will give you a decided advantage in the increasingly competitive race for work opportunities. Managing the transition process from one engagement to another becomes a significant effort in itself. Successful management consultants, independent contractors and other similarly engaged professional service providers know this and spend a minimum of twenty-percent of their time marketing their services.
Be prepared for this new job market. Brand yourself so that you name becomes synomanous with your capabilities and skills.