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Talent Talk: Career Diversification Is a Professional Survival Skill

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Lots of short stints at many companies is not a good thing in the plastics industry but, most of the time, neither is spending decades at the same company.

Once upon a time, a professional’s career was judged, at least in part, by how few jobs they had. The societal contract was to get hired by a great company, work there for 40 years, and retire. I’m not sure if this was unique to Cincinnati, where I grew up, but we would use the phrase “got on,” as in, “Did you hear Don got on with Procter & Gamble?”

If you got on with a Milacron or Celanese, you would never need a resume again. Of course, that contract was torn up long ago, and yet many hiring managers and human resource professionals still count the number of jobs on the resume with a preference for one or two. Let me tell you why that thinking needs to change.

When we first began telling ourselves that job changes were bad, most professionals were using pads of paper, pencils, typewriters, and fax machines. Company culture was not in the lexicon, and a manager’s style was either theory X or theory Y. 

Even then, we were told not to put all our eggs in one basket, and to diversify our investment portfolios. But when it came to your career, the emphasis was on making sure you only knew one way of doing things, one set of systems, and one culture. Back then, if you worked for several companies, the corporate world labelled you an undesirable “job hopper.”  

Let me be clear: Lots of short stints at many companies is not a good thing in the plastics industry but, most of the time, neither is spending decades at the same company. You have a lot of eggs in one basket, and if there is a merger, acquisition, change of leadership, or other major event like a pandemic that forces you to change companies, you will be at a big disadvantage.

These days, I hear “We have concerns that he has only been with one company” just as often as I hear, ‘She looks like a job hopper.” Think about it — how certain are you that you are going to retire from your current company? If the answer is anything less than 100%, think about how you can diversify your experience, knowledge, and skills.

 

About the author

Paul Sturgeon is CEO of KLA Industries, a national search firm specializing in plastics, packaging, and polymer technology. If you have a topic you would like to see discussed, a company that is growing, or other ideas for this blog, e-mail Sturgeon at [email protected].

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