I have recently encountered – and experienced on my own – a common feeling of job stagnation and dependence on companies. The new technology trains are getting faster and faster and it is very easy to get left behind. This is a stone we can easily stumble over in this sector.
Loyalty to the company or “I’m great, I’ve got it all under control”
It’s morning, you turn on your computer, at home or at the office, and you check Linkedin while drinking the first coffee of the day. Several companies celebrate and announce that one of their employees has been working for 5, 10, or 15 years. These milestones are great, even more so in an industry where job turnover is the norm and very few count decades in the same company. The current average tenure with the same company in the technology sector is 1 year, compared to agriculture and commerce with 8.5 and 7.7 years on average respectively. Apparently, this loyalty between the company and the employee is positive, although it is not always optimal for both parties.
A good company will try to please its employees not only on a salary level but will also try to promote individual growth, good relationships with other colleagues, and recognition. How rewarding are some well-deserved KUDOS for a job well done!
I have found myself in that situation: exploiting my full potential, innovating, and adding value to the company. The laurels came in the form of public recognition, salary, and credibility, but… how long does it take for the crown to wither?
My contribution, in this case, was based on a programming language that is nowadays discontinued, on an expensive and outdated platform, and to make matters worse, in a business where the screens are still those with a black background and white characters. I would be deluded if at that time I had believed that I would be able to continue working until I was 67 or older with these outdated technologies.
Every day I was getting a little further away from what I wanted, so it was time to move on.
Fear or “I’d like to change, but I’m out of date”
The time comes when you decide to leave your position. You have several options: continue in a similar position, look for a change of role, perhaps with more responsibility, or completely change the sector… Let’s imagine that management does not convince you, that leaving a world as valued and “well paid” as the ICT seems crazy and that you want to continue to grow.
There is a lot of talk about the comfort zone. We are encouraged to step out of it to expand it and leave our fears behind. We are told to believe in ourselves, to take risks and do better. These messages are very positive, but generally, the train of life is adding cars to a locomotive that we want to keep running at a good pace, so the “safe” or assumable options are reduced even more.
Other colleagues also experienced the same situation. Faced with the feeling of stagnation, some tried to move up the company hierarchy or seek management positions outside the company, trying to avoid facing change.
Faced with this dilemma, I decided to look for offers with the same role. I found that the options for my stack had shrunk considerably. New technologies had emerged, half of which I didn’t even know about. Resting on your laurels for a few years can make you obsolete in the eyes of recruiters who cram the offers with languages and acronyms. You are no longer that sought-after talent.
Go for it or “I have the experience, in two weeks I’ll have this mastered”
Feeling outdated is hard. The world has changed a lot, and new technologies are born and die faster and faster. My strategy, at that time, was to look for courses, study, and try to recover seven years of sweet working comfort. Luckily, as a professional, I have had to deal with multiple programming languages, countless programs, and various ways of working. No matter how much the names change, the background is usually the same, and the accumulated experience is a strong point when it comes to finding a new job.
At this point, all that remains is to sell ourselves like aged Parmesan to the highest bidder who believes in us and who, of course, guarantees us that the situation we have experienced will not happen again.
Conclusions or “This is a matter of two”
Looking back, I recognize that the responsibility for this stagnation was as much mine as that of my previous company. We must be aware that we work in a very changing market, and that no position offers us lifetime guarantees. It is part of our job to keep growing and increasing our knowledge.
On the other hand, I think that large companies like the one I described above, which live on “old” technologies, would have to offer all their employee’s training options outside their stack to avoid reaching this mutual dependency. It is difficult to find someone who wants to program in a rare language, but it is also difficult to find a job once you have spent many years using that language.
There may not be a recipe for every situation, and everyone is free to follow the path they want, but my recommendation, in this case, is to follow my grandparents’ advice: never rest on your laurels!