I’ve been asked more than once why on earth do I switch jobs so often. To set the record straight, in this post I’ll let you in on the biggest secret of my career so that hopefully a. people stop dropping their jaws when they hear that I’ve had 12 jobs in ten years and b. you learn a few tricks that will benefit your own career.
The main reason I consider myself a strategic job-hopper and not a hopeless one is because at my core I am an entrepreneur. Let me explain. Aside from being born into a family of enterprise builders (who have set up multiple manufacturing plants of 200 + employees), since the age of five I have been setting up businesses. (Click here to find out more about my mango stand). But as a college graduate, when the time came for me to make a living for myself, it made more business sense for me to get a job than to set up a business. That’s when I became the first adult in two generations of my family to be an employee. Because until that point I’d only either worked with my family’s businesses or owned my own, I only knew about business ownership not employee-hood. So by default I viewed my career just as I viewed a business venture and approached it in similar ways. I’m far from being perfect, but I believe that my entrepreneurial view of my career is what has driven me to switch jobs at the rate that I have – and to succeed because of it.
To share the wealth, below are the main philosophies and strategies that have guided my career for the past ten years:
- I work with an employer, not for them. In essence I see myself as an employee-owner, not a vanilla-flavored employee who’s at the mercy of an employer. Admittedly this is merely a play on words, but believing that as an employee I work with an employer not for them, has been the lynchpin of my career. This approach to work is what allows me to feel that I’m in control of my career and the master & commander of my own ship. And in my mind, just like restructuring is a fact of life for businesses to succeed, resigning from a job is a naturally occurring change of course, not an underhanded ship jump. For that very reason I’ve always made it a point to exit in style and maintain the relationships that I’ve worked so hard to build with my boss and colleagues. (check out this post to find out how I exit in style)
- I know my key assets. Whenever I’ve considered a business opportunity I’ve performed a feasibility analysis to learn about strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities (i.e. SWOT). As an employee I’ve followed a similar logic and I’ve made it a point to frequently self-assess my key assets: my interests, my skills (& my strengths) and my values. (If you’d like to find out what assessments I’ve used, check out this post) Aside from being aware of my priorities at different points in time, I also know what I bring to the table and what I need to improve to get to where I want to. Having this information about myself guides me during a job search and also increases my negotiating power during interviews. In fact, the last three times that I changed jobs, I received pay packages that were 30% higher than my previous salary.
- I have a strategic career plan. Since day one of my career I’ve made it a point to work with the end in mind. In fact, for the past ten years I’ve been planning my career in five-year chunks. So not only do I know where I want to be in five years I also know what I need in order to get there. This does not mean that my final destination hasn’t changed after I’ve set it. In fact, in ten years, I’ve changed my destination more than once. For example, after I worked for over a year as a pastry chef fantasizing almost every day that in 5 years I’d be a top pastry chef, I realized that industrial kitchens were not a place for me. I decided to change courses and to use my business degree to make a living. But before I made my move, I spent time assessing my key assets and drafting a 5-year plan based on the opportunities that I could access with my non-existent office experience. There’s also the time when I was working as a medical sales rep selling prescription drugs with a pharmaceutical company. Selling prescription drugs was meant to be a training ground for me to be able to sell medical devices, which is where the big bucks are made in the world of medical sales (I suggest that you make a mental note of this fact). But six months into my role selling prescription drugs, I realized that I did not enjoy chasing doctors around, no matter how good a living I had the potential of making. Again I went back to drawing board and I dropped the idea of working with a medical device company. Instead, months later, I accepted a job as a consultant, which still got me the big bucks that I was looking for. Quite simply, by working with the end in mind, I’ve always had a very good idea of how long I need to stay at a job in order to get to the next job that will get me closer to where I want to be at the end of the five years. It’s my plan that tells me when to sell and when to buy, not my mood swings or my boss’s.
- I approach my daily tasks systematically. I learned to work systematically while training to be a pastry chef. As an apprentice I learned, mostly by burning myself, that in the kitchen there’s an efficient way and a not so smart way to do almost everything – and the more senior chefs have a blast letting you know the difference. And if you insist on ignoring the rules, stuff will either burn or be late. Both big no-no’s in the food business. By transferring this approach to an office environment (be it a home office, a car or a cubicle), I’ve been able to consistently deliver high quality results throughout my career. And it’s because I deliver results and have a formula to do so consistently that I’ve remained very employable – and have been able to get interviewers to look at what I bring to the table, not how little I’m likely to stay at a job.
- I seek to improve myself. My ongoing search for being the best version of myself has led me to learn a series of techniques that are based on Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), Positive Psychology and Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT). By applying these techniques to my work-life, although I’m most certainly a work in progress, I have the insight and tools to change habits and behaviors that get in the way of my goals. For those who either frown upon or walk fast past the self-improvement section of the bookstore, I suggest that you think again. Based on the premise that knowledge equals power, my self-knowledge has certainly placed me in the seat of power of my career.