Imagine yourself at the bottom of a set of stairs. This is you at the beginning of your career.
Your ideal career scenario stands at the top of the staircase.
For me, it’s the freedom to create a life on my own terms and a reputation strong enough to unlock the opportunities I aspire for.
The stairs represent the challenges and steps you must take to get there.
Each step gets you closer to your goal. Each step unlocks a little more of what you’re after.
The idea of the “company man” – where you work the duration of your professional life at one corporation – has long timed out. Today, the average tenure has dropped significantly – roughly 4.2 years.
The cost of information has dropped significantly, too. Meaning, it’s much easier to discover new opportunities, for companies to learn about you, or for you to start your own business – even if that’s as a freelance service provider.
This means you have more leverage today as an individual than your parents or grandparents had.
You’re not beholden to one organization. The more skills you have and the stronger the reputation you have at signaling those skills, the more leverage you have.
Your journey isn’t limited to climbing one corporate ladder. It also means you’re not limited to climbing steps one at a time.
In the world we live in, focus on doing good work and the reputation you build will open opportunities for you.
Many of the best opportunities aren’t things you apply for – but the types of things that allow you to skips steps and get closer to your end goals.
Don’t worry about whether you’re staying at a company too long or moving around too quickly. Instead focus on
- Adding value where you’re at however long you’re there.
- Learning and engaging in meaningful work.
- Refining your option set – by removing or avoiding the kinds of work you hate.
- Documenting your work and learning – by building a digital portfolio or body of work.
- Creating lasting relationships with people who push you to be better.
Your career is a discovery process. Go out and do what you need to do to discover and build a career and life that brings you fulfillment.
*This post was originally published on Quora in response to the question Is staying at one organization for a long time good or bad for one’s career? Why? It’s received over 225,000 views and counting.