A number of the employees at the city where I work are retiring. These events do a few things: they confirm what has been told to me repeatedly and they make me question what position I will be when – more like if – I retire.
The apparent number of retirements confirm the predictions a turnover in the local government workforce is imminent. As the turnover begins a substantial loss in organizational knowledge is incurred by the city. A number of the retirement parties I have witnessed are individuals who have worked for the city going on thirty years. Over the course of those thirty years, the core responsibilities of each soon to be retiree have changed little.
In most cases, the only noticeable difference in tasks are the result of technological advancement, additional responsibilities the product of financial and budget constraints, and changes to the regulations imposed by states and the federal government. Of course there is nothing wrong with staying in the same position for the vast majority of your career. But now that most pensions have been privatized and other post-employment benefits are not offered as widely as they once were, the incentives to stay in one job for an extended period of time do not exist.
I could see my career going either direction. I could see finding a position I am good at and sticking with it for decades. I can see my career moving vertically as I challenge what I know and what I think my abilities are. Which direction I end up taking depends on a number of factors including any family obligations, final educational attainment, and ambition.
No matter whether a job lasts twenty years or two years, there are characteristics every job should share. If a job is not challenging, I would hope to not stay in it forever. Factor in a family to look after, debt to pay off, and living expenses to cover may require making some sacrifices, but I encourage anyone in a job that is neither rewarding or challenging to at least entertain the prospect of looking for something different. I am fortunate at the moment to not have a family to look after nor excessive debt to pay off. Therefore, I have greater liberty to take chances, stretch the limit of my knowledge and ability, and not fear the consequence my children may go hungry or I may get evicted from my home.
Currently, employees and employers seem to have equal power in the jobs market. Depending on the industry and job type, naturally, as a whole there are multiple openings for every job title and multiple candidates for each job posting. And yet wages have remained unchanged for an extended period of time. Considering inflation and wages are not higher today than ten or fifteen year ago.
To get to my point, it may take a giant leap of faith to consider changing jobs. But overall I have found searching job postings is a positive experience. Perhaps everyone reading this constantly applies for new jobs. At the city where I work, it is encouraged to apply for open positions and even to move horizontally in the organization. It is management’s opinion a lot can be learned by doing similar work for multiple departments, and largely I agree. A lot can be learned by working for a different organization as well. And changing organizations or moving up in the same organization typically results in a net wage gain. It often doesn’t make sense to change if there are not also associated financial benefits. On the aggregate level and a personal level, when we choose to change positions more frequently, theoretically wages increase. And who does not want that?