This week we celebrated a colleague’s 35th anniversary with my company. I just keep uttering the meaning of that to myself with an expression of disbelief: he’s been with my company for 35 years! To add to the craziness, he’s the third person in my office to hit that milestone. Wow.
I think part of why I’m so stunned is because I just celebrated a birthday for a number in my mid-20s, which means that this person has been with my organization for longer than I’ve been alive (and for fun, we put together a little presentation that showed that 52% of our staff hadn’t been born when he joined – how’s that for craziness?).
But beyond that, it’s fascinating to think about staying somewhere as long as that. Now, this does come to generational differences. Those of the Traditionalist or Baby Boomer generation grew up planning how to move up at the same company. They wanted the corner office, the upgraded title, the company car – all things that showed an upgrade, but were inherently linked to seniority, not just experience. When they started in the workforce, company loyalty was a huge part of their professional lives.
Now, compare that to Xers and Yers who were raised to ALWAYS keep their options open. You get your career started somewhere and then you test the waters somewhere else. Sure, you might go back to organization #1, but you might not, and that’s OK. You do your time somewhere and then see what else is out there for you. It’s as much what you can do for the company as it is what your company can do for you (and it’s this idea that’s given the Yers especially a bad rep). In other words, while you want to do good for the company, you also want to make sure your resume is expanding with viable skills. Once you’ve picked up your set of skills at one job, you pick up and find new ones to master. Since the people leaving the workforce are the ones that were raised on “company loyalty” and the folks entering don’t seem to recognize it as part of their vocabulary, it’ll be interesting to see what organizations are like when Xers and Yers have fully taken over.
I love working where I do. But I can’t imagine being here for 35 years. Not only would I hit a wall in terms of upward mobility, but having had limited experience outside of my company, I don’t really feel like I have the diverse set of experience that I would want to call myself a “seasoned professional” or an expert in my field. Here’s an example: we have a system that manages all of our employee records online (called an HRIS – an HR Information System) that is handled by our corporate HR. If I ever want experience with that, I’d have to try to go somewhere where that’s part of the job description, as that’s currently not a part of mine. And while that does make me sad because I am pretty attached to my job and the people I work with, The Pro and I have discussed this on many occasions with the conclusion that it’s unavoidable.
So I turn to all of you. What’s the longest stint you’ve had with an organization? Can you imagine 35 years (or more!) somewhere? And if you can’t, how long is “too long”? Is it 25 years? 15? 5? Inquiring minds want to know.