Change, grow without switching jobs
It's a new year and you may be thinking it's time for a new job. That may be the case, but since employees change jobs on average every four or five years, the odds are good you will still be with your current employer come December 2016.
But that does not mean that you can't experience change. There are plenty of ways you can make yourself a happier, more fulfilled, more valuable employee — which might also position you for a promotion or make you an appealing candidate for external jobs. In other words, you can bloom where you are planted. Here are ways to do that:
Grow your professional network, both internally and externally. Getting to know others will broaden your perspective, give you ideas, help you spot trends and provide you support when needed.
Your network might include some recruiters who work in your discipline or industry. If a recruiter calls you looking for contacts and you have established a professional network, you may be able to suggest a referral. Then, when the recruiter has a job that's right for you, you'll be the first call.
When new employees are hired, go out of your way to make them feel comfortable. Have lunch with them. Help them understand how to get things done in your culture. Don't gossip, but let them know if there are landmines they need to be aware of.
How's your attitude? Often, when someone is in the same job for many years, they develop an image and stick with it. They arrive at 8:35 a.m, spend the next 25 minutes talking with buddies about sports or their weekend, then settle down with a cup of coffee around 9 a.m. Or maybe the person is unhappy about being “stuck” in a job (as if someone is chaining them to their desk) and they develop a sour attitude. If their work is passable, they may not get fired, but they certainly don't get promoted.
Do you continue to find ways to do your job better, faster, more creatively? If you were new to your job, what would you change about how work gets done? When is the last time you asked your boss for feedback on your performance? You don't have to wait for the annual review, you know. If you let your boss know that you are sincere in your desire to hear both the good and the bad about your performance, you will hear things that will benefit you your entire career.
Someone once told me she had asked her boss for feedback after a speech she had given on a large stage. He told her that she had paced back and forth like a roadrunner. While that criticism stung, she realized she needed to dispel her nervous energy before giving a speech, so she now exercises beforehand, which has made her a far better presenter. While this is a minor example, it demonstrates the difference asking for feedback can make.
Finally, keep in mind that there is no shame in staying with the same employer for many years! It was not so long ago when most employees routinely received service awards or attended retirement parties for co-workers. It's only been the last 20 years or so that many factors converged to encourage (or force) employees to change jobs and employers more frequently. So if you stay with the same employer, you have two choices, and both of them require your constant vigilance: Do your job so well that you get promoted, or if you wish to remain in the same job, be sure to bloom where you are planted.