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People change careers five to seven times in their lifetime

Johannesburg, 27 Jul 2009
Read time 4min 10sec
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It is said that the average person can expect to change their jobs five to seven times in his or her life. A successful career change will, therefore, largely depend on the amount of planning and preparation done.

Where do these figures come from?

The range of figures mentioned above can be attributed to collected data; however, there have never been published statistics about 'career change' owing to the different ways the concept may be interpreted. It might mean switching employers, or it could mean changing career fields. It is also difficult to determine as one would need data from a survey that tracks the same people over their entire working lives, and so far, no survey has ever tracked respondents for that long. Statistics have, however, been gathered on the number of times people change employers, or change occupations while working for the same employer. (Rosenberg McKay, 2006)

What are some of the reasons for wanting to change jobs?

Young adults change jobs frequently. College graduates, however, are more likely than less-educated young adults to plan a long-term career with their current employer. This is interpreted by the concept that those who have college degrees are more likely to have jobs related to their career goals (Miller, 1997).Those who believe they are fairly compensated, and those who say their job directly connects with their career goals, are more likely to stick to their jobs for five years or longer (Miller, 1997).

In today's market, employees are growing less likely to remain at a specific company or in a specific career out of loyalty, but are rather driven to change because of the opportunity to develop themselves and their careers. With the current economic downturn, however, a large amount of people that are on the job market are as a result of retrenchments, downsizing, forced retirement or the closing down of businesses. The trend of 'job-hopping' has now been overcome by the need to hold onto a job for security reasons. Whatever the reason for wanting to change careers, it is imperative that the move is carefully planned and considered.

Planning for a career change

It is vital before making any decisions regarding a change in career that some quality time is spent reflecting on one's career and developing some plans for the future. Do your research and think about the questions you need answered to make an informed decision. Identify and asses the likes and dislikes about your job. Try to discover your passion and research the type of career that evolves around what you are passionate about. Ensure that a new career path allows you to transfer your current skills, as well as expose you to new ones. Gather information by networking as much as possible. Ask the relevant people about job leads and advice on a particular industry or organisation.

Knowledgeable recruitment consultants can become very valuable in this stage of the process, as they know about specific industries and can help you make the best decision for you and your career. Says Laura Lee, CEO of RecruitIT Solutions: “Consultants spend their entire working day analysing and interpreting jobs, companies, candidates and market trends. This gives them fantastic insight into what opportunities are available and how a person's career aspirations can best be met. It is therefore important that throughout this process you remain flexible about the change and ready to accept it.”

Change, in any aspect, is often considered terrifying and nerve-wrecking, but incredibly exciting at the same time. Career change will affect not only your life, but also the lives of those important people around you, hopefully in a positive way. Therefore, when considering a career change, it is important to anticipate and prepare for the changes that you will face, plan strategies accordingly to manage the change effectively, and build a support system to help you succeed. Potential employers do not usually take a liking to 'job-hoppers' and would rather employ someone who is loyal and committed for the long-term. Ensure that you are well prepared before making any decisions to move, so your 'career change statistic' is one you can be proud of.

Miller, B. “Movers and shakers - statistics on young people who change jobs” American Demographics (1997)
Rosenberg McKay, D. “How Often Do People Change Careers?” Guide to Career Planning since 1997 (2006)

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