The general consensus in the employment field is that people will change jobs seven times during the course of their career. With the rapid pace of life today, that number is increasing all the time. Now it appears that some people, particularly those in the tech and localization industries, will change jobs up to 15 times before they are done. That equates to a change every two years in a 30-year career. This kind of constant fluctuation can be unpredictable and stressful on anybody. To cope and be able to adapt quickly if needed, each of us will benefit from a plan to proactively manage our career.
Why do we change jobs so often?
Not so long ago, people stayed at the same company for the duration of their working life. Companies committed to their employees and the goal was stability balanced with profitability and growth. Employees had a solid foundation and could buy homes and raise families comfortably without too much worry. People offered loyalty and a long-term commitment to their employers until retirement and felt safe that their companies were loyal to them as well.
Things changed as the stock market gradually refocused company missions from stability to financial returns. Then, around the late 1990s, the digital industry exploded and things went nuts. The “dotcom economy” brought excitement and energy with startups being founded left and right, all with promises of big payouts to early stage investors and employees. Companies set up makeshift headquarters offices and people jumped on board to try to make something new work. It was optimistic, fast-paced and electric. People were excited to take the risk to join something new and potentially wildly successful.
The dotcom boom, with all its excitement and innovation, was rather short-lived. By 2000 the tech bubble had burst. Startups folded and stocks became worthless. People from failed startups were out of work and had to scramble to find new things to do. A lot of people moved from one startup to the next hoping to catch the next big wave and profit from the next big thing. It didn’t always work out.
A long recession followed, but the manic nature of tech industry employment did not change. The idea of a predictable, steady job was seen as boring and archaic, so it more or less disappeared.
While the job landscape was changing, companies started hiring more and more workers on contract versus offering people full-time positions. Contingency working models allow companies to pay people to work without requiring the investment it takes to hire them as permanent employees. Contingent workers receive money for their time, but they do not receive benefits, or any employment transition protection like severance packages or outplacement services if they are laid off. This model allows companies to exercise a lot of flexibility in hiring. They can hire when things are busy, and let people go when things slow down. Contract workers are inherently vulnerable to frequent job changes. It is a common working arrangement in the tech industry and is also common in localization.
Why do I compare the
tech industry to localization?
From an employment point of view, localization closely mimics the tech industry. Localization (including translation, globalization and internationalization) is often referred to as the “language industry,” but since everything involved in localization is deeply technical in nature it, by default, follows tech very closely. Most localization services providers (LSPs) are directly linked to technical companies and program development cycles, so they are subject to the shifts and changes of the tech industry when they occur.
Aside from market volatility, why else do people change jobs?
There are several reasons why someone might find themselves out of one job and looking for another.
Mergers and acquisitions
Companies buy each other pretty frequently, but mergers and acquisitions are not simple to execute successfully. The transition to a new combined corporate entity requires a lot of changes, and many impact personnel. Often there are areas of overlap where several people are doing the same job. This is called redundancy. Redundancy causes layoffs unless the affected employees can find other opportunities within the new company.
Companies like to change things up as a matter of practice since they are always looking for ways to save money and to be more efficient. A company might bring in new management, combine or split departments, invest in new areas or divest in others. This activity is referred to as a “reorganization” or a “reorg.” Reorganizations bring a fresh perspective and approach to the business but can be disruptive on employees and their roles. Job descriptions and requirements can change, and positions could be added or taken away depending on the objectives and plans of the new structure.
Employee layoffs can happen in an economic recession or when a company is in a difficult financial situation. Layoffs might include severance packages and outplacement resources that can help employees in transition, but these benefits are becoming slimmer and less comprehensive than they were in the past. Any employees sensing a possible layoff should be prepared in case their situation changes.
Being let go “for cause”
Sometimes there is a legitimate reason for someone to be let go from a company that has nothing to do with an overarching corporate plan. Being “terminated for cause” is generally related to insubordination, not doing their job, making mistakes that cost the company money, misbehaving like drinking or doing drugs while at work, or harassing or threatening someone. I even heard of a guy having a firearm at work who was quickly let go. The list on this topic is pretty long. If you are curious, feel free to search online. You’ll hear some wild stories.
How can you be prepared?
Like it or not (and believe me I don’t like it), companies — particularly in the US — have long abandoned the idea that they have a responsibility to care for the well-being of their employees. The attention of corporate leaders is on the bottom line, so anything that might jeopardize profitability is at risk, which includes staff. Layoffs are increasingly one of the first cost-cutting measures companies take because the effect is immediate. Even though it is convenient for the companies, it can be devastating to the employees who lose their jobs.
During my time as a recruiter and a career coach, I worked with many people who were blindsided by sudden changes their companies made that directly affected their professional status and financial stability. Sometimes layoffs came without warning and without any cause. No matter the reason, when it happens people have to scramble to get their footing and move on to the next opportunity.
My advice to help ease some of that potential shock is to do some work in advance to make sure you are always prepared for a job change if — or when — it happens. If nothing else, advance preparation can provide you with peace of mind. It is easier to think about career topics when there is not an immediate urgency to do so. You can take your time to contemplate your professional situation and goals without any rush or pressure and will be able to respond quickly to finding a new job if needed.
Here are some guidelines.
Step 1: Have a clear understanding of what you (really) want to do
The best advice I have for advancing a career is to spend time finding clarity about what you like, and don’t like. Be proactive. Explore your options. Decide what you want.
This may sound like a strange thing to do if you already have a job and have started your career, but there is a great benefit of going through this exercise at any time.
Many people launch their careers without taking the time to be purposeful and thoughtful about what they want to do. They might study something they think is pretty interesting, then get a job in that field and figure it should be okay, so they accept it. The next thing they know they are in a job or industry they hadn’t contemplated much in advance. Sometimes that works out, but sometimes it doesn’t. To avoid making unintended wrong turns you can take the time to sit and think: What job and career path are really right for you? And why?
There are several proactive things you can do to explore possibilities.
You can ask yourself: What do I value in my profession? Freedom? Great salary? Good benefits? Flexibility? And, what do I really want to stay away from? Public speaking? Too much travel? Repetitive tasks? Staring at code all day?
You can consider where you want to live and the companies you want to work for. You can think about how much money you want to make. You can even plan out your career with a longer view and strategically map out roles and opportunities that will ultimately lead you someplace specific. This is a more successful approach than bumping around from job to job to see what works and suffering from what doesn’t.
Exploring career possibilities in localization
The localization field is a pretty focused area, so if you already like it, you are in luck. Many people who work in this industry appreciate the multicultural and multilingual nature of the work, have an interest in different cultures and travel, and thrive in a challenging and fast-paced environment. Some like the unique technical challenges that arise from working with different languages. Some are very detail-oriented and like to express their linguistic expertise in translation. Some like that it can take them to far flung places around the world. Whatever the appeal, there are a lot of opportunities.
That said, navigating the different possibilities can take some consideration. People who are a perfect fit for a translator position may not be a good fit for a program manager position. Engineers may not be good at sales. Internationalization experts may never want to deal with language vendors. And not everyone is supposed to be the boss. In an ideal world you will find your area of expertise right where your interests and talents intersect.
Table 1 outlines a few of the major professional disciplinary areas and some of the general characteristics of the people who are successful in those fields.
Things can and should change over time
Our careers are dynamic and will keep changing over time. They should, anyway! Our preferences will change, so we will want to seek out new challenges and keep growing and evolving. Maybe during certain phases of your life you will dial back a little to go to school or care for family. Maybe during other phases you will want to shoot high and challenge yourself. Changes come with the territory so incorporating that expectation into your career planning will be beneficial.
Step 2: Ready your job search materials just in case
I believe we should all have our job search materials ready at all times. We never know when a new opportunity might arise or if a change at our current situation might come about.
Job search materials include having a résumé and LinkedIn profile. This is likely not surprising — it’s pretty standard protocol for the job search process.
I won’t go into a lot of detail here about what a résumé should contain, but here are a few points to be mindful of:
• Keep it brief and to the point.
• Make it easy to read and easy to understand – a recruiter will only scan it for 5-10 seconds so make sure important information stands out.
• Use quantifiable information to illustrate your achievements and experience. For example, “I achieved 100% of my $1M quota by Q1 2018” or “project translation was completed two weeks early and achieved A+ quality metrics.”
• Avoid vague statements or clichés, like “great communication skills,” “people person” and “go-getter.”
In a localization-specific résumé be sure to include a few key things:
• Your job specialization (management, project management, vendor management, engineering, testing, linguistics).
• Industry specializations, if any (tech, pharma, life sciences, medical devices, education, marketing, voiceovers, interpretation).
• The languages you know and your level of fluency. Most people in this industry are bilingual or multilingual even if they do not perform any professional linguistic functions. Recruiters will be curious about that.
• List any recognizable companies you have worked for or with. This information provides credibility and a sense of your experience.
LinkedIn is also familiar to most of us. I have a few suggestions on how to present yourself publicly on this platform during a job search:
• Follow the general protocols of having a professional photo and keeping your information clean and updated.
• Resist the temptation to mention on your profile that you are looking for a job. Would you walk into a party and introduce yourself as “single”? Instead, try out the job seeker tools that LinkedIn provides. You can show your interest in hearing from recruiters and companies in a more private way.
• Do not post anything like “If you are interested, call me.” Recruiters don’t work like that, and you won’t get any calls. Plus, see the point above.
• Try to avoid gaps in your working timeline. Even if you are in between positions, try to keep working. You can consult or initiate an independent project you will be able to showcase, for example.
• Try not to deviate too far outside your field unless you are deliberately making a career change. Otherwise your profile could become diluted and recruiters will not be sure exactly where to place you.
There is nothing wrong with being unemployed, of course! These are just a few tips to help smooth the transition.
Step 3: Prepare for your interview
Interviewing comes very naturally to social people, but others will benefit from a little practice. If you haven’t interviewed in a while you may find that having your story down will be a great advantage when you have to tell it. Here are some helpful tips:
• Tell your narrative from either present to past (reverse chronological order) or from the beginning to present (“I began working in localization in 1999…”)
• Identify the key points you want to communicate so you don’t find yourself rambling.
• If you had any challenging transitions from one job to another, make sure you can speak about them comfortably.
• If you had issues or difficulties with any former employers or coworkers, try to find a way to soften the narrative. It is understandable that conflicts arise, but how you choose to communicate that information (or if you choose to) will offer its own impression of you and will reflect on your level of professionalism.
Step 4: Consider your
Do you want to work remotely? Would you like limited travel? Do you need a visa? Is there a minimum salary you will accept? Do you want dental insurance? Would tuition reimbursement be attractive to you?
Thinking about all possible parts of an offer in advance will put you in a more comfortable position while you are considering different opportunities. You do need to know what is reasonable and competitive to expect, but preparing a bit in advance will ensure that you do not jump at the first offer, and do not undersell yourself.
All in all, the job market is getting more — not less – changeable and unpredictable. But that can be a good thing, brimming with vibrant new opportunities that will provide you with an abundance of varied and rich experiences. Even so, professional change can be challenging to navigate, so do yourself a favor and be prepared for your next job change if — or rather, when — it arises.