Brits shifting away from 'job for life' mentality

over 5 years ago by Claire Smith

​There was once a time when people would tend to do the same job throughout their lives, but the concept of a 'job for life' looks to be a thing of the past.

The nature of work in the UK used to be more suited to the single career option. In many towns and cities, a single industry would dominate, be it mining, the manufacture of a particular product or food production. For example, generations of people in the Welsh valleys would go down the pit to haul up coal, while Kidderminster would make carpets, Northampton would manufacture shoes and coastal villages would take to their fishing boats. Greater diversity would generally be confined to larger cities, such as Birmingham - nicknamed the 'city of a thousand trades'.

Add to this the fact that fewer people used to attend university, thus limiting social mobility, and the options were clearly more constrained than now.

However, much has changed. While many of the old industries have either died out or fled abroad, a plethora of new ones have arisen and expanded.

Moreover, the ending of the old working patterns has not just meant the occasional career change. A study by Indeed of 1,200 employers and job seekers found that 98 per cent of people had changed jobs in the last five years!

Quite simply, job-hopping has become fashionable in the last few years, and few expect it to be seen negatively by employers. Only 23 per cent thought this approach would damage their long-term career goals, while 64 per cent of employers said they were satisfied that job-hoppers would not have a negative effect on their businesses.

There is clear evidence, however, that the positive attitude to job-hopping is the product of a generational shift in attitudes. While 40 per cent of people under the age of 35 see job-hopping as a positive contributor to their career development, only 15 per cent of those over 35 do.

For proponents of regular job changes, the advantages are clear: It enables them to build up a wide portfolio of skills and experience, which in time may open up a wider array of career opportunities for them further down the line due to their more diverse CVs. While loyalty may be one valuable quality, there is a danger that staying in one job means workers only learn a limited range of skills that are specific to their role.

New skills key to moves

Learning new skills was cited by 44.3 per cent of job-hoppers as their main reason for changing jobs, making it the most commonly listed benefit. Increased adaptability was second on 40.4 per cent, while 38.7 per cent wanted to boost their CVs. Just over a third looked to expand their networks of connections, and a similar number were seeking to make it easier to move between industries.

This approach may make a lot of sense in a fast-changing and uncertain world. The 2008-09 recession was an example of how many people can be caught unawares by sudden shifts in economic fortunes, while older workers may recall the higher unemployment of the 1980s and 90s as the economic balance gradually shifted from manufacturing to services.

Not only is the idea of a job for life obsolete, but it seems taking the opposite approach may now be one of the most effective ways for people to get the most out of their working lives.