Thoughts by Richard Bleil
Sitting in a command staff meeting, the topic of discussion were the new young hires. In a table surrounded by baby boomers and generation Xer’s, there was a general malaise of what seemed to be a lack of long-term commitment or desire to build a career by the new generation.
It really is not a surprise to me. Companies, including the police department with whom I was working, lost their commitment to their employees. Benefits are being cut or eliminated, and retirement benefits that had been promised by so many corporations were simply cut. My generation was raised to believe that if you worked hard, built a career, and were committed to a company, then that company would take care of you. Our careers were everything, and we grew to be workaholics. Today’s generation is more family oriented, take care of themselves, and view jobs as simply stepping-stones for the next big thing.
Those who are my regular readers know that I’ve struggled with my career. I wanted to have a long successful career, but in the end, I’ve “job hopped” not out of desire or lifestyle choices, but because I’ve simply struggled to maintain jobs. A good friend of mine has gone so far as to say that I’ve had bad luck and lost my jobs through no “significant fault” of my own. Yes, I believe that the trouble I’ve been having is because of issues with my supervisors and lack of commitment from administration. I’ve tried to be open and honest about what happened, but hopefully you all know that I can only offer my side of the story. I don’t expect my readers to automatically agree with me, and frankly, that’s not the point of this post.
This is, honestly, not the point of this post. Rather, it’s a cautionary tale. After my last “significant” job (dean), I sent out, quite literally, thousands of applications across the nation, and even around the world. My education hadn’t changed (if anything, it improved but not in my field), and my experience was stronger than ever, and yet, prior to this, I had no problem getting hits on my applications. I’ve never been invited to an in-person interview and failed to get an offer (well, maybe once, but I had an offer from another application). And yet, this time, I had a few phone interviews, and two in-person that, frankly, seemed like they had already decided against me.
Aside from having more experience and stronger credentials, the only difference was that I was over fifty-five. Suddenly, I felt like I was too old. Okay, I felt this way, so maybe subconsciously it showed, but I don’t think so. I was quite confident, and most applications were online, and computer directed applications anyway, so I’m not sure how I could subconsciously sabotage myself anyway. But if you add this part to the first half of my post, you suddenly see something that could potentially be a concern for young people today.
See, nobody stays young. The reality is that we all age, and from this side of the hill, rest assured I speak from experience when I say time goes faster than you anticipate when you’re young. I’m not sure that I have an actual recommendation, but if you agree with the philosophy of job hopping, there will be a day that you’ll find yourself interviewing with younger bosses who won’t have respect for your experience, seeing your age as a handicap instead.
If you are aware of this possibility, perhaps you can plan for it. We both know that corporations won’t take care of you in the long run. Their only interest is their bottom line, so planning for a long-term career might not be the way to go, but it’s worth it for you to plan ahead.
Maybe this means investing heavily when you’re young. Early jobs don’t pay a lot, but you might decide to invest a large portion of your income for the future, something I wish I had done. Yes, the stock market is WAY down right now, but investments will pay off in the long term. I’m holding on to the stock that I have today, despite it losing so much of its value, because it will go back up. Or maybe thinking about the future means starting your own business. Whatever it is, just be aware that you will need something.
Today, I’m working at a Drive-In Theater. The reason is simple; having every day off gets very boring very quickly. I have enough money to survive, but not really for travel or living extravagantly. Maybe that would make a difference. My friend in Ecuador, spending his retirement years with his beautiful wife, would probably disagree with me. But he planned ahead, and they saved for an after-career lifestyle of their choice. I’m working at the Drive-In not so much for the money, but just to get out of the house, to do something to round out my days. If you’re young, the time to think about your future, and to plan ahead, is now. Follow your dreams but start dreaming today.