Can you imagine yourself working in the same job for fifty years?
An abrupt outpouring of thunderous applause echoed throughout the auditorium when the emcee announced the recipients for Long Service Award who have contributed 50 years of service.
A deep sense of respect and admiration was seeded in my heart when I first attended the same award ceremony twenty years ago. As the year passes, my respect remains unchanged but some questions emerge,
“Is it a boon or bane to stay in the same job for a long time? And why do some people stay at the same job for so long?”
I have stayed in the same company for 20 years. And perhaps surprising to some people, it was my third job within three years after graduation from University. So I know what it was like to quit a job quickly, as well as what it takes to stay on a job for a long time.
There are advantages and disadvantages to either choice. Contrary to popular views, however, a good decision cannot be determined by simply taking an utilitarian approach of assessing if the pros outweigh the cons.
Needless to say, factors like pay and advancement opportunities are important considerations in order to maintain a decent livelihood. But that is not enough. It matters even more whether you grow to like your job and grow to become really good at what you do. Don’t you agree?
Some of my friends were smooth-sailing in their careers, while others experienced bumps and bruises along the way. Despite their best calculations, it is not uncommon to see people eventually ended up in jobs that they find little meaning to work for. And now at middle age, they are caught between a rock and a hard place.
Fortunately, there are also exceptions.
I recently met an old friend BT who found a job that he enjoys doing only after he turned forty. BT started out as an HR executive in his early twenties. He moved out of his comfort zone into sales and marketing, and then switched to F&B and subsequently retail businesses. For one reason or another, things did not work out for him.
Only after many years of false starts, BT finally succeeded in turning his passion in singing into a job he loves. Now he is a successful voice coach who teaches aspirant singers. BT said thoughtfully,
I could see his eyes glistening when BT spoke about his work. And he even coached me to sing on the plane when I chanced upon him on my same flight to Japan last week. I felt happy for my old friend. I have learnt one precious lesson from him: Never cease to find and do a job that keeps you happy.
So, back to the very first question: “Would you stay in the same job for fifty years?” I think the answer does not lie in the length of your work life, but in the simple joy you find in the job.
In the next blogpost, I will share with you five reasons that may help to keep you happy at a same job for a very very long time.
William W K Tan
15 February, 2019