Continuing Education + Job Training // Publishing since 1999

Restless

By ANDREW OLIVER - February 27 2024

Dear Elcee:

Please help!  I am 35 years old and am so tired of going from one job to another.  I had dreams of graduating college after studying  computer programming  and settling into a job.   My parents, and grandparents, graduated from school and stayed with the same employer until they retired.  I know they look at me and wonder “why can’t she settle down?” but it seems that every job advertised is either temporary or contract.  Although I do my best to stay updated with my skills and can offer excellent references, I have worked for 6 different employers in the past 6 years.

Is this normal?

Restless

Dear Restless;

Welcome to the new norm.  The “old norm” for both our parents and possibly our grandparents life was climbing the vertical work ladder  A person entered the workplace at the bottom of the tier and gradually climbed upwards with the same employer throughout their career.  The “new norm” for many younger baby boomers and millennials tends to look like a highway with up hills, down hills and a lot of exit ramps. Oh, and lets not forget the potholes.  Many people are now graduating into a changing work environment that involves working in a variety of situations for short periods of time. This may take the form of  temporary employment, contract and freelance.  Currently it is estimated that over 30 per cent of our workforce are working in what is coined as “precarious” or “unstable” employment . Those numbers are only expected to rise. It is expected that over the next twenty years the majority of the population will be working in this manner.  How then, do you (and others) ask do we adapt and thrive in this new work world?  I have some tips and guidelines for you.

1. Become the master of your finances.  It is possible that your income will fluctuate and you may experience feast or famine times.  Ensure that while you are at your higher income levels set money aside to draw on during the lower income period times. 

2. Be your own Boss: Working in a permanent job situation can appear on the outside to be an ideal situation.  Guaranteed pay, consistency and security.  There is, however, no such thing as a “for sure”.  Companies fold, new owners come on board and, even without that happening, one can become very stagnant doing the same job over and over. Treat yourself as your own employer.  Take control over your skill set and your own path. 

3. Stay updated with your skills and add others when you can.  As you said in your letter, you are staying updated. That is a very good strategy.  Ensure that you are current with your skill set and take every opportunity that you can to broaden your skills when possible.  In this environment, the more skills you have the more opportunities will be open to you.  

4. Don’t burn your bridges.  You mentioned that you have had 6 employers over the past 6 years.  Leave your employers on good terms.  Try to stay connected (through Facebook, LinkedIN or other social media).  They can serve as valuable references and networking contacts for you.

5. Stay connected! Join professional organisations. Volunteer with the community.  You are not the only one out there experiencing this unstable work environment.  Networking with others not only aids your mental health, it provides professional support, networking leads and training opportunities.

6. Know your rights.  While we may assume that working temporary or contract leaves us with very little protection, that is not entirely true.  Laws have been adapted and changed over the past twenty years to ensure that temporary, freelance and contract employees are protected under Labour Laws.  Make efforts to know what labour laws are relevant for your type of employment.  Canadianlabour.ca is an excellent source of information to gain information on your employment rights. 

So, put on your seatbelt.  Show this letter to your parents supplemented by your own research on the IT industry. Even though this new world of work may seem negative right now there are a lot of positives also.  Many people enjoy the constant variety in their work, the chance to meet new people and utilise skills they may not have had the opportunity to put into practice.  While it takes discipline and organisational skills, being your own employer can also reap great rewards.  Good luck to you. 

Dear ELCEE is written by Deborah Noel, deborahjnoel@gmail.com
Send her your questions. 

We value your opinion. Please let us know what you think about this column. Send comments to learningcurves@hotmail.com.


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