I have a day job. Yep, as much as I love writing, I also have to pay the bills. I’m fortunate in that my current business allows me great flexibility as well as opportunities to meet and work with some truly interesting people.
Working as a consultant sometimes also brings its share of a few surprises. Take for example this recent exchange with a potential client – let’s call him “Harry.” As Harry reviewed my resume he looked up from the paperwork and said;
“Well, it looks like you’ve taken a few mulligans during your career.”
A Mulligan, in a game, happens when a player gets a second chance to perform a certain move or action; usually due to lack of skill or bitter luck. A “Do-Over”. Like getting an “Extra Play” in pinball due to sinking the ball before obtaining an arbitrary amount of points. http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=mulligan
It usually takes a lot to fluster me. However, Harry’s comment caught me quite off-guard. I’ve certainly changed lanes a few times in my personal life (“A Bend in the Road”), but I’ve always thought of my professional career as being pretty slow and steady. I’ve stayed with most employers – state and federal government as well as non-profits – for at least six years or more. Being that I’ve been working for over 25 years, even by “Florida Girl Math Skills” standards I’ve changed agencies a total of four times. Is this a lot?
I began to wonder if this query by Harry (who appeared to be in his mid-fifties) might be based upon generational biases and attitudes. A quick search revealed an interesting article- “Is Loyalty Dead” – published on the Psychology Today blog site “Wired For Success” – which notes some key differences between baby boomers and millennials/younger workers when it comes to loyalty. In particular, I found this of keen interest:
In the work world where employees were lifetime workers, and employers took care of them, that concept of loyalty made sense. However, today’s work world is vastly different: Lifetime employment doesn’t exist, and employers, including governments, have reneged on their promises. The traditional concept of loyalty implies allegiance to someone or something even if it contradicts self-interests. In the workplace setting, this concept has been viewed as an employer’s expectation that an employee would eventually be rewarded for this kind of allegiance.
No wonder baby boomers (I am, by the way, a boomer having just snuck into this demographic in 1963, with the official cut-off seeming to be 1964) are perhaps a bit peeved: the world changed the working rules in mid-stream. Where loyalty was once rewarded, today it is expected that most young workers will change jobs every two years (American Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2010). Given Harry’s age, he might readily believe that someone my age should be a more loyal employee.
I also pondered if Harry had preconceived notions regarding my status as a working boomer female. Did he perceive four employer changes over twenty-five years to be excessive because women should be loyal to a fault? Would a man have been called out for changing jobs just four times over a twenty-five year career?
Survey says: hmmm…
I’ve recently been reading Sheryl Sandberg’s wonderful book “Lean In” that describes, in exceptional detail, women in the workforce. My favorite chapter to date –“It’s a Jungle Gym, Not a Ladder” – explains how “ladders” don’t work for most working women because there is only one way up and one way down. Women can benefit greatly from an alternative “jungle gym” approach where there are many ways to get to the top. This jungle gym model can be especially useful for women in that we often stop, start and re-start our careers as we manage families and other obligations. I’m pretty sure that Harry is more of a ladder kind of guy. Too bad for Harry: playing on a jungle gym, with all its twists and turns, sure is a lot more fun than a boring old ladder – don’t you agree?
What has been your approach to your career path? Have you been exceedingly loyal, or have you often jumped ship?
As for me, sitting here in the middle-aged cheap seats, I have few regrets when it comes to my career. I do know, from personal experiences, that taking a mulligan is challenging. A do-over requires you to conquer self-doubt, something Sandberg refers to as the “imposter syndrome” by which you feel like a fraud and you fear that if you take a mulligan everyone will find out you’re a fraud. This syndrome has plagued me for years, but I am buoyed by the knowledge that those four employer changes all yielded great results. I have faith that my career journey will continue to evolve as I happily swing from the monkey bars.
Anderson saysAugust 5, 2013 at 4:26 pm
Very efficiently written story. It will be useful to everyone who usess it, including me. Keep doing what you are doing – i will definitely read more posts.
Kate Lindsay saysJuly 31, 2013 at 11:43 am
I love the way you write. I can picture everything coming together in your mind so clearly.
I love the "Jungle Gym" analogy. I just recently bought Sandberg's book but I have yet to crack the cover. (I have two others to finish first). Looking forward to it even more now.
Having to take a Do-Over for sure means having to learn and to get over a few things, assuming that the out come that one is wanting is different from the one we got last time round. I think having the opportunity to start over is a blessing. I am in a Muligan space myself these last few months and I feel blessed with the opportunity. Thanks Kim!!
Kim D saysAugust 2, 2013 at 3:45 pm
Kate, I can't wait to hear what you think of Sandberg's book. It's starting to get some push back; won't taint you, but I would love to hear your 30-something perspective in reaction to Sandberg's observations and advice.
Deanna Heiliger saysJuly 31, 2013 at 9:53 am
This made me laugh…I am picturing Harry all in a dither because he can't see past his own perspective…so narrow minded! I love the "Jungle Gym" analogy, I agree with that! Thanks for the entertaining and thought provoking post!
Nathalie Villeneuve saysJuly 28, 2013 at 10:13 pm
Hi Kimba, You career path is examplary to me …really! You are undeniably a very loyal and profesional women who's given her best in what she does.. I've changed jobs and career path a lot more then four times…but always remained inside one path…finding my true purpose and passion. Keep following you heart!
You rock in my book
Kim D saysJuly 29, 2013 at 11:15 am
Nathalie, I KNOW your path, career or otherwise, has been ruled by passion and love for your sisters beside you. Have been loving the Expert on Purpose work – keep it up! Hugs.
KellyAnne saysJuly 27, 2013 at 5:15 pm
Great article! Ohhhhhhh friend… I have SO many thoughts on this topic, but I'll keep it brief. I'm in my early 30's but was brought up (like many others) with the mindset that you choose ONE career and stick it out until you retire. I chose teaching, not realizing that there were MANY ways to educate others. After about 7 years, I resigned to fulfill my dream to teach/train/inspire on a MUCH broader level. Yes, I got criticized, ridiculed, and zero support, but I was HAPPY!! And, now I'm making the difference that I've always known in my heart that I was meant to make.
Therefore, I say do what inspires YOU and makes YOU happy! You're the one that has to wake up everyday and live the life you choose, noone else. Others may not always agree or support, but that's their own fears and insecurities coming out. Life is too short, and you are too special to be anything but happy! 🙂 KellyAnne
Kim D saysJuly 28, 2013 at 10:32 am
KellyAnne I am so glad you stopped by. And, also very happy to hear about how you found a way to expand your dream in a way that you clearly feel passionate about. I wish you much continued success – and I admire that you found your passion path in your 30's!
marquita herald saysJuly 26, 2013 at 7:06 pm
Wow I love the jungle gym analogy Kim! My dad worked for the same company for 48 years and had little to show for it. I swore I'd never follow in his footsteps, so yes, I moved around a bit, primarily in my career in travel, but I put in an average of 6 to 10 years and each change was a step up in title and pay so I feel pretty good about the resume. Actually, what feels GREAT is working at home and no longer having to think about my resume other than to use in my profiles and author bios. 🙂
Kim D saysJuly 28, 2013 at 10:28 am
Amen sister!! I work from a home office too: when I started five years ago was worried I would feel isolated, but, it has worked out great! Don't know if I could ever go back to 40 hrs a week in an office ever again.
Jacs Henderson saysJuly 26, 2013 at 6:36 pm
I think you showed great restraint Kimba, Harry sounds like a real fuddy duddy – I think I'd have smacked him round the mouth and told him to stuff his job! We don't use that word Mulligan over here, but I don't think it's really very relavant judging by your definitions – I'm a boomer too 1959 – but certainly don't think we've all lived our careers in the job for life camp, at least not at the latter boomer ages (maybe in Harry's case – we'd call him an old fart) He doesn't seem to get that different jobs are to expand our experience and knowledge, and the "jungle gym" works well for pretty all the women I know – sometimes it's fun to just go sidewards and discover new pastures!
I'm leaving you imagining Harry hanging from the monkey bars (hope he falls off!!)
Kim D saysJuly 28, 2013 at 10:26 am
LMAO Jacs – I know you are a jungle gym type of gal!
Vicki saysJuly 26, 2013 at 6:00 pm
Maybe Harry is older than he's claiming! Maybe 40 yrs ago there was that so called "loyalty" thing between employer & employee. But that started changing way before I left the workforce in 1998. Women did not have as many career choices (nurse, secretary, teacher) & a lot of men were not "equal" partners & I dare say some down right chauvinistic! I love your generation's attitude…follow your dreams & keep on swinging on that jungle gym!
Kim D saysJuly 28, 2013 at 10:24 am
Vicki, I do hope that attitudes are changing – I see this more with the millenials – your grandson :-). They seem to possess great social responsibility and if they don't have a job that inspires them, they move on! I think employers are going to have to evolve quickly if they want to retain their employees in the future.
Kim D saysJuly 26, 2013 at 5:45 pm
Christina – now that is an interesting point that you make – perhaps I reacted the way I did because of my age! I never thought about how a younger person would have reacted. Think I'll go ask my twenty-something son if it would have bothered him…
Christina saysJuly 26, 2013 at 12:28 pm
That's a really interesting point and topic! I don't know if it has anything to do with being female, but I definitely think this man had a bias due to his generation. As a generation Xer, I never thought the idea of staying with one company for the rest of one's life is a reality, and I do see other people in my generation changing jobs and areas of interest every few years. I think most younger people in the workplace would not have that reaction 🙂
Katie Gallagher saysJuly 26, 2013 at 12:26 pm
Oh Kimba… Harry's been a government employee his entire life, hasn't he? As I'm beginning to send out my CV to prospective universities (the PhD is 4/5 done), I feel like the numerous job changes in my life make me a better qualified candidate, not a worse one. Change gives you different experiences and perspectives and makes you a better person, not worse! And, I don't think that qualifies as a mulligan – it's moving forward, not trying to fix a mistake!
Love reading your blog posts!
Kim D saysJuly 26, 2013 at 5:39 pm
First of all – congrats on the PhD!! As you circulate that vitae I hope you're using me as a reference!! Any chance you'll head back to the DC area?
Louise Edington saysJuly 26, 2013 at 12:18 pm
I'm officially a boomer (1959) but I NEVER relate to what a boomer is supposed to be like. I have never been in a job for more than 5 years and have never lived in one place for longer than 6-7. My 'career' has swung through more monkey bars than I care to mention. I don't think Harry would hire me, do you?
Kim D saysJuly 26, 2013 at 5:36 pm
Well Louise, I think it would be very interesting if you could do a reading for "Harry" and see where his life path has been!
Laura Lee Carter aka the Midlife Crisis Queen saysJuly 26, 2013 at 11:16 am
As someone who has never stayed in one job longer than six years over a 25 year career, I have always felt GREAT about the fact that there are always "do-overs before it's all over!" I now feel lucky that I lost my last job seven years ago because I probably would not have quit that job, started my own dating service, met the life partner of my dreams at age 49, and then become a writer, my heart's desire! See why I call myself the Midlife Crisis Queen?
If anything I think most of us have no imagination when it comes to being creative with our lives or our true choices… There are so many more than most of us believe!
Kim D saysJuly 26, 2013 at 5:35 pm
"do-overs before it's all over!" – oh, I am SO going to use that! Midlife Crisis Queen you may just be my new idol!
Melissa saysJuly 26, 2013 at 11:05 am
Sometimes change isn't at the fault of the woman. In my first few years of marriage and work I changed jobs 5 times in 7 years. My husband's career path moved us a few times and my chosen profession was not the most mobile. Looking back, each job I had proved a valuable learning experience. I wouldn't trade the time I worked for the 2002 Olympic Winter Games (from geologist to admin) for anything. The pay stunk but the experience was fantastic! However, I often worry that my resume doesn't come close to proving my value in the work place because of my repeated "mulligans". I have comtemplated reentering the work force several times but find it intimidating with a spotty resume. I also have realized that what I thought I wanted to do 15 years ago, isn't at all where I want to spend my time/energy now. A mulligan isn't a bad thing if you realized your interests and priorities have changed. A lifetime is a long time to commit to 1 thing. Check out the kids book – "When I Grow Up" by Al Yakonvich. Covers this topic perfectly.
Kim D saysJuly 26, 2013 at 5:34 pm
That book is now definitely on my reading list – Al is almost always brilliant. Thanks for the recommendation. If you ever do decide to re-enter the work force, I know you'll find something that will be fulfilling – how about professional salmon slayer? 😉
Lori Rinehart saysJuly 26, 2013 at 9:35 am
Love you. I’m right there on the jungle gym with you. Sometimes I look back and think wow if I would have stayed at the state I would be almost ready for retirement…but then I would not have tried my hand at my own non profit or met nearly as many strange and wonderful people. I will happily swing on the monkey bars with you any day.
Kim D saysJuly 26, 2013 at 5:30 pm
Lori, I am so grateful you are on the jungle gym with me! You were great at the State, but taking a chance on the non-profit was DEFINITELY what you were supposed to do!
Carol saysJuly 26, 2013 at 9:09 am
Mulligan or not, you really need to do what inspires you. If your current job no longer "gets you going" in the morning, you really owe it to yourself and your employer to find something that does. If you are happy where you are, you thrive and you produce more!! Just my 2 cents worth! 🙂 Thanks Kimba.
Kim D saysJuly 26, 2013 at 5:28 pm
Carol, I think the millennial coming up behind us possess a much better sense of how to balance work and fulfillment. Most of the research I did for this post noted that they will switch jobs an average of every two years! I think we are going to see a monumental shift in workforce habits and function.
Drewdy saysJuly 26, 2013 at 8:26 am
Superb essay! I think about this a lot. Harry is only about 15 years behind the curve on this one. I think your comeback about 'changing lanes' is apt and a good one! (I will now steal, sorry, I mean incorporate that into my career narrative.) Harry should realize your CV brings him a breadth of knowledge and experience, hardly a deficiency. Mulligan is def not the right term and it does show a bias against some now forsaken thinking. Heaven help Harry if he has to consider a Millennial or a Gen Y applicant. Not entirely sure gender played into your encounter, but wouldn't be surprised if it did. Nicely played!
Kim D saysJuly 26, 2013 at 5:26 pm
Don't be too hard on poor Harry – though I must say I am itching to see his resume!!