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April 26th, 2012 - Dean Anderson

Quittin’ time


okcBIZ asks when it’s time to consider a career change, or encourage an employee to do so


 

You know when quitting time is, but do you know when it’s time to quit?

Illustration by Brad Gregg

Susan Leonard, recruiting manager at Jacobi Kelley Personnel in Oklahoma City, works with accounting and financial professionals, as well as manufacturing management and engineers.

She says employees run the risk of becoming stagnant if they are in a position too long. Continual challenges might be the antidote to burnout.

THE SEVEN-YEAR ITCH

Even if the employee doesn’t recognize when they’re bumping up against quitting time, Leonard says often the employer does. She routinely gets calls for placements in jobs that are already filled.

“People get bored, and people get lazy. It’s just human nature,” she says. “If you want top talent, challenges are extremely important. If you want someone to sit in the corner and do data entry or something boring all the time, you can find a bump on a log. The candidates I interview, a huge percentage of them want to leave because they’re bored or they aren’t challenged.”

For former Oklahoma City University president Tom McDaniel, the epiphany came near the end of his working career.

“It became clear that at some point, it’s time for change,” says McDaniel.

He says if you’ve been in a job for 10 years, you need to ask yourself some serious questions.

“Obviously, becoming lethargic or complacent is always a danger in any job,” he says. “I think it depends, to a great degree, on the person. For many people, as long as they feel challenged and they’re making a contribution, doing a job longer is an OK thing. But I think, as a rule of thumb, moving to something different and having new challenges is something that can be very energizing.

“Early in your career I think you bring an energy, exuberance and new ideas. It takes some time for all the things to be put into place and try to accomplish goals. But after some point, I think change is an OK thing.”

CHANGING ATTITUDES

As a recruiter, Leonard likely won’t contact someone who has remained in a position for more than seven years, or even more than five years if he or she hasn’t taken on new responsibilities.

“There are certain companies in town that I won’t source candidates from,” she says. “Most of them are gigantic and they peg people in certain areas, and they tend to keep people who don’t want to move up, don’t want to change things and don’t want to innovate.”

McDaniel says people in his generation felt more secure that three decades of solid work at a company would earn them the pension and the gold watch for which they yearned.

But the current generation of young professionals grew up in an era of corporate scandal, downsizing and slashing of retirement benefits. Change has been forced upon them, requiring a different outlook, he says.

“I think people graduating today will be more open to change than my generation, and I think they will be required to do that,” McDaniel says.

In his life, he has gone through five career changes, from working at Kerr-McGee to practicing law and his involvement in the state court system.

Leonard says she has been in her current role at Jacobi for seven years and has no plans of leaving; she has kept things fresh by opening a new office and taking on various projects.

Looking back over her career, she says she’s averaged about five to seven years at each stop in the staffing industry, as the membership director at the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, as a marketing consultant and with the state Department of Commerce.

Although now retired, McDaniel says he likely won’t stop working, but will keep on looking for new challenges. He currently chairs the MAPS 3 Citizen Advisory Board and serves as president of the American Fidelity Foundation.

 
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