Job for life

We take a look at whether a job for life is much of a consideration for trainees any more

According to many careers observers, the job for life with its planned career structure and company training scheme has long gone. Similarly, gone are the clear functional identity and the progressive rises in income and security. 

In their place is a world of customers and clients, adding value, lifelong learning, portfolio careers, self-development and an overwhelming need to stay employable.

What this means, according to a recent Skills for Graduates in the 21st Century report, is that in many fields such as accountancy, ‘traditional positions will not absorb the vast numbers of new graduates’.

It adds that, instead, trainees ‘will find themselves facing the challenge of a small business or in positions previously filled by school-leavers. Even in the larger companies, decentralisation often means that small company conditions exist.’

Factors for this dramatic change in attitudes towards careers and employers are wide and varied. They include persistent economic volatility, ending of final salary pensions, an increased mobility of workforce and higher expectations of employers. All of these points have helped create a generation of footloose workers, happy to move from employer to employer on a regular basis.

In 2013 a Hays survey found that the days of jobs for life are long gone. The report said: ‘Three-quarters of Gen Y (classified as those born between 1983 and 1995) expect to have a minimum of four different employers throughout the course of their working lives.’

Less than two years

A recent report by analysts Mintel found that one in three workers remain in a job for less than two years, reconfirming the feeling that the so-called job for life has all but disappeared. 

‘Many older workers will have left school or university, found a job and stayed there, working their way up the corporate ladder,’ says Paul Davies, senior finance analyst at Mintel. ‘Today this just doesn't happen as often.’

The trend looks set to continue, with one in five of the 2,000 workers surveyed thinking about changing jobs over the coming year. 

But far from being a doomsday scary scenario, this is a professional development that generally speaking suits trainees.

Gareth Davage, senior managing director at Michael Page Finance London & South East Regions, says: ‘Trainees are looking for new experiences and different work cultures rather than settling down for life.

‘Most trainees will stay in their first professional job for only two to four years before moving on to another company or industry and will then start to seriously consider salary and benefit packages. Trainees are more focused on working with an established organisation that supports their studies and financial means.’

Fifteen job careers

Josh Rufus, manager of public practice at professional services recruiter Morgan McKinley, adds: ‘Attitudes towards a job for life have changed dramatically over the past decade and it definitely doesn’t hold the same attraction it once did.  

‘In fact, predictions are that in 10 years’ time, most 30-somethings will have held at least 15 jobs since the age of 20. There is nothing wrong with this approach, as long as you can justify the reasons for moving position. It certainly creates many more opportunities in terms of developing your skills.  

‘It is also worth noting that some employers are cautious about individuals who have been in one role for a long time, in that they might be typecast.’

A ‘job for life’ has become much less important to trainees over the past five to 10 years who now find office culture and a healthy work/life balance as a stronger drawing factor. 

Joss Collins, a financial services specialist at Venn Group, explains: ‘The reasons behind this are complex but are likely to reflect the changing attitudes of the "millennial" generation who generally seem to stay in roles for shorter periods of time. Unfortunately, most do not realise that to have any real chance of securing a senior role they’ll need to work at the lower level, regardless of qualifications, so experience is crucial. 

‘Trainees are also increasingly looking for the chance to work flexibly – as so many professionals are – and generally want their employer to pay at least some of their exam fees. Because of the nature of these qualifications, many also look for an organisation to provide paid study leave where they have the best chance of recording good results.’

"Attitudes towards a job for life have changed dramatically over the past decade... Predictions are that in 10 years’ time, most 30-somethings will have held at least 15 jobs since the age of 20"

Joss Rufus - Morgan McKinley