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   Forget the 401(k): Today's Job Seekers Want Flexibility

 

Bored With Your Job? Why Not
Jump To Another?

Today's young professionals seize
on countless opportunities

By David Armstrong   Fox Market Wire

After just seven months at a small graphic arts company in New York City, Amy Shroads heeded the call to one of the wildest job markets in decades and jumped to a new firm.

 

Not long ago, the 28-year-old might have felt compelled to pay her dues and stick it out, at least for a year. Or she might have explored other opportunities within the company.

But in the grip of an ever-tightening labor market, such sentiments have become passe among today's career opportunists.

The notion of spending an entire career, or even several years, with one company has become as quaint as manual typewriters and rotary dial telephones. The sizzling economy has lead to the lowest unemployment level in decades, hovering around 4 percent nationally. As a result, companies now must bend over backwards to attract and retain good employees.

Soon after she began to look, Shroads was snatched up by Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, the company of the doyenne of domesticity. Shroads is happy with her 2-month-old job as an art director, but she's certain if she felt the itch to try something new, she could easily make another switch.

"Quite frankly, I knew I wouldn�t have trouble finding another job," she said. "In the short time I have been in the workforce, it�s been nothing but a good economy. It�s gone up and up and up. I haven�t had those fears that if I leave here, I won�t have anything else."

Among today's class of young, urban professionals, the pace of "job hopping" has reached frenetic levels, especially with the emergence of countless Web companies on the prowl for skilled workers. But even old-guard corporations are fighting over employees. There is no question it is an employee�s market.

Nearly one-third of American companies expect to hire more workers this spring — the strongest demand in more than two decades — according to a survey of 16,000 businesses by the temporary staffing agency Manpower Inc.

Such opportunities are fueling people's desires to take on new opportunities.

"You just don�t meet people who sit around for too long, particularly in New York," Shroads said. "When you do, it�s really shocking. It�s different from what it seems my parents were doing at this age."

In some regards, changing jobs is akin to getting a promotion a generation ago.

WORKERS ON THE MOVE

Out of 1,383 people surveyed, 44% said they're likely to change jobs within the next year.

Of those, 55% said they're likely to change jobs within the next six months.

Source: CareerPath.com

"It�s the only way to get ahead," Shroads said.

Say Goodbye to Loyalty

In just the last seven days, more than 250 media jobs in New York City were posted on monster.com, an Internet job site. And that's just a fraction of the 340,000 jobs posted on the Web site, which itself is only one of seemingly dozens of job boards proliferating on the Net.

The demand for workers has re-written the rules of the employee-employer relationship, and given unprecedented opportunities to employees to design their careers, according to workplace observers.

"It�s the free agent nation," said Timothy Dittrich, senior vice president and North American managing director for monster.com. "The trend is moving away from long-term loyalty."

Dittrich said the proliferation of Internet job boards reflects a growing entrepreneurial spirit among "career opportunists," as opposed to the traditional employment model, involving a long-term approach to career building.

"That doesn�t mean that all of those people are looking for a job today, or all those jobs will be filled today, but it does mean there is opportunity," he said.

What's Wrong With That?

Job hopping is "a fever that is catching," said Kristen Accipiter with the Society for Human Resource Management, and it's not only happening in the high-tech sector.

At least some employees' desire to take new jobs has been driven by stories about overnight millionaires who got in on the ground level of a successful start-up and saw their stock options blossom into bounteous wealth, she said.

But while not everyone has become a millionaire, job hopping still makes people feel they can get ahead, Accipiter said.

It's a situation not likely to change over the next five to 10 years, she said. That's because the number of workers has shrunk overall as baby boomers exit the labor force.

But employees have to be careful of becoming a perpetual job seeker, she warned.

Those who stick with one company often learn about the business on multiple levels and make substantial contributions. That could lead to greater rewards, financially and otherwise, than taking a short-term approach, Accipiter said. "You really do get a lot out of a company if you are there for more than a year," she added.

Also, too many jobs on a resume could make future employers skeptical about the applicant�s loyalty.

"Most recruiters would say, �What�s wrong with that person? They can�t commit to any company,�" she said. "Employees only interested in the short-term benefits, and not interested in learning all they can from the company, aren't the kind of employee employers want."

For Joe Johnson, such factors weren�t enough to keep his gig with a Maryland software company. After only six months, the twentysomething Web designer joined an Internet start-up in New York City.

He now works for RS1W, Inc., the media outlet of hip-hop impresario Russell Simmons, helping design a Web portal tentatively called 360hiphop.com.

"The job looked interesting, so I sent off my resume," said Johnson, who learned about the job after casually browsing an Internet job site. "I wasn�t actively looking. I stumbled across it. Before I knew it, I had an interview."

And the job. He doubled his salary and made the move from the Mid-Atlantic to New York. And he has no doubt that if things were not to work out between him and RS1W Inc., he could find something else.

"Within a month," Johnson said. "There are always going to be a lot of employers looking for you. I am very confident in thinking that it is an employee�s market."

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