The Nomad Economy: Should You Stay or Should You Go?

Almost six in 10 people say they would need to leave their current company now to get ahead. So why do so many hesitate?

Published: Jul 23, 2019

By now, you've heard the stories or seen it happening firsthand: people are staying in their jobs for fewer years, giving rise to the so-called "nomad economy."

And despite the perception of short job tenures changing from being a faux pas to something that demonstrates a person's flexibility and growth, it's still a daunting idea to up and leave your job when you're, say, only two years in. Indeed, while 57% of people say they would need to leave their current company to take their career to the next level, in reality, many of those people hesitate to make the leap. After all, what if the unknown is worse than what we've learned to tolerate?

Failure can be one of the best things that happens to us.

To be sure, some of our fears are valid. It takes three years, for example, for external hires to develop the knowledge and context-specific skills of someone who was promoted internally, according to Zara Whysall, head of research at the London-based management consulting firm Kiddy & Partners.

But in many cases, the fear arises simply because it's new and different. Here's how to recognize if what's holding you back is a valid concern.

Identify the worst-case scenario.

Often, when we consider a change, our brains flood with chatter of what could go wrong-which is way more than what we think could go right. To gain some perspective, Karen Huang, senior manager in Korn Ferry's Search Assessment practice, says to consider the reasons behind your fear in a way that helps you think of the worst possible scenario. If the new job doesn't work out, are you afraid of an income loss, or losing face among friends? Once you know what's scaring you, you can then assess how likely it is that such a thing would happen, and, if necessary, make a plan for what you'd do if such a thing occurred. Another way to go about this is to weigh the risks of trying something new against the risks of staying put. "Consider which loss is worse, more likely, and harder to recover from," Huang says.

Don't change everything.

The idea of a totally clean slate can feel refreshing to some and terrifying to others. Even if you won't be working at the same office-or even in the same industry-you should try to retain the elements of your career that matter most to you. If you aren't sure what those are, try ranking the kinds of fulfillment work provides you: money, structure, a sense of contribution, creativity, etc. This can help you zero in on what types of opportunities may be best to pursue.

Reset your outlook on failure.

Failure can be one of the best things that happens to us. It allows us to take stock of a situation and realize what we can or can't put up with. To that end, if a new job turns out to be worse than the one you left, "learn from the experience, cut your losses, and move on," Huang says.

Find joy in the journey.

Think of yourself as an explorer walking through your career. As cheesy as this may sound, this new frontier is called the nomad economy. The journey, then, is its own reward, and there are many worthwhile paths along the way. You never know how that failed job interview or your six-month stint at the company from hell could lead to new friendships or networking opportunities.

Want to learn more about the nomad economy? Check out our deep dive into the trend, ways to network as a nomad and Korn Ferry CEO Gary Burnison's take on job tenures.

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