Networking

The Incredible Shrinking Career Timeline

Korn Ferry CEO Gary Burnison breaks down the importance of viewing your career in 12- to 18-month increments. 

If you’re below a certain age, you may find yourself rolling your eyes when people talk of staying in the same job for five, 10, or—gasp!—20 years. It’s quite common these days to job-hop, and companies have adjusted accordingly. But that doesn’t mean you should be moving around so much that your resume begins to look like a yearly fire sale.

Instead, think of your career in 12- to 18-month increments. Rather than worrying about finding your ideal position right out of school or right after a career switch, go into each job with a short-term plan for how you’ll get closer to your ultimate goal. Remember: any job is a good job, provided you’re learning.

The biggest mistake most young people make is that they sprint through their early careers.

The biggest mistake most young people make is that they sprint through their early careers, staying in different jobs for just a few months in hopes of quickly finding the perfect position next. But you’re just starting a marathon, so you shouldn’t have the mindset that you have to find a dream job right away. The most important thing you can do is learn and grow.

One of the best ways to do this is to start thinking about your next job right when you land a new one. This might strike you as odd. But there’s really no better way to advance your career than by distinguishing yourself in your brand-new job, right from the get-go. Ways to do this include:

Become indispensable to your boss.

Here’s a fact most people overlook: your job is really about one person—your boss. The more you can help him or her succeed, the better off you’ll be.

Learn all you can.

Remember why you took the job. Aside from a paycheck and title, you took the gig to gain new skills and expand your experiences. Let your curiosity lead you and commit to continuous learning.

Network, network, network.

The six degrees of separation—the idea that anyone can be connected to any other person through a chain of acquaintances with no more than five intermediaries—isn’t just a theory. It’s a reality. Over my career, I’ve seen this play out thousands of times. Networking is about using these connections to your advantage. Remember: networking isn’t about you. It’s about the other person.

Hiring managers understand that you may not be with their company years down the road. But they also want to know that you will stay with them long enough to help them build and grow. So, take the time to learn—and keep piling up the short-term achievements to reach your ultimate goal.

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