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In the old days, the 50s, 60s and into the early 70s, employees of IBM — International Business Machines — claimed that IBM stood for I’ve been moved. Other companies, including General Electric, employed a similar approach to groom up-and-coming executives.
The spouses of career military officers talk about the two-year cycle — every two years their husband or wife would be reassigned to a new post which meant packing up their family and uprooting relationships. As the wife of a close friend, a retired Army officer, once said, “It is just not something you ever get used to.”
Careers With Frequent Job Relocations
There are, of course, other industries that had a reputation for moving people around — advertising, entertainment, the ministry — but the vast number of American workers did not have to endure the trauma of ongoing relocations throughout their careers.
Years ago, when I was making journalism and the news business my first career choice, I opted for the path of as a newspaper reporter forsaking my love of radio, specifically radio stations with a Top-40 format. There were two reasons behind my decision: my voice lacked a certain authoritarian tone, and I didn’t want to be a gypsy who was forced to relocate, not based on the quality of my work but the whim of audience ratings or a format change. You could be a good reporter, someone who produced great stories, but if the ratings weren’t there, if the audience suggested that they wanted something a little different, then it would be time to call U-Haul and start looking for boxes to pack your prized possessions for the next gig across the state or across the country.
That Could Have Been Me
Year’s later, as I was pursuing my second career as the Director of Life Flight at Houston’s (Memorial) Hermann Hospital, I dropped in to visit a friend who was a news anchor and reporter for the ABC network-owned radio station in Houston. As I was walking down the hallway to the newsroom I passed the Program Director’s office. He was on the telephone excitedly talking to his wife, a copy of what appeared to be the station’s latest audience ratings survey in his hand: “Honey, great news, we’ll be in Houston for Christmas!” I was momentarily stunned after his words sunk in. I was now firmly “planted” in Houston but that could have been me if I had opted for my love of radio. (The Program Director survived two more “books” — ratings periods — before he, too, uprooted his family yet again.)
While some TV and radio announcers, reporters and anchors have enjoyed long careers in one or two markets, the vast majority are “journeymen,” moving from one community, one format, to another. Ratings reports can be particularly tough on one’s ego. Rejection in the form of audience feedback can come at any time — you are too serious, you are not serious enough, we don’t like the way you look, or you are too old … This is not a business for people with fragile egos and those that do suffer from insecurity will tell you it can be miserable.
Economy Creating More ‘Gypsy ‘ Jobs
Flash forward to 2020. Our new economy has produced a great deal of wealth for some, but it has also created jobs and transformed others in industries that for many years were known for their employment stability. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the average American worker will change jobs about 12 times in their professional lifetime. I would argue that this number is increasing. The healthcare sector is a case in point. Government regulation, reductions in reimbursement and any number of other economic and market threats have propelled healthcare into a rapidly evolving business model where there is more turnover and relocation. For example, the average tenure for a hospital CEO is now about three years. And when a CEO leaves, the chances are great that one, two or more other members of the executive team also will depart as the new leader builds his or her team.
This loss of what I call “community stability” in the job market is forcing executives, and those who want to move up the organizational and financial ladder, to relocate. In healthcare, where you have seen epic consolidation that has displaced thousands of executives and managers, that instability will only accelerate as cost cutting and governmental regulations force a massive shift in the industry’s business model and, correspondingly, the number and types of leaders that will be needed.
These changes will require executives to master some new career management skills. For some, it is going to be a tough ride.
Learn how to interview more effectively
Join John G. Self and Chrishonda Smith, CCDP, SPHR, of OhioHealth in Chicago in March for the American College of Healthcare Congress. They will be leading an in-depth session on interviewing skills for senior executives.
© 2021 John Gregory Self