Do not make promises to your family that you cannot keep.

This is one of the most controversial guidelines in the field of career management. In today’s economy, marked with more structural volatility and less job security, long term employment tenures are on the decline, especially at the executive level.

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relocationThe days when someone could get a job and keep the same employer for 20, 30, or 40-plus years as my aunt did with Southwestern Bell, ensuring a life of benefits and a solid retirement plan, are virtually over. Once stable industries, telecommunications, publishing, media manufacturing, and healthcare to name a few, are experiencing dramatic changes that all but trump this type of employee-employer relationship. The pathway to a secure middle-class life in which parents could reasonably expect to have a career that would ensure a stable, uninterrupted life where their kids could attend and graduate from the same schools and where long-term friendships could flourish are, for the most part, gone.

In the 60s and 70s major corporations such as IBM, GE, and Alcoa relocation was just an accepted part of the promotional process. At IBM, it was so common that executives on the rise assigned the company a nickname — I’ve Been Moved. Military officers with an eye on advancement in rank are moved every two to three years, or 10 to 15 times over the span of a 25 to 30-year career.

Its is likely this trend of shorter job tenures will only accelerate as more and more industrial sectors adapt to what has become a global economy with mergers and other forms of consolidation and outsourcing.

In terms of running a health system, a hospital, or other health services business, with all their inherent operational and financial complexity, the possibility for a long tenure — five years or greater — is diminishing. The average tenure for a hospital CEO is slightly more than three years today.

So this brings me back to my lead, my theme for this post: If you have pre-teen children, the chances of making it until they all graduate from high school probably will not be a realistic goal. To promise otherwise sets yourself up for missed career advancement, or possibly even your dream job. That said, for some executives who place their family above their career — and there are good many who do exactly that — loss of their job may mean a career change or a life commuting to work in another city or state.

This is not limited to Chief Executive Officers. Typically, when a new CEO arrives, he or she wants their own person as CFO, CNO or CMO. That creates a cascading turnover effect throughout the executive suite which means they, too, need to think carefully about making the infamous “no moves until you graduate commitment.”