Don't Be Afraid of Changing Jobs

Some people are corporate survivors, sticking with one company for decades. Some people move around when it suits, while others would like to move, but are fearful of change. Here’s a few things I’ve learnt about adapting to new work environments. It’s not that scary.

Corporate Survivors

We’ve all seen the people who seem to survive in a corporate environment. They seem to know everyone, and almost everything about the business. Return to a company after 10 years, and they’re still there. Somehow they survive, through mergers, acquisitions, and round after round of re-organisation. But often they seem to be doing more or less the same job for years, with little change.

Why Do People Stay?

There’s four possible reasons for staying at a job for a long time:

  1. You’re really happy with what you do, and you’re well looked after.
  2. You just don’t care. You come to work to eat your lunch and talk to your friends. You don’t care how you’re treated, or what work you do, as long as you get paid.
  3. This is the only possible job you can get, due to location/skills/whatever.
  4. You’re comfortable where you are, and you’re scared of moving, scared of what a new job might bring.

The first reason is good, and you should make the most of it. If it’s the second reason, I hope I don’t have to work with you. I can’t help with the third. But you should never feel stuck because of the last reason. Change is not that hard.

Starting a New Job

I’m not a corporate survivor. I’ve moved jobs for professional and personal reasons - e.g. moving countries. I’ve also been a contractor and a consultant, so I have a reasonable amount of experience with working in ‘new’ environments. Here’s a few of the things I’ve learnt along the way:

You’re not expected to know everything

People don’t expect you to know everything straight away. You’re new, and everyone knows it. If you’ve got questions, ask. People will help. Don’t ask the same question twice though (That one applies to your whole life).

You’ve been hired for a certain set of skills and attitudes, but it is well understood that you won’t know everything about every system in use.

That said, you should be able to figure out similar systems - e.g. If you’ve worked with one proxy server, then it shouldn’t take long to figure out how another one works. The concepts are the same, you just need to figure out the implementation specifics. That’s what manuals are for.

Breathe through your nose

For the first few days & weeks, focus on listening to what’s going on, and read any manuals or docs or procedures you can find. Pretty soon you’ll figure out how things work. By listening more than talking, you’ll also prolong the image that you know what you’re doing :D

The tech will vary (but not that much)

All businesses like to tout how unique they are, but the practical reality is that you keep coming across the same sets of technologies. It might not all be the same, but it mostly will be, and it won’t take long to pick up the differences. Don’t be afraid of it.

Etherealmind’s written more about this: Rant: You Are Not A Precious Snowflake


You don’t need to stay in a job that makes you unhappy. Yes, there are prizes for corporate longevity, but they are pretty crappy. Who really needs a gold Casio anyway? If the time is right, move on. Trust me, it’s not that scary.