Feb 04 2009

Moving on from Georgetown to the Alliance

by at 5:09 pm under Sherry and Mark

I’ll first make clear that I’m not leaving my position as Director of College Communications at Georgetown because I daydream of punching small animals, or any of the other reasons in this hilarious Career Builder ad aired during the Super Bowl:

But I am indeed moving on from Georgetown. I recently accepted the position of Assistant Director and Senior Policy Specialist at the Alliance for International Educational and Cultural Exchange, a job I’ll be starting next Monday. The Alliance is an association of NGOs in the international education and cultural exchange community and works to formulate and promote public policies that support the growth and well-being of international exchange links between the U.S. and other nations. I’m excited to be moving back more directly into the world of international ed. and exchange, as well as to be working for an organization that has such a direct and influential impact on the exchange and education community.

At the same time, it is a bittersweet moment, as it is difficult to leave my colleagues here at Georgetown. They have taught me so much over the past two years, and Georgetown provided me with a wonderful home where I’ve been able to grow and thrive, both professionally and personally. I’ll take just a quick moment to thank everyone here at Georgetown for the kindness, generosity, and idealism they have invariably extended my way.

In addition to the excitement and uncertainty that always comes with a career change, this move to the Alliance—my third job since I finished grad school in 2005—has caused made me to ponder this question: how long should I, at this point in my career, stay in a particular job or with a particular organization, from a career trajectory perspective? Perhaps better phrased: at what point in my career should I take seriously the idea that it’s in my best interest to stay with the same organization for longer than two years?

For sure, I haven’t actively planned to be in each of my last two jobs for only two years (which is still a respectable amount of time to be in one job, in my mind). In both situations, other opportunities presented themselves and I knew they were too good for the growth of my career to pass up. But as my dad pointed out, at some juncture in your career, you should (i.e., it will be beneficial, both for your personal stability as well as the arc of your career) stay in a job or with the same organization for a longer period of time (5 years, 10 years, even longer).

I see my dad’s point. It is commonly accepted today that, unlike in past generations, young people are not going to find a company or an org in their 20s that they will stick with until they die. Young people move from job to job, org to org, on their way up, and major mid-career changes are not uncommon. This bouncing from org to org every few years is particularly common, in my mind, in the fields of international education, exchange, and development. These fields tend to be dominated by nonprofits and other NGOs that are often small in size. Thus, in order for a young professional to move up, they also have to move on to another organization (this has been the case for me). So certainly I don’t think a resume that shows several org changes for a twenty-something and early-thirty something is a bad thing. On the contrary, it often shows positive growth and energy in that person’s career.

But at what point do young people need to contain the bouncing and attempt to settle down into a position (or at least an organization) for an extended period of time? Does this come naturally as you grow in your career? Do senior positions that carry more responsibility naturally lend themselves to retaining the same person for a longer period of time? I don’t know the answers to these questions. But it just strikes me that, as I move on to the next phase of my career, they are worth thinking about.

4 responses so far | Categories: Sherry and Mark

4 Responses to “Moving on from Georgetown to the Alliance”

  1. Sarahon 05 Feb 2009 at 3:26 pm

    You just encompassed everything that has been floating through my head in the past month! I too struggle with the feeling that I “should” stay in one place longer than 2 years, but working in a small nonprofit (12 people), there just isn’t any room for growth. Congrats on your new job!

  2. Mark Overmannon 05 Feb 2009 at 5:20 pm

    Thanks, Sarah. I appreciate your comment and I’m glad you identified with my thoughts. You say you struggle just like I do (and I know like many others do) with this idea of how long we “should” stay in any one job– have you come to any conclusions? Do you think there is a minimum time that young people should stay in a job to make it “look better” on a resume? Or is it better in your mind to pursue opportunities when the timing feels right, with no set or structured time line to adhere to (because, really, it’s impossible to plan it all out anyway)? I’ve always been inclined to take the latter approach, to the take things as they come; but lately I’ve been wondering if as I get older, I need to worry more about staying in one spot for longer.

    One last question: how did you find the Working World blog? I’m always interested to know. Regardless, keep reading and participating!

    Mark

  3. Sarahon 05 Feb 2009 at 6:12 pm

    People have always told me that you “need” to stay at least a year in a job or else it looks bad. I personally would see a resume with a new job every year as fickle, but I guess it’s all about what you learn and how you grow. I recently applied for a job on a whim, not actively looking to leave my company, but it just seemed like a good opportunity. I felt like a traitor, because I like the people I work with and I generally like my job, but recently I’m aching for something new. I’m just not feeling very fulfilled anymore… is that just fickle or does that mean I’m getting to the end of the lessons I can learn here?? It’s all so confusing… :)

  4. Mikeon 18 Feb 2009 at 6:05 pm

    Mark, I think your questions are what goes through a lot minds in our generation. At that firm I work for (not in IR), we consider the new college graduates to be from even a newer generation, where these questions/concerns are even on shorter timelines. Companies are aware that their younger employees aren’t planning on punching the clock for 40 years and then retire with a pension. That said, I think it’s fair game for a company to review a resume and ask why you’ve changed jobs every 2 years. If there is a good reason, then that should be acceptable to the company if they are interested in hiring you. If a better opportunity comes along after 1 year or 2 years at a job, then you can’t consider the future scrutiny of your resume in your decision to move on. I personally think there is no hard and fast rule, but I would advise someone to not settle for a job (or stay in one) when their passion or happiness is at stake. But it might be a whole other discussion as to whether that is easy to do considering the state of our economy. Thanks Mark, and keep up the good work…

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