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.