A well-established concept of the modern work life is the “flexible employee”, always changing city and job.
The idea the apologists of “life is all about work” are pushing is that the modern employee has always to be “mobile“, “flexible“, always willing to leave his place of living or his company and go where ever a job pops up or the employer wants him to go.
It is said that this is
(a) necessary in today’s globalized world (probably to stay “competitive” or whatever crap)
(b) it is for the best of the employee, as he will get so enriched by all this experiences that this is a far better life than sticking to his back-yard home town or dusted old employer/department
I think this is all a load of crap.
Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing against leaving your hometown and switching the place you life and your employer a few times. Woodpecker did the same in the past when he was younger and did not regret it.
But there is one caveat:
You have to know when enough is enough.
The benefits of seeing something new are indeed great when you are young, at a time you do not have yet any roots anyway. But then, when you get a bit older, you have to be careful not to miss the opportunity to settle down and build up the benefits of not being mobile both regarding place to live and employer.
You have to be careful not to become one of the countless sad rootless roamers of the modern economy who get more and more restless and disoriented because they are not able to quit their wandering.
Some of the benefits of not being mobile are:
- Social dividends
I repeat myself, but it cannot be said often enough that building up real social ties do take a lot of time. A person you meet 5 times for a beer might feel like a friend for the moment, but probably he is not really a friend. So many people I see in fact to not know what a real friend is anymore. Because a real friendship will take years and years to develop and grow. It takes time and them some more time to get firm and stable.
Thus the downshifter shall (a) care to have enough free-time to spend with friends, (b) select friends who have time as well and (c) stay around a certain area after a certain age to enroot things further.
- Benefits of the first mover
When staying in a given place or company for a long time, you sooner or later will have the right connections, the local knowledge and the benefit of long optimization that will give you good deals in many aspects: Much better and cheaper living (you had the time to optimize, know the market and the good areas), less stress in private live and in your job (you know how to avoid it, you know the people in your company and how to play the politics game there without too much effort), good value choices (you know the value places, the great spots, when to be there, which road and time to use etc.)
- Benefits of the incumbent
After having waited for some time you will finally have access to scarce resources, like places at the cheap state childcare, a good house for a small rent, joining clubs or interested groups difficult to find, having the great and relaxed position in your company, avoiding the ugly work which you can shovel over to the eager new-comers etc.
This is your home-turf. You know this area in town or this company since ages. You know the rules, you know the important people., you found your niche. After that much time they have accepted you and/or they don’t want to have you as an enemy because you know too much.
This makes life so much easier compared to the ever-changing and moving vagabond. Even your boss will not be able to hurt you after a certain time. Great and important for any downshifter or free-spirited person! (Needless to say that your employer might not be so happy about this and will urge for constant change. Resist!)
- Feeling of belonging
Oh no, Woodpecker again with his old-school and outdated 20th century style antic values.
But seriously, those values are not out-dated. They never were. Only some crazy maniac “efficiency and growth rules it all”-freaks are telling you they are. This morons are wrong! A feeling of belonging is great. And it for sure is something a lot of people are lacking today. Most of them without knowing.
So, create a feeling of belonging to your city of choice, your country, your continent, your flock of friends and family, and also to your company and industry.
All of them may have flaws, but that’s where you still belong to anyway. Accept their flaws and yours will be accepted, too.
- Reduction of choices
What? Woodpecker is telling me to voluntarily reduce my so beloved choice-space?! Yes. I do. Because a problem of today’s modern life is not that we have too little choices but too much! Every psychologist can tell you that this is creating stress. The fear of missing out. The fear of not picking “the best” (whatever that might be). The fear of making a choice at all.
So make that decisions at some time: This is the place I stay. This is the company I belong to. This is my family. You might curse your decision from time to time, but overall you will be better off with this more simplified life.
- Slowing down
Yes, it is great and thrilling to see new things. And you should continue to do so. But it is also important to be able to slow down a bit. And you can do that better if you are not changing city, employer and partner every year.
Keep your curiosity and keep having your thrills, but you can do that as well by travelling, or moving within your city of choice, or to the countryside close-by and then back to downtown a few years later etc. No need to live in New York today, Bombay next year and Tokyo the year after, only to experience new things.
- Avoid Unhappiness from Restless Wandering
Many studies show that – contrary to what most affected people say when you ask them – expats and people working abroad rate significantly below locals in happiness and life satisfaction. The interesting thing is that the most happy persons are often the ones that sticked in their town for a very long time, and ideally are getting old together with the friends and people from their youth.
- Avoid getting exploited
See (4). You know the rules after some time, you now the potential dangers and benefits. You will not get tricked easily after some time in a job or city.
- The deep drill
To know something really, to get to the deeper layers, you need time and muse. I have seen so many people who spent a year here and a year there for their jobs, but learned nothing about the culture and the specifics of their host countries. Because they only stayed in an artificial expat-bubble and did not have time or will to look closer. Wasted time then.
So what would I recommend?
After moving out from at home take your time to look around. Travel a lot, ask a lot of people, visit different models of life, swap town and employer a few times if you want.
But swap consciously and with open eyes, not because your employer sais: “You now go to xyz” or because next door you can earn 10% more.
Analyze what you like about those places and companies and what you don’t like and then think about it: In which town and with which employer can you max out what you want and need? Where can you feel at home and where can you belong to?
Then make a choice and stay with it.
If circumstances really make it necessary you can always switch again. But don’t do it because someone tells you “it is good for your career” or something.
No problem with extended travelling or a few months abroad. But have a firm and stable home base for you and your family. This is important.
You might ask now: “What makes Woodpecker so sure about this?”
Because in one of my few bright moments I notices this truth already 17 years ago and after giving it some thoughts happily acted as stated above.
So neither the wonderful town of Munich, not my great employer and job, nor the excellent social ties and the contacts to old and very old friends and an accident. They are choices. Choices I do not regret in the slightest. On contrary, the more time passes I am more and more happy I made them.