Menachem's Writings

I'm really getting lazy now. Two guest writers two days in a row. Maybe I'll become a Writings Compere . . . television might be next.

The following article was written by my old friend Nat Gordon from Marksman International Personnel Ltd. He always has something interesting to say, especially on the topic of vocation.

The Seven Year Work Itch!

An observation I have made after over thirty years of recruiting is that career confusion generally comes at seven year intervals. This observation and conclusion is based on interviewing hundreds of job seekers in the age ranges from 20 to 50.

It appears from the applicants whom I have interviewed and counseled over this long time period, that those bordering 21, 28, 35, 42, and 49 are those facing the most acute career crossroads, or career crisis – especially at age 49 (seven times seven)!

What is special about the 7th year? The seven year itch in marriage seems to be not only a joke and warning, but also a fact. Academics know they would go mad without their sabbatical breaks to recharge their batteries. Farmers know that the land must also have a seventh year holiday. The human body and spirit, regardless of which religion, demand a rest every seventh day – whether it be a Friday, Saturday or Sunday. It appears that the work cycle is very similar. We can work relatively successfully in a job or profession which is not ideally suited to our natural personality or interest for a long period of time – until a breaking point comes at the seventh year. Why seven? I can not fully explain but I am convinced that this is a significant, if not scientifically proved time factor.

What are the Symptoms of the Seven Year Work Itch?

Some stories of people with acute job depression:

“I was so angry with my boss who gave me a salary raise and promotion – but in the same old boring job, and never heard my many pleas to try something more interesting”

“I suppose I was technically dishonest because I always went to work late when I knew my boss was out so I would have less time to suffer”

“At my last interview for a new job, but in the same career, the first question I asked was how many days of holiday were being offered. Of course I never got the job but it made me start to think why I had asked such a dumb question!”

“My career frustration I took out on my husband and my kids”

“I couldn’t wait to leave every day and rush to the pub where I stayed as long as possible to drown my sorrows – I think finding a new career challenge saved me from substance abuse”

“I was ready to leave my family and my new country in order to return home where my natural skills were appreciated”

“After ten years my bonus earnings kept dropping and I was sure I would soon be sacked. In a way I was looking forward to that because it would give me a chance to start my work life again – but this time in the right career”

Are YOU sure YOUR job is right for YOU?

My own career started as an accountant but, although relatively successful, at age 21, I could not face the prospect of adding up other peoples' figures for the rest of my life. This was so much of a “gut” feeling that I desperately sought for an alternative, and someone to guide me, neither a cheap nor easy service to find in the non-computerised days of the ‘60’s. After an 800 mile round trip, and spending ten of my weekly pay packets, I eventually found a career guidance counselor who helped me to correctly analyse my personality and interests. We both agreed a future career in personnel, training, hotel management or politics would be best for me. Even at 21, and single, it was not easy to give up the security and prospects of a career as an accountant. So I can empathise how a dramatic career change must become progressively more difficult at ages 28, 35, 42 and especially at 49!

I recently interviewed a 49 year-old married accountant with large recurring monthly financial commitments. He was unhappy to the point of facing a potential nervous breakdown. He heard my story. We agreed on a very gradual change to a junior management function, followed by an administrative marketing function, and then finally to a real sales job; for Twenty Five years this natural salesman had been an unhappy accountant.

Finding a job is easy . . . the difficult part is to know what kind of job you want . . . . 

In my 30 plus years in recruitment in both the UK and Israel I have found the easiest placements are with candidates who know themselves the exact type of job they are seeking.

Those who say “I am happy with any job” are the most difficult and most unreliable and they inevitably turn into “job-hoppers” – bad for themselves and bad for their employers.

I often suggest to my employer clients that when they interview applicants instead of asking the rather bland question of “Where do you see yourself in the next twenty years?” a question like “Have you ever had career guidance?” or “What career path do you think will give you maximum job satisfaction?” However very few take up my suggestion and regrettably most recruiters are more concerned in filling their vacancies rather than only selecting candidates whose personalities and interests are fully compatible. Filling jobs makes money – career guidance costs money!

Have YOU ever had a seven year work itch or feel one is now approaching?

Written by Nat Gordon, founder and headhunter with Marksman International Personnel Ltd, volunteer counselor at the ESRA Career Guidance Service and Member of the Institute of Career Guidance.

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