Once upon a time, you got a job with a company and then, unless the company went away, you stayed there the rest of your life (or at least the rest of your working days). In some rare instances, that still happens today. But the more likely story is, you get a job, you stay a couple of years, and then it’s on to the next company. Always bigger and better, moving ahead.

What’s interesting is that today, even that isn’t enough. More and more often I find myself in conversations with people where the question for discussion is, “Are we really going to be doing this [fill in the blank with whatever your job is] for the next 20 years?” And when you put it like that, it’s hard to imagine the answer being yes. It’s simply not enough to change positions or companies anymore. Now people want to change careers.

My brother recently took that leap. He quit his job, sold his house, and took off on a venture he’s wanted to try for a long time. His logic goes that given the state of the economy and the job market, if he decides in a couple of years that he’s ready to head back to the corporate world, there will be more jobs available than there are today. So it’s a perfect time to step out for a while.

I’m actually bucking the trend, as I’ve made it into the double digits at American (13 years). And although that may be unusual in the working world at large, it’s not unusual around here. Most of the people I meet and work with have been here more than a decade. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t often daydream about what’s next.
In a perfect world, I’d be a whale researcher (don’t laugh), out in the middle of some ocean (where, of course, in my mind it’s always sunny and warm), listening to and observing the most magnificent mammals on the planet. I used to think that it was nothing more than a great daydream. But when I consider that it’s something I could do for the next couple of decades, giving up five years to accumulate the necessary training and credentials doesn’t seem so crazy. (Then again, five more years of school and whatnot? Maybe I should just get a job at SeaWorld.)

Obviously, this is an extreme example. But I also think it’s a perfect example of no matter how many possibilities you think are right for you, there are many others just an imagination away.

And since this topic seems to be on everyone’s minds, we’ve devoted our Business section to careers. For inspiration, you can read all about people who decided to chuck what they had in order to start out on a new path, as well as some practical advice you should consider before making a switch. Or, if you’re completely content with your job and career, then we have a fun story on how you can avoid getting yourself fired. There’s also a great piece on the state of productivity (as well as morale) in today’s workplace — another topic that people never seem to tire of talking about. Be sure to take the quiz to find out if you’re burned out (as if you needed a quiz to tell you that), and, if so, what you can do about it.

So take a look inside and let me know: What are you going to do next?

Picture of Sheri Burns