New research suggest a person performs best in a job when the experiences they learned from their first job are coupled with insights gained later in their career.
Thus, timing of an individual’s career — be it during times of economic prosperity or recession, are less important than the lessons learned.
This is according to researchers from the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, who found that an individual’s opportunity for long term success hinges on how closely the economic environment an employee lands in initially, aligns with the one they end up working in later.
Research has already shown that a person’s long-term work skills, habits, and routines can be shaped or “imprinted” by the economic environment they start off in.
Employees arriving in a high-profit time may do better in the long-run because of a wealth of work opportunities to build their skills and reputation, say some researchers. However, others have found that those entering in lean times may have the advantage because they learn to be adaptable.
The paper by András Tilcsik, Ph.D., noted that both groups may find themselves at a later disadvantage if there’s a substantial shift in circumstances. “We can’t really say that one is necessarily better than the other,” Tilcsik said.
Those “good times” employees might not be as adept in how to extend projects when things slow down. The “lean times” employee might not be nimble enough to keep up with the pace when a company’s fortunes shift into high gear.
However, employees who experience similarities between their earlier and later work conditions — perhaps because they arrive during a more typical period — see a positive impact on their performance, Tilcsik’s research shows.
Tilcsik believes companies my want to diversify new employees’ early work experiences, giving them opportunities to try work that more closely resembles normal circumstances. This strategy may limit the “curse of extremes,” and provide fruitful learning opportunities.
Specifically, new employees coming in during times of abundance might be put on a slower project or two along with the faster-paced ones. If entry happens during a slower period, attention should be given to quickly moving those employees into fast projects once work starts to pick up again.
Study results have been published in the journal Administrative Science Quarterly.