You probably already know. There’s an ongoing debate going on. It’s growing as workplace philosophies continue to evolve.
This is the question. How long should you stay at your current employer?
If you leave too soon, your next employer will think you job hop. They may think you have a problem with commitment. Perhaps you’ve been fired before. Or, maybe they’ll assume you don’t get along well with others. You definitely won’t be someone they’ll want to invest their company resources into.
That’s true, right?
Not necessarily. Staying at a job too long may send signs you never even thought of. Your future hiring manager may think you’re the kind of person who doesn’t challenge yourself to grow. They may assume that your skills are rusty. They may wonder what’s wrong with you… (Yes, what’s wrong with you.)
In today’s job market, it’s not unusual to switch jobs every three to five years. In fact, many hiring managers appreciate someone with multiple companies on their resume.
Here are a few of the positive perceptions hiring managers have about employees who transition between different companies:
- This person has a diverse skill set of knowledge
- This person is a real go-getter
- This person knows how to work well in many different environments
- This person has many industry contacts
- This person is self motivated
Don’t get me wrong, this perception varies by industry. In certain industries, it is more important to change frequently while in other industries, staying for a long time can be valued. But, overall, it’s becoming more and more expected that you change frequently. In fact, people hold more than ten different jobs in their lifetime today.
And, do you know what’s more? The data suggests that employees who stay at companies longer than two years get paid 50% less over the course of their lifetime.
50% – that earning figure sounds crazy! Well, until you think of how hard it is to negotiate a good raise within your company. Where do you think all the raises are going to? They’re going to outside candidates the company is trying to lure in.
So, what’s holding you back? Do you think your boss is eventually going to recognize your brilliance (one day)? Do you feel under-qualified to take another job? Are you afraid of the interview process? Are you convinced there are no good jobs out there?
Or, are you sure that someone is going to appreciate your long term commitment?
If this is your strategy, I hate to break it to you, but it may not work. In fact, it could backfire in a big way.
Imagine you live in a small city where you’re known for doing a particular kind of work for a certain company. You’ve earned respect for many years working at the same place. Then, you decide that you want to pick up and move to someplace bigger — maybe New York or LA.
And, all of the sudden, that longevity and respect don’t take you as far. You may just look like someone who’s comfortable… complacent… not committed to growth. You may have become someone with a tiny network of contacts.
Of course, the length of time truly varies by the type of profession you’re in. But, keep that in mind when your great uncle (who has never worked a day in your field) starts to give you a hard time about job hopping. These relatives will often scare you with stories about the unknown. They talk about the possibility of failure, of being laid off, and of losing your health insurance.
But really, you’re at risk anywhere you go. Jobs today are not a guarantee. But, if you do switch periodically, you will diversify your skill set – and your professional network. And, you will create a bigger safety net for yourself than you started with.
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