Company Loyalty or Job Hopping? – Deciding Whether You Should Stay or Go When Trying to Advance Your Career
“Are my chances at advancing my career improved by staying loyal to my current company, or by leaving for a new career opportunity?”
The question of how to decide whether to change jobs is common for any ambitious person. Wondering about advancement opportunities is natural; it’s easy to become bored when you’ve been in the same job for a long time. You know the work of your current job inside and out, you are able to do it well, and you know the systems and people that you need to navigate on a daily basis. But that in and of itself isn’t a great reason to stay put, especially when recent surveys show that the average salary increase for someone changing companies is 30%.
Matilda Cole, a Great Resumes Fast resume writer and career consultant, sees the question about a career change as the beginning of a deeper evaluation of your goals. “When deciding whether to stay or go, there are a variety of factors to consider related to the job and yourself.”
She offers the following career advice to those considering a career change: “First, identify what type of growth will make you happy: pay increase? Title advancement? Broader responsibilities? More recognition? Like any relationship, it’s normal to get restless or dissatisfied with your job after a while, but it’s important to understand why so that you know how to move forward. Is it the job itself, the company, or perhaps it’s something happening in your personal life that’s bleeding into your work life?”
Be Open and Discuss Your Career Path with Your Employer
Once you’ve thought it through and determined that you are, in fact, dissatisfied with your job (or ready to advance your career), it’s a great time to have a frank conversation with your employer. Set up a time to speak about your professional development with your direct supervisor.
Cole suggests using a positive approach for this conversation, like: “I really enjoy working here but have been feeling stagnant in my role lately. I’d like to discuss options for my future here. Where do you see me in the coming weeks/months/years?”
Another option I recommend if you’d like to keep it positive and have more direction over your career path is to say something like: “I’m very interested in advancing my career and using my passion for ______ and my strengths to benefit our company. Here are the things I’m passionate about (list them) and where my strengths lie (share your strengths). How can I use these to bring value to the company? One option for advancement I’ve been thinking about is (share what you’d like to see as the next step in your career). Can we create a plan and schedule to make this a reality?”
Part of this conversation should incorporate any concerns that your supervisor has about your performance, and also where you see yourself in the coming months and years. Between their feedback and your goals, a realistic growth plan should be possible. Be sure to request a set time frame to show that you’re serious but also for accountability from your leadership.
What Happens if Your Boss Isn’t Open to the Conversation?
If the possibility of this sort of discussion with your boss makes you quake in your boots or laugh out loud, that may well be an indicator that you already know the answer to the original question about whether changing jobs is a good choice. If you have an employer who shows zero interest in your professional development, it is high time to find one who does. Similarly, if you bite the bullet and have the conversation with your boss only to see no forward movement, there is nothing preventing you from exploring new opportunities. When you do eventually receive a job offer, don’t be afraid to run it past your supervisor if you really want to stay put and see if that will provoke them to take you more seriously.
For example, take Jenny, who is a technical writer. Jenny requested a raise and was told repeatedly that she was highly valued, but that they needed to run the request through corporate before responding. Weeks, and then months, went by, and after following up several times, Jenny lost patience, began a job search, and started applying to new jobs. She quickly got an attractive offer, but it was for a position out of state. Since she preferred to stay where she was, she sent the offer to her supervisor and explained that she was considering it, but that she would rather keep her current position, with a salary bump. Lo and behold, two days later her supervisor came back with a matching offer and an apology for the delay.
Note: If Jenny were not truly interested in the offer, I would not recommend this tactic as there is always the chance that her supervisor would call her bluff.
On the other hand, Cole notes, “Don’t assume that your manager doesn’t support you if he/she can’t give you exactly what you’re asking for. Some companies are limited in terms of head count or employee compensation budget but instead may be able to offer other things to regain your interest such as broader exposure to jobs in other areas of the department or company, more interesting projects, flexible work schedule, or alternative job titles for your business card.”
I recently spoke with an accounting professional named TJ who had been with the same firm for 15 years and was bored to tears until a new finance manager joined the organization and started talking to his employees about their market value. TJ had been hired as a tax associate and had never been asked if he wanted new responsibilities. The new manager shook his head at this and quickly set up a rotational program so that TJ and his colleagues could step into and learn more about other aspects of their functions. TJ admitted that this program transformed the entire culture of the department and made him interested in his work in a way that he hadn’t been since he’d first started.
Cole also suggests focusing on what you can do to make yourself a good candidate for a promotion or raise. “If you want to stay with your organization but have reached a salary cap, it’s likely due to issues such as internal equity (what you make compared with others in similar roles) and salary range restrictions. If you’re already at the top of the salary range, you may be capped until you learn some new skills to get into a higher salary bracket.”
Deciding Whether You Should Stay or Go
Longevity is still valued by a lot of people, but the shift from company loyalty to career loyalty means that you have permission to prioritize your needs over the company’s, especially if you are not getting what you want out of the relationship. Here are a few scenarios that examine the pros and cons of leaving vs. staying.
1.) Amy, a finance manager for a global company, knows that she eventually wants to target CFO positions down the road. She loves her current job, but knows that she needs more experience in corporate finance to build on her accounting and auditing background. Any career choice she makes will be guided by her CFO goal.
In the current situation she is in, it is unlikely that Amy will be able to gain the broad experience required for her long-term goals. She’s been talking to recruiters who have encouraged her to seek out a position as a Corporate Sales Manager or FP&A Director in order to round out and deepen her overall value within her chosen career field. Her top priority is making sure that every step she takes is leading in the direction of the CFO role. For her, the best option is exploring an opportunity with a small to mid-size company where she can broaden her experience, as opposed to remaining in a siloed multinational organization.
2.) Lana, a technology product manager for a software company, is open to new opportunities, but she’s only been at her current company for two years and she’s been told that she’ll be seen as a job hopper if she doesn’t stay loyal for at least three to five years.
While most industries do still place a premium on longevity, technology is a bit of an outlier when it comes to people frequently making a career change. Matilda Cole explains, “Those in the technology industry are expected to move companies every couple of years due to the rapidly evolving nature of high-tech. If you’re a techie and stay at one place too long, you will need to tackle the challenge of proving on your resume that your skills aren’t stale. A good resume writer can help with that.” For Lana, this means that it’s best to keep exploring new jobs so that she can keep her skills sharp and continue on with a successful career in the technology industry.
3.) Tony, a marketing director for an educational company, wakes up excited to go to work every morning. He has been with the organization from its early days, and he is very close with his colleagues, some of whom he counts among his best friends. Tony played a role in building the overall marketing strategy and he has seen solid career advancement over the past six years—but not much of a pay increase. He’s comfortable with his income but wonders if he could make more elsewhere.
For Tony, the decision about a career transition really comes down to whether he cares more about increasing his earning potential or staying put in a job where he is happy with the culture and fulfilled by the work. It’s very likely that he could earn more by changing companies but less likely that he will find a job that is such a perfect fit.
Prioritize Your Career Path
There is a camp that believes the whole stigma of job hopping is already half-dead and that career changers aren’t viewed as poorly as they used to be. A 2017 survey of over 125,000 US employees found that the median tenure at a job for workers only ranged from 1.42 years (for workers ages 25-35) to roughly two years (for workers ages 35-55) to 2.53 years (for workers ages 55-65). This shows that it is not a Millennial trend to change jobs every few years but really standard across age groups. If the only thing preventing you from changing companies is concern about how it will look on your resume, keep in mind that job seekers with talent, experience, and attitude will always be prized over duration.
Also, most recruiters do not consider it job hopping unless you’ve been with a company less than 18 months and there is more than one instance of a short tenure on your resume. It would have to be a pattern of several positions less than 18-24 months long to give the appearance of being a job hopper. One blip on your resume of one position held less than 18 months is not going to make a recruiter or hiring manager toss your resume to the side immediately and hold you back from your overall long-term career goals. Especially not in our current economy where there are more jobs available than people to fill them.
The case for staying put revolves around satisfaction in your current role and whether you see opportunities for development and advancement right where you are. If you do not, don’t be afraid to discuss it with your employer to see how much weight they put on your job satisfaction and whether they are open to some sort of compromise in order to retain you as an employee.
In the end, there’s nothing wrong with doing a basic, low-key job search and putting out feelers, meeting with representatives of companies of interest, or responding to a recruiter’s outreach. If you wind up sticking with your current company, at least you can rest assured that you prefer it to the alternatives out there.
There are always reasons to stay in your current job and reasons to make a career change, but your priorities for your long-term career path and communication with your employer should crystallize your choice.
For the past ten years, the professional resume writers at Great Resumes Fast have created resumes that help executives advance their careers, find meaningful work, and get past applicant tracking systems. Want to learn more? Visit Great Resumes Fast to view executive resume samples and get resume help.
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About the author
Jessica Hernandez, President, CEO & Founder of Great Resumes Fast
Hi, I’m Jessica. I started this company back in 2008 after more than a decade directing hiring practices at Fortune 500 companies.
What started as a side hustle (before that was even a word!) helping friends of friends with their resumes has now grown into a company that serves hundreds of happy clients a year. But the personal touch? I’ve kept that.
You might have seen me featured as a resume expert in publications like Forbes, Fast Company, and Fortune. And in 2020, I was honored to be named as a LinkedIn Top Voice of the year!
I’m so glad you’re here, and I can’t wait to help you find your next perfect-fit position!
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