More Often Than Not Your Best Career Move Is to Stay Put
Free Book Preview: Unstoppable
Most articles on turnover focus on the cost of replacing employees. This isn’t one of those articles. Few people recognize and express the benefits of sticking it out and staying at their jobs.
This isn’t about optics related to job-hopping or how long people should stay at a company before moving on, but rather real ROI to the employees who care about their craft. There are some real expenses to deduct from whatever topline increase people gain with every move.
Employees using company-hopping to ascend the corporate ladder rather than staying loyal to one company -- i.e., the linear path -- should proceed with caution because activity does not necessarily mean progress, and moving faster doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll arrive sooner -- flashback to The Tortoise and the Hare. Here are some things to consider when job-hopping to advance your career.
The educational benefit to knowing your workplace.
By most accounts, people say it takes about six months to understand the details of a new job and company. It takes an additional six months to feel like you can adequately navigate the organization.
Every company has their nuances, and employees starting out somewhere new need to learn the things that have little to do with the craft. If you’re spending as much time trying to figure out the company as you are trying to develop yourself and your capabilities, you are missing out on years of a career. Three companies in eight years is probably only six years of real, unobstructed work.
And, in some cases, when you change jobs instead of sticking it out, you can take yourself out of the running. Some employers won’t even consider employees who have been at more than three jobs in 10 years, said Christine Mueller, the president of TechniSearch Recruiters.
Maintaining the work-life balance.
Similar to work-life balance, where employees learn to navigate the norms of the workplace so they don’t need to reorient themselves to organizational structure, employees need to create space in their lives to have a life outside work, hone the craft or develop different skills.
By staying at their current job, employees can continue to accrue hours and eventually take some much needed time off. One common reason new employees don’t want to submit for a big vacation is because they just started a new job and the optics don’t seem right to them. This unhealthy behavior catches up eventually.
If it takes a year to get your feet under you in the new role, at what point do you see the results from your influence? In a senior role, it can take a year or more to see big initiatives come to fruition and delve into the organizational benefits or refinements needed in the future.
If you don’t spend enough time in the feedback loop, how are you to know how to refine your strategies, tactics or style to apply to the next place you go?
People who spend less than three years in an organization may be able to look back at projects at varying levels of completeness, but they lack the bigger context from lessons learned to the lasting results or issues that arise after a project is completed.
Perhaps they “hired a great team,” but they don’t know how that team ultimately performed. Or, they “delivered a transformative product for the company,” but they may not realize that someone else ended up cleaning it up once they’d left.
These results are hard to see and could be open to contrast effects. Tim Fawcett, a University of Bristol fellow, posted that people respond less to a test stimulus if exposed to a stimuli of perceived higher value. Fawcett explains that humans are sensitive to past experiences in order to adapt to the changes and complexity of the world. So, if the person is used to tougher conditions, they will respond more strongly to perceived opportunities based on their past experience.
The dating world provides a classic example. You wouldn’t stay with someone when your past experience tells you that there are better options out there for you. Looking at the work environment, employees may perceive that a new job is of higher value and respond less to their current job, simply because it appears to be the dangling, fancy new carrot.
Growth built upon a shaky foundation.
If company-hopping is the method by which you move, you benefit from seeing how different places do things, but you don’t necessarily get to the deeper reason of why they are the way they are or, more importantly, what is the long-term impact of some of those details.
It is one thing to be able to walk into a new organization and say, “At my last company, they did X,” compared to “At my last company, they did X and it seemed to be the right decision because it had some short-term benefits. But it created other issues, Y and Z, that we can mitigate by doing this differently.”
Knowing what a company does is not the same as knowing why they do it. That doesn’t mean that curious minds can’t figure it out quickly, but most organizations are complex and evolving organisms that aren’t always what they seem in a cursory evaluation.
Employees can be influenced to outperform themselves. In the same vein as knowing what a company does and seeing the impact of your influence, employees can oftentimes look back at times of success as unenjoyable, riddled with stress, anxiety and struggle. Whether thoughts enter in for employees about having peaked at a company, or searching for a different version of themselves, or even idealizing the past, employees can prevent themselves from too much negative nostalgia by being realistic and keeping the past where it belongs so as not to make a more rash decision.
Start building a strong foundation of strong leadership, leading people and teams through the ebbs and flows of business, through transitions and through multiple stages of their careers.
Create your own opportunities.
When people leave a position, they talk about new opportunities or a lack of at their current place. In contrast to this line of thought, an entrepreneurial spirit creates opportunities, and then, to all else, they are given a chance for further opportunity.
While some may look to ascend to the highest rung on the corporate ladder, there is always a ceiling. It’s basic math; there are fewer C-level jobs than there are entry-level jobs. It is a pyramid, after all.