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Should You Change Jobs Every Three Years?

Should You Change Jobs Every Three Years?

Back in 2012 I had just left my second "real" job after school, a gig that was, in hindsight, pretty brilliant, despite the terrible pay and even worse hours. (Weekends, what are they!?) I’d spent about 18 months to two years in each role, and, feeling pretty confident about my options, went to see a recruiter armed with my CV and a list of the companies I wanted to work for. Time for a change, I thought.

Upon arriving I realized that this recruiter—a 40-something-year-old woman dressed in head-to-toe black—hadn’t warmed to me, and it took all of 10 minutes for our meeting to be over. “We can’t put someone forward who moves companies this much,” she frowned at me, probably lying, but nonetheless catapulting me into a mild panic over the thought I’d be unemployed for life. 

To cut a long story short, I did find another job, and two years later, I found another one again, this time in New York. And today my career is still going just fine, thank you very much lady in black.

There are probably a couple of reasons why my propensity to job hob hasn't ended in disaster. First, I work in media, an industry where this kind of behaviour is common, if not expected. Second, the stigma around moving around, and the belief that you need to work your way up at one company over many years, for fear of looking like a total flake, is utterly antiquated.

You can probably thank (blame?) millennials for the shift. We’re spending longer at work than any other generation, and in return demand flexibility, progression, and opportunities to learn from our employers. And if one company won’t offer it, we’re more than happy take a leap of faith to find a job that’s fulfilling. 

It may sound like a short-term plan for those craving instant gratification, but there are actually a lot of advantages to moving employers every few years. One study from CareerBuilder found that more than half (53 percent) of employers surveyed thought job-hoppers tend to have a wide range of expertise, and can adapt quickly (51 percent). Add to that the fact that staffers who stay loyal to one company for more than two years are said to earn up to 50 percent less over a 10 year period, and you have two pretty compelling reasons to jump ship. 

In an interview with Fast Company, Patty McCord, former chief talent officer for Netflix recommended moving employers every three or four years. "I think that the most important, critical change in people’s mental outlook is to view employees as smart contributors from the beginning," McCord, who now advises companies and entrepreneurs on culture and leadership, advised.

On the flip side, research also shows that if you move around too much you can risk missing out on receiving recognition for your great work and also miss out on being promoted from within. According to the Wharton professor Matthew Bidell it takes two years for the performance review of external hires to catch up with workers internally promoted. However, after that two year learning curve, external hires actually get promoted faster than existing internal employees. Another point to the job-hoppers.

Obviously, deciding when to change jobs is a highly personal call to make, but it's pretty clear that switching jobs every few years isn't the career death sentence that it used to be. So to the recruiter who offered me (terrible) advice four years ago—thanks, but no thanks. 

Photo: Andrea Chong

 

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