When I worked as a recruiter on the staffing agency side of things, we were told not to reach out to potential candidates about jobs who had been in their jobs for seven years or longer. Apparently, that was the perceived shelf life of a job - anything beyond that, the candidate was perceived as "stale." They were too stuck in the corporate culture to make a move, or too ingrained in their current corporate culture to appear dynamic or appealing to another employer.
This is all debatable, of course - it's opinion. While there is no hard and fast rule about job tenure, it is entirely possible to overstay your welcome at an employer.
Likewise, loyalty is a funny thing. Companies expect it from you – until they don't want it. I've seen employees who believed they held the company's best interests at heart by sticking around through thick and thin, and who were then selected for the first round of layoffs when times turned tough.
You may love your job (or you may not, who am I to say), but some movement in your career can be a positive thing. Here are some risks of staying with an employer or in a particular role for too long.
- You've Become Part of the Scenery: You've consistently gotten things done. You've completed every chore that's asked of you, and you've done it well. But you're so ingrained in the routine of things that there's little to help your work stick out or get noticed. Your tenure tells your boss that you've been here a while, and you're not planning on leaving, so why change things up?
- It's a New Regime: The department has new leadership, and the recently-hired Director is bringing in her own people who think like she does. You've been doing things the way your last Director told you to, and while it's not wrong, your thinking isn't completely in line with the leader. Simply put, she wants a new team.
- Your Skills are Getting Stale: Different companies do things differently, whether its office dynamics, or the technical applications they use, or the day-to-day work you're doing. Maybe you're a COBOL guy, and it's VB world out there. A new position will teach you new skills.
- There's Nowhere to Go: You don't have the skills to move up. Or the organization is too small for you to grow and develop. Or, they won't provide you with training to make yourself more marketable. Either way, dead end. Boring.
This isn't to say that you need to make a job change for the sake of a job change - there are many reasons to stay in a role, from salary to commute to job satisfaction. But it may be worth keeping an eye on the job market. I'm not advocating job hopping; that comes with its own ups and downs.
Here are some suggestions if you're concerned you've been in your current job too long.
- Have a Development Conversation With Your Manager. Get an honest opinion about your career path and your skills. Try to find out how to make the best of your current job. You may not have maximized your opportunities.
- Talk to That Recruiter. Sometimes you'll get a call out of the blue from a headhunter about a potential job opportunity. Take the call, make some time to talk, and ask plenty of questions about your background and the job opportunity. This might not be the job you want, but if you make a good impression, they'll keep you in mind for the future.
- Look at the Job Postings. Comb the job boards to look at positions which may be a good match for you. Try to benchmark your skills and experience to the roles. Perhaps there is a better fit out there, or you can develop your skills internally to improve your current situation.
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Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, and career coaching services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at firstname.lastname@example.org, or via the website, www.insidercs.com.