With the unemployment rate still hovering at 7.4%, those of us who are fortunate enough to have jobs tend to see it as a victory. In fact, according to a joint survey conducted by LearnVest and Chase Blueprint™, 6 in 10 respondents felt lucky to be working in this economy.
That said, just because you have a gig doesn’t mean that you should stay in it forever. Based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employees today average 4.6 years at any given job. That’s a far cry from the days of putting in your time and retiring from a company that you joined fresh out of college.
But while moving around too much can give hiring managers potential pause, staying at one place of employment for too long can also raise a red flag on your résumé. Translation: Employers sometimes equate job longevity with laziness, lack of flexibility or worse—fear of change. Part of being mindful about your financial progress is reassessing your earning potential, which is hard to do when you’re stuck on one predetermined salary track.
So when is the best time to leave a steady gig? We asked three long-term job holders to grant us a glimpse at their employment history—and then asked Colleen Georges, a career coach and co-author of “101 Great Ways to Enhance Your Career,” for her expert input on how much they’ve truly sacrificed in earning potential … and whether it’s finally time for them to move on.
The Tried-and-True Tech Gig
Paul Diaz, 36, IT Project Manager
Years at his job: 14
When I first started as a contractor at my company in 2000, I was expecting to just work a one- to two-year gig before jumping from company to company, which was typical of the IT field then. But they liked me, so I was offered a permanent job after just one year. At the time, this was great news—one of the biggest things that I liked about the company (aside from having a nice salary fresh out of college) was the fact that they hadn’t had a single layoff in years, which made me feel very secure.
Getting a job at such a large company also gave me the added bonus of being able to bounce around internally. I started off taking support calls for the company’s help desk. Today, I’m a project manager for several multimillion dollar projects, managing up to 50 contractors. Of course, times have changed a bit and we’ve gone through many rounds of layoffs since I started. The scariest thing is that my wife works in the same department, so we literally have all our eggs in one basket—and run the risk of us both being laid off.
Yes, I sometimes feel like I’ve been here too long. And now that I have my Masters, I could probably make at least $20,000 more, with who knows how much in possible raises elsewhere. But I like my work and my company. Every five years, I also get a few more vacation days, and there’s a lot of flexibility when it comes to summer hours and the ability to work from home—which was especially helpful when my first child was born.