Itching to move ahead in your career even though you’re still comfortable in your job? Here’s a solid justification for scratching that itch.
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How many years until you should ditch a job? It’s a tough question.
If you leave a new job within a year, you risk being labeled flaky, especially if it ends up being a pattern (like staggering between three jobs in as many years). On the other hand, if you hang on too long, you risk being labelled a slug. Slug, as in going nowhere interesting, fast.
After the three-year mark, you start getting that creeping sensation down your spine. Then, after about five years, you know the pressure’s on. This is particularly true for software engineers and others who live at the bleeding edge: holding on to your current advantage in a given technology will put you at a disadvantage when that technology goes obsolete.
You’re ahead of the game at this point—you’ve shown that you’re stable, and at the same time, by sniffing around for other opportunities after three to five years, you show you’re active enough to keep an eye out for new challenges.
But looking for a job takes energy. Your boss likes you. You’re comfortable. Do you have it in you for a search?
Setting the energy dial to low can actually work in your favor. Playing hard-to-get is a good tactic in employment, just as in romance. It’s better to be the hunted than the hunter.
Consider these four reasons to open yourself up to job offers:
1. Your job might not be as secure as you think
Building security and loyalty by staying at a job for a long time is something from another generation. Particularly if you are a technologist, your job might actually get less secure over time as your outdated skills reach obsolescence. But if you leverage your demonstrated abilities in one technology while it’s still hot, employers will be glad to have you help them as they too move to the latest thing.
2. Variety demonstrates growth
Companies like Microsoft like to lay off people who are too “long at level.” Four years on a job is around where the value tops out. Having some variety in your background shows that you are staying active.
3. You risk burnout
You’ll likely burn yourself out at your job if you hang on too long. Luckily, burnout can be good for you—if you use the burnout in one job to motivate yourself into finding to find a better one.
4. Most significant career boosts happen when you change jobs
All it takes is a single good employer who thinks you can fill bigger shoes, and you’ve stepped up.
So scratch that little itch that’s telling you to get yourself moving. Relax; experienced pros like you are in demand. Just open yourself up to the possibilities, and you can take your career in a new direction.
Josh Fox has long wondered why experienced software engineers stick so long at one job. He helped create FiveYearItch.com to help them receive job offers that meet their stated requirements.