One to two years. This is the new ‘normal’, it seems, when it comes to the length of time that people in my generation are staying in their jobs. While there are certain reasons (I can name three off the top of my head) why moving on after a year or two is “okay”, I disagree with the whole philosophy of it – and frankly, I think it’s going to damage an entire generation’s career development and progression.
If you must jump, do it for the right reasons.
I just want to get the three reasons out of the way, on why moving on after a year or two could be okay: the workplace is causing real physical, mental, and emotional harm to you; there is serious and negative impact to your loved ones during your stay (and caused by it in one way or another); and, your quality of life is suffering (i.e. the amount of money and time you’re spending just to get to work is obscenely high).
Other than that, I do believe that we should be doing our best to stay where we are and build some sort of tenure in our workplace, regardless of industry and craft.
Five reasons why staying is a good idea.
I may be able to say something about this topic. Nearly seven years since joining my current company, I’m slowly but surely becoming part of the furniture. In that time, I’ve come to see five reasons why staying is a pretty good idea, versus hopping around and snapping up the next 10% raise offer.
First, there’s the opportunity to build something meaningful. There is simply no way the average employee can build a meaningful legacy or contribute long-lasting value in just a year. Think about it: the first few months are almost always for adjustments, for learning the ropes and the culture, and then applying them. It takes time to study what can or cannot be done in an organisation, or its appetite for risk/rewards. It takes even more time to earn the trust of others. The best and most memorable work, after all, are also products of chemistry between people who work well together over time.
Second, there’s the opportunity to rise through the ranks and pay grades in a measured manner. I have asked enough ‘jumpers’ to know that eight or nine times out of ten, the main motivator for moving on is money. More of it. Not necessarily significantly more, but more of it. This may come off as harsh, but unless you are either literally starving or are grossly underpaid (easy enough to check), don’t move for money. I honestly think that many people my age have lifestyles that are way too flashy – and that’s a problem no jump in pirate-raise is going to fix. Rising through the ranks (and the corresponding pay grades) through time, I believe, teaches us to live a more financially-managed lifestyle. Maybe because it’s harder to throw away money earned through hard work over time?
Third, there’s the opportunity to really learn from mistakes and do better. We are all going to make a crap ton of mistakes at work, one way or another. Some will be small, while some will be big. Moving on isn’t going to give you the time, environment, or opportunity to actually apply lessons learned from these mistakes. And if we can’t do that, there’s little chance we would actually be better. I have heard enough about perennial ‘problem employees’ who are such, simply because they have not had the chance to fix mistakes and learn from them. By moving on soon after a fuck-up, the same issues are repeated over and over again.
Fourth, there’s the sense of accomplishment that money just can’t buy. One of the memorable things I’ve learned from my bosses is the value of having war stories. These are precious shared moments: surviving deadline disasters, putting out fires together, and slogging through sleepless weekends, to name a few. Getting through those things, over time, form a priceless sense of accomplishment between people. They help strengthen ‘the intangibles’ that make a workplace culture powerful; I’ve long understood that you and I won’t move mountains for more money, we do it because of the bond of mutual respect and care for each other that’s forged over time.
Fifth and finally, there’s the privilege of being able to grow together with others. I have pretty strong feelings and opinions on the idea of mentorship. I believe that one of the best things we can do for our careers is to be able to spend significant amounts of time learning from the older or more experienced guys, and at the same time teaching and sharing whatever we know to the new kids. This is especially true and important for people in my generation (yup, Millennials). We’re at this peculiar stage in our lives and careers where we’re not that seasoned or experienced yet but we have enough in the bag that the younglings at work can and do look to us for guidance and direction.
Jumping jobs after a year or two just negates all these good things that could be possible by staying.
You would be robbing yourself of the ability to build something meaningful, an impactful legacy that’s both memorable and valuable.
You would be trading the short-term gain of ‘more money’ for the long-term gain of wisdom, experience, and learning to live in a sustainable and responsible manner.
You would be giving up the chance to learn from mistakes, fix them, and come out a better person after.
You would be denying yourself priceless moments and memories built over time, as well as miss out on truly becoming part of a culture.
And the one I fear the most for the ‘jumpers’ in this generation: you would be waking up one day, having learned nothing and having taught nothing of significance to anyone, anywhere.
So while I believe that staying is a far better idea than jumping around, I am in no way saying that staying for the sake of coasting along is good either. Staying for the purpose of wanting to build something or growing is a whole different story from, say, staying just because one has become un-hireable / un-fireable.
These five reasons to stay are mine, but I won’t be surprised if you relate to them as well. If this post speaks to you or someone you know who’s a ‘jumper’ (or might be turning into one), share it with them – and let them see what they could be missing out on.