Should you stay with one company or move around? This is a dilemma that leaves many conflicted, especially those at the start of their career. There are many factors to take into consideration. Will job hopping allow your career to progress the way you envision it, or would you be better off staying put in one place? We’ll discuss the many pros and cons to both decisions.
Pros of Staying With One Company
Shows dependability and loyalty
Staying with one company can show that you are dependable and loyal. Your current employer will recognize and appreciate this about you.
Down the line, if you eventually apply to another company, the hiring manager at that company will see how you spent X number of years with one employer. Your loyalty to one firm will be seen as a positive trait because it can imply that you would also stay with their company for several years.
Work life is simple and stable
When you job hop from one to another, your life can be pretty chaotic. Just as you get caught up to speed and in a groove, you leave the company.
Your work life is simple and stable when you set your roots in one place. If this is something you value, it may be a good reason to stay put.
You become an expert in your field
You may have heard that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something. If you believe this to be true, then staying with one company will allow you to become an expert in your field.
If a work week is typically 40 hours, it will take you 250 work weeks, or just under 5 years, to reach mastery. By becoming a master, your job can feel easier and you will feel more comfortable. Your expertise can also lead to those highly coveted roles within the company that are reserved for the best.
Seniority comes with perks and trust
When you stay with one company for a few years, your name, face, and work become familiar to your colleagues and the managers above you. If you are a dependable employee, you’ll gain the trust of these individuals.
When people trust you in the office, they are less likely to bother you. For example, your boss will give you more autonomy on your tasks because they know you’ll produce great work. This can make work less stressful.
Perks that come with seniority can include longer lunches, additional benefits, more vacation days, preference of office space, etc.
Build strong relationships with your colleagues
The relationships you can build over the course of 5 years can become so strong that they will last the rest of your career. The people you get to know can turn into valuable connections in terms of networking opportunities. Some may become genuine friends.
When you have strong relationships in the workplace, work becomes a little easier. Someone is more willing to help you if they know you and like you. Your email is less likely to be ignored in their busy inbox. By job hopping, it’s harder to establish depth in your work relationships.
Being with a company through its ups and downs is rewarding
Finally, being with one company through its ups and downs can be highly rewarding. It can give you a sense of purpose. You have witnessed the good times and the bad times, and hopefully, the upward trajectory of the company.
Not only can this be intrinsically rewarding, but if you stay there long enough, you may be compensated for the performance of the company. Once you reach a certain level, it’s common to be granted stock options, which will allow you to participate in the profits the company generates.
This incentivizes you to help make sure the company performs.
Cons of Staying With One Company
Pay accelerates at a slow pace
Unless you receive a promotion, your pay is going to keep up with the pace of inflation. That means you can expect a raise of 2-3% each year. That’s nothing to go crazy about.
When you move to another company, you’re highly likely to see a raise and/or promotion. Raises are typically 15-20%.
Imagine two scenarios that span the length of 5 years:
- Scenario 1: You stay with one company for 5 years, receiving one promotion after the third year.
- Scenario 2: After 1 year with your first company, you move to another. After 2 years with the second company, you leave for a third company.
Patience is needed to move up the corporate ladder
If the company you work for is filled with managers and directors that enjoy their jobs, it’s going to be hard to get promoted to their position. You have to wait for them to be promoted, for them to resign, or for them to be fired.
Because of this, it requires patience. If you are an Associate at your company, it’s easy to go on LinkedIn and apply for jobs as a Director at another company.
Office politics can still prevent career advancement
Even if you are patient, office politics can still prevent your career from advancing how you’d like. The workplace can be a competitive environment. There may be three analyst positions and only one manager position. All three of the analysts are competing to be promoted.
You can try your hardest, deliver excellent work, and still end up in second place due to unfair office politics. We have all experienced a time where someone else got something when you thought you deserved it more. It’s an irritating feeling.
Don’t expect promotions to come because you have paid your dues. When you are open to moving companies, you can go pursue that higher job title you seek.
It’s easy to become comfortable and complacent
Having a simple and comfortable work life is a blessing and a curse. On one hand, your life is easy and predictable. On the other hand, this comfort can lead to complacency.
When you aren’t pushed, you may not try to improve your skills and expand your knowledge. Why would you? Things are going just fine with your current effort.
If you do stay with one company and don’t want to become complacent, you’ll have to actively seek out ways to push yourself. You can ask for more responsibility, take the lead on new projects, get a certification (like the CPA or CFA), or learn about a different aspect of the business.
The company and its opportunities may not align with your long-term goals
You shouldn’t stay with one company just for the sake of staying there. Your position and career path at your current company should align with your long-term goals.
Ask yourself, “If I stay with this company for 5, 7, or 10 years, will that align with my long-term goals?”
If the answer is no, then it may be time to move on. Your first job likely isn’t your dream job. If you find that to be true, don’t be afraid to apply elsewhere.
Risk of pigeonholing yourself
You may become an expert by working for one company for several years, but you also risk pigeonholing yourself.
Your experience is so focused in one area that it may be hard to find work outside of that area. Variety in your background can be useful for transferring skills from one company to another.
Pros of Moving Around
Higher likelihood of a significant promotion and/or pay raise
The odds of a significant promotion and/or pay raise is much higher when you move companies. Unless you completely change industries or position, a company will hire you at a higher salary than you currently make.
This raise averages about 15-20% percent, compared to a standard raise of 2-3% percent if you stayed with one company. After I moved on from my first employer, I was hired at a salary that was 20% higher. That would have taken me a few years to achieve if I had stayed with that single company.
Build a breadth of skills and experience
By moving around, you open up yourself to the opportunity of developing skills and experience in a wide range of areas. My own path took a bunch of twists and turns. In my first three years, I had experience in the following areas:
- Hedge funds – Operations
- Corporate finance – Investor relations
- Tax equity and project finance – Solar, real estate, feature films
With each new job, it took a lot of hours and effort to learn and get caught up to speed. I don’t regret it one bit. Now I have a variety of skills that I can use to my advantage. I also have many options to move around in the future, if I ever decide to leave my current position.
Challenges and getting out of your comfort zone
Like I said, it’s difficult when you move around. This difficulty can be advantageous to your career. When you leave one company, you give up the simplicity and comfort you are used to. You trade that for a new opportunity, one that will challenge you and get out of your comfort zone.
The first few months of any new job are chaotic. If you can understand and accept that, you’ll come out on the other side with a sense of accomplishment. You won’t fall into the career complacency we mentioned earlier in the post.
Your network expands
Staying put at one company allows you to make deeper connections, but job hopping allows you to make a higher volume of connections. Sometimes, deep relationships aren’t necessary.
There is a concept called the “strength of weak ties”, which comes from a study in 1973 that found that leads for new opportunities are more likely to come from those who are distant acquaintances (weak ties) that those in your inner circle (strong ties).
Thus, if weak ties are valuable, then the weak ties you develop at each company will pay dividends during your career. You’ll have connections that can lead to future employers, future colleagues, and future clients.
Gives you a chance to find a career that sticks
For most people, their first job is not their dream job. The position, company, and/or career path may not be what they envisioned. Staying with a company for 5 years can look good on paper, but what if you aren’t satisfied with your job? What if there are better opportunities out there?
Moving around gives you the opportunity to taste-test a variety of options. Each job I had was vastly different than the other. As a result, I got to see what it was like to work for several companies, in several industries, across several states. This really helped me pinpoint what I like and what I don’t like.
The clarity you gain from job hopping is invaluable and can save you years of time you are potentially wasting away sticking with one job.
Cons of Moving Around
Need to learn about the position, your colleagues, and the company from scratch
When you start at another company, you have to drink from the firehose to learn about the position, your colleagues, and the company. Hopefully some of what you knew from your previous position can transfer over, but there will be stress associated with this.
You don’t want to slack off and disappoint. So if you are thinking about moving, take this into consideration. You have to be willing to start from scratch.
You have to prove yourself all over again
Along with starting from scratch, you will have to prove yourself all over again. You are on a new team that only knows you from your resume and interview. They will be watching to see how you integrate and perform.
At your other job, you may have built trust with your team after showing your reliability to produce quality work. You’ll have a chip on your shoulder to prove this again at your new employer.
Can be seen as a negative in the eyes of employers
One frequently brought up argument against moving around is that employers will look at your movement in a negative light. Employers may see someone who has bounced around and conclude that they would move on from them relatively quickly as well.
I personally have not witnessed this downside from moving around. If a position is in high demand and an employer needs to fill a seat ASAP, they will hire you. If you work on making yourself marketable and desirable, this con won’t be an issue for you.
Potential for your next job to be worse than your current job
You might think you have it bad at your current job, but what if your next job is even worse? What if your team turns out to be more dysfunctional? What if your new boss is an even bigger jerk? What if there is less opportunity to move up the ladder at your new job?
These are all possibilities and it’s the risk you take when you move companies. The best thing you can do to avoid these situations is to do your research. Read forums online, connect with current employees on LinkedIn, and ask around. Find out what it’s like to work there.
You can also find out a lot during the interview process. Be observant and get a feel for the position, team, and career path.
More relationships, but shallower relationships
In the pros section for moving around, we mentioned how you’ll be able to network with a more expansive range of professionals. This is true. You will build more relationships, but these relationships can be shallower than the relationships you could build by staying put with one company.
If you move around every year, you’ll only get to know everyone at each job for a year. If you fail to make an impression, once you’re gone, the people you met may forget about you. Make it a mission to connect deeply with people wherever you are.
After you leave a company, nurture your connections by keeping in touch. Reach out to them every now and then to meet. Connect on social media with them. Comment on their posts. Send happy birthday texts. Do what you can to maintain the relationship.
The Final Verdict: Should You Stay or Should You Move?
What’s the final verdict? Well, it depends…
I know that’s not the definitive answer you were looking for, but it will truly depend on the individual, their situation, and their goals. We laid out many pros and cons for staying vs. moving. It’s my hope that you can use the pros and cons to help make your decision easier.
My personal view is that out of college, you should move around every year or two for the first five to seven years of your career, not to exceed four jobs within that time frame. Your salary will jump quickly and you’ll build skills and experience in a variety of areas.
You’ll gain insight on what you like and what you don’t. With that insight, you can map out where you want to set your roots and work for a company for 5+ years.