Can You Stay Too Long At a Company?

By Joe Stein

Spoiler alert….Yes, you can!

For so many years, loyalty and work tenure were both rewarded (more vacation, pension, etc.) and expected.  You also have always had the general concern regarding “job hopping” (in other words, changing companies too often).  So, for many, the idea that you could possibly stay with a company too long seems very foreign. 

There are, however, many situations where a person should not only change jobs, but also companies.  You can reach a point were changing companies makes perfect sense for you, not only for your own personal satisfaction, but also your marketplace value.

Let’s examine some of the factors that may lead you to conclude that you may be staying too long at your current company.  The idea being that you want to be proactive in order to maximize your compensation and your ability to land future employment.

• You Have Been Idling at the Same Position – If you have been at the same position/level for five or more years, then it may be time to leave.  Hiring Managers like tenure if the person has consistently been moving up within the organization.  If, however, they see a long stagnant stay at a certain level, they may question your upward mobility and wonder why your current employer has not thought to promote you lately.  Perhaps you have become complacent at your current role and lack the drive to push yourself to the next level.

• Technology Is Passing You By – In today’s work environment, most positions are tied to the ever changing advancement of technology.  If you are with a company that is not keeping pace, you do not have to be an Information Technology person to become concerned with your skill set.  Hiring Managers today expect candidates to be mostly ready to go when they start a position.  There is rarely time to teach someone a software program unless it is propriety to that particular company.

• You Are “Only” Receiving Merit Increases – I placed “only” in quotes since a merit increase is better than none, and I realize there are many people that did not receive one over the years.  If, however, you are plugging along with merit increases in the neighborhood of 2%, then you are just keeping up with inflation and not moving your compensation forward.  If you wish to supercharge your income, then perhaps you have stayed too long and need to change employers.

• Your Company Is Closed to New Ideas – I have personally worked for several companies and have learned considerably from each.  It is amazing how different companies will approach processes and decision-making.  If you have been with the same company, you have probably been following the same processes since you started.  If you have had success, then there is very little incentive to change things and, perhaps, make them better.  You may hear that “this is the way we have always done it”.  The problem with all of this is that you are most likely not learning anything new or different.  This can hurt your job search in a couple of ways if you stay too long with a company.  First, a Hiring Manager may think you will not really bring anything fresh to the organization, especially if the way your current employer does things is dated or “old fashioned”.  Secondly, a Hiring Manager may believe that because of your long tenure at your current employer that you will be unable to change or adapt to the way they do things.

• You’re Not a Hot Commodity – Perception can be so powerful.  Every Hiring Manager would like to recruit that spectacular employee with his/her next hire.  When dealing with your Manager or your team, it is a lot easier to sell them on hiring a person who has worked for a few known employers with progressively more responsibility than someone who has stayed at their last positon for ten or more years.

For many, changing companies seems pretty scary as you think about different co-workers, Managers, and processes.  There are also some very real tangible reasons to stay where you are, such as built-up vacation, or a pension (if you are fortunate enough to have one).  For some lucky people, their current role has constantly evolved and improved, leaving no reason to make a move.  For many, however, leaving your current employer is not only an option, but something that should seriously be considered for all the reasons above.

If you are starting to think that you may have overstayed at your current position, then has the perfect job search option for you.  Since you are currently employed, you probably want to keep your current job search confidential.  If this is the case, go to the “Employed But…open to opportunities” section on the website, in order to create a confidential profile.

As always, best of luck in your job search.