Is it better to stay at one company or to move around between different jobs?
You wouldn’t be the first to ask this question. The employee turnover rate in the U.S. in 2021 was 57.3%, most of which were voluntary departures. Plus, 33% of people who quit their jobs also did so within 90 days of being hired. These folks found their answer, it would seem, and chose to job-hop.
Job-hopping is a growing trend among younger generations, with the average millennial spending little more than two and a half years at a job. Meanwhile, Gen Xers (1965–1980) and Baby Boomers (1946–1964) will spend upward of five years in a position.
These numbers speak to the strengths of both career strategies. Staying at your current company for a while can provide valuable stability, which is great if you’re planning a big purchase or starting a family. But changing jobs diversifies your skills, makes you a more well-rounded employee, and lets you test the waters at different companies.
The toughest decisions are those between two good options — a job you already like and a job you might like more. Start by listing your pros and cons and deciding what kind of concession you’re most comfortable with. Putting everything on a page can help ease your analysis paralysis and help you feel excited about the future.
Is it better to stay in one job for a long time?
Let’s start by examining your current position. Staying at your company for a longer period benefits your personal and professional development and helps you cultivate a dependable image. You’ll work on the same projects and have consistent mentors in senior employees. But hanging onto one job means saying “no” to potentially exciting new opportunities.
Here are some possible pros and cons of remaining with your current employer.
Pros of remaining with your current employer
1. Greater stability
If your current job pays well, has a good work-life balance, and is committed to keeping you around, you might consider staying. This kind of stability could help you achieve personal goals outside of the workplace or better understand when you can meet your financial goals.
2. Better chances of being promoted
You’ll never learn how to move up in a company if you don’t stick around long enough. Employers promote people who demonstrate deep institutional knowledge, a commitment to the company culture, and a track record of success.
If you’re wondering how long you should stay in a job, know that it can take up to five years to earn these traits and climb the ladder — something to consider if you want to become a manager someday.
3. Deeper bonds with your co-workers
After a while in a job, a company can feel like home. Great co-workers make great work environments, so it might be worth cultivating those work relationships. This can help you improve your job satisfaction and overall happiness and well-being.
4. A greater level of expertise
It takes a few years to become truly comfortable in a job, and no one will be more qualified than you. In addition to your technical skills, you’ll have found efficiencies to make the job easier. You can anticipate your boss’ needs and know who to call when you need urgent help. These are all things you must re-learn in a new role.
Cons of staying at a company
1. Potentially slower career growth
If you play your cards right, you can earn a promotion — but sometimes, factors outside of your control can obstruct your career path. Office politics and interpersonal conflicts can overshadow your otherwise exceptional performance. Your company may also choose to hire someone new rather than promote from within, which could be a sign you need a new job.
2. Smaller raises
If your goal is to earn a progressively higher salary, remaining at a single company may not be the best choice. In exchange for compensation like health insurance, paid time off, and long-term stability, you may have to accept smaller and less frequent raises. Switching companies means negotiating a new salary, so you might have greater jumps.
3. Risk of over-specialization
Stay in a job long enough, and you’ll become indispensable to the company — sometimes, to a fault. Your expertise can make you irreplaceable, meaning you’re more valuable in your current position than in a senior role.
When to try something new
Should you change jobs or stay put? As you consider riding things out in your current role, remember that no option is perfect. Any decision you make comes with compromise, and only you know whether those concessions are acceptable.
Here are the pros and cons of looking for better opportunities.
Pros of moving around
1. Improved adaptability
Switching jobs every couple of years means regularly stepping out of your comfort zone. You’ll have to adapt quickly to new experiences and responsibilities and establish yourself as a valuable contributor to your team.
This kind of adaptability is extremely valuable. With a track record of high performance in multiple environments, future potential employers will know you can hit the ground running.
2. A chance to learn new skills
Even if you stay within a single industry, every company has its own way of doing things. This is an opportunity to expand your abilities to fit the organization’s needs.
After doing this a few times in different jobs, you’ll have a well-rounded skill set to show off to recruiters and on your LinkedIn profile. Even if you’re just working with different project management software and team structures, you’ll be prepared to thrive in a new environment.
Keeping one foot in the job market also lets you practice your job interview skills. The more you meet with hiring managers, the more you’ll learn how to position yourself as an ideal candidate. This will keep you sharp for when you’re ready to land your next dream opportunity.
3. Bigger pay bumps
Working at a new company is one of the best ways to increase your income. If you wait for a raise in your current job, you can expect up to a 4% pay increase per year. But every time you opt for a new role, that number can jump up to 5.3%.
If you can negotiate this kind of pay bump every 1–2 years with a new employer, the dollars will be faster than if you stay put.
4. A chance to find your dream job
Dream jobs are rarely the roles we dreamed about in high school. Rather, they’re the ones we discover through trial and error.
Every time you take on a new job, you’ll learn more about your likes and dislikes. You may prefer hybrid-remote work, fast-paced environments, or highly technical jobs — even if you never thought you would.
Cons of moving around
1. You could earn the label of “job-hopper”
Bouncing around from one job to another could put a red flag on your resume. History is often a predictor of future behavior, so employers will be worried you’re going to run off them. This could be problematic if you’re ready to settle down into a long-term role after a few years of job-hopping. You’ll have to own your track record and ease your interviewer’s fears.
2. Fresh starts can be stressful
The novelty of a new position can be fun and rewarding. But even positive change is stressful. You’ll adapt to a new environment, get to know your boss, and might work long hours. This can be demanding, especially if you balance your new role with other responsibilities, like settling into a new city or being a mom.
3. You could end up in a bad environment
Your hiring manager may have been endearing during the interview. But, once you start working with them, you might find they’re anything but. Even if you don’t plan to stay in this role for long, you’ll have to put up with subpar work conditions until you can hop again.
Nothing is set in stone
There’s no wrong way to approach your career. If you ride it out with your current company, you’ll enjoy the stability and community that comes from working with a team you know well. You’ll also become an expert in your job and establish yourself as an integral part of the organization.
But job-hopping for the next few years could be a thrilling experience. You’ll work across teams and pick up best practices from each. Your network will grow quickly and expansively. Plus, you can expedite your salary growth with each new contract you sign.
Both of these paths are appealing, but neither is without its faults. As you consider whether it’s better to stay at one company or move around, decide which concessions are dealbreakers for you. Starting fresh every two years may not be worth it if you want to pick up your child from school on time.
And it’s important to remember that nothing is permanent. If you leave your current role with the intention of moving around for a while, you can always change course if you regret it. At least you will have learned something about yourself in the process.