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Should I Stay or Should I Go? Navigating Job Changes
I recently spoke at the Johns Hopkins International Career Summit and one of the questions I got asked was "Is it better to work in a company for a long period or is it better to jump between difference jobs?"
The job market today is far different than decades ago - with less stigma around changing companies and more fluidity in roles. This flexibility empowers us with options, but also leaves many wondering: should I stay put or keep moving to new opportunities? There are pros and cons to both approaches.
Building tenure at an organization used to be the norm, and there are still benefits to sticking around long-term:
Developing deeper expertise in your role over time
Forging stronger relationships and networks internally
Gaining institutional knowledge and becoming a go-to resource
Showcasing loyalty which could lead to promotions
Avoiding the risks and unknowns of a new environment
However, extended stagnation in one role can also lead to boredom, lack of challenge, and limited skill development . So while loyalty is great, beware of complacency.
On the other hand, deliberately changing jobs every few years provides advantages like:
Exposure to diverse industries, companies, and challenges
Preventing your skills from becoming obsolete
Quicker salary growth by leveraging outside offers
Bringing fresh perspectives to new teams
Expanding your professional network
But be cautious of changing too often, which can backfire:
Never building deep expertise in one area
Developing a “job hopper” reputation
Minimal impact on or investment in teams
Constantly being the inexperienced newcomer
Sacrificing valuable mentoring relationships
Striking a Balance
Given these tradeoffs, I generally recommend finding a middle ground. Staying 1-3 years in roles allows you to learn, add value, and build your brand before considering a move. Beyond 3-5 years, aim to layer on new responsibilities, projects, or lateral moves to keep growing within the same high-level field or company.
The optimal frequency also depends on your industry and goals. Early career stage? Changing every 1-2 years can offer accelerated development. Mid-career? Stick to each role 2-4 years to balance depth with breadth of experience. Feel stuck? Explore options, but make your next move intentionally.
While an evolving job market gives us flexibility, our careers still benefit from a methodical, patient approach. Consistently evaluate both the risks and rewards of moving on versus digging in your heels. With thoughtful planning, you can strike the right balance and get the most out of your career journey.
Drop a note on your thoughts and experiences with job changes.
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