Pros and Cons of Long-Term Employment

Today marks the 5-year anniversary of working for my current employer. It’s also 5 years since I graduated college and entered the working world full-time, as I haven’t changed jobs since graduation.

I’m approaching the median employment tenure of those in my field. In other words, in a few months, I will have worked at the same company longer than 50% of my colleagues in the same industry.

Compounding this is the fact that architecture and engineering have one of the highest median tenures of any industry, and that younger people have a median tenure nearly three times shorter than their older colleagues. Details can be found in the report I like to above.

I’m not trying to toot my own horn, but merely pointing out that I’m a rarity among my friends and colleagues, most of whom have moved jobs at least once since I graduated.

Implications of Short Employment Tenure

The resulting question from this data is—why? Folks who move jobs are considering the benefits of doing so, as well as what they’re missing out on.

Of course, it would be foolish to ignore reality. Other considerations come into play, like where someone wants to live, who they marry, etc. Nevertheless, what are the pros and cons of working for one company for the long run?

Benefits of a Long-Term Job

There are seven key things I can think of. They include:

  1. More employee benefits. Many employers make their benefits package tiered to reflect the length of time with the company. Examples of time-sensitive perks might include total vacation time, amount vested in a profit sharing plan, or company retirement match.
  2. Advantages of seniority. Seniority comes with its own benefits, many of which are unofficial. These are things like the ability to have first choice of projects, or freedom to manage your own time. You’re also looked up to by younger staff members as a role model.
  3. May be less likely to be laid off or fired. With more experience and more vested interest in the company, you may be on the bottom of the list for layoffs. This can also back-fire if your salary is too heavy for the company to carry.
  4. Shows more stability on a resume. If you do eventually switch jobs (and most people will), an employment history filled with long-term positions will generally be seen as a sign of stability and loyalty, and should earn you points in your interview.
  5. Opportunity for promotion. While maintaining your title is usually possible if you switch jobs within the same career path, you’ll still have to “earn your stripes” at the new office, which means that promotions might take longer to get than would otherwise be expected.
  6. Stability in residence. Having a stable employer also means a stable place to live, since you won’t be moving around to change jobs. If you have a family, that could mean an easier time for your kids and less expenses associated with relocating all the time.
  7. Don’t have to go through “learning curve” repeatedly. The toughest part of starting a new job is having to learn the tasks, rules, expectations, relationships, and everything else that exists at your new office. The learning curve can take years if the job is sufficiently different, so by staying put you actually save hundreds of hours of productive time.

Problems with Sticking Around

Of course, it’s not all fun and games. Working non-stop for one company has its drawbacks, such as:

  1. Less variety of expertise. Most companies have areas of focus and tend to be methodical in their execution, which means that you’ll be exposed to only a handful of ways to do a handful of things.
  2. Complacency about job. Rookies often start a new job with a lot of passion and a drive to prove their worth. As the years go by, you might be tempted to fall back on seniority or the great relationship with your boss instead of continuing to put forward the effort that got you hired and retained for so long in the first place.
  3. May be limited with respect to salary negotiation. Salary can really go either way—sometimes seniority is a good thing and properly rewarded. Other times, it’s overlooked and can only be used as leverage to jump ship for better pay somewhere else.
  4. You’re going against society’s expectations. It’s thought that most of your friends will change jobs about 10 times during their life, and many will change careers completely at least a few of those times. If you’re sticking around at the same company for too many years, you might get pressure from colleagues about being too conservative with your work or other similar comments.

How About You?

If you’re employed by someone else, how long have you been in your current position? What was the longest you’ve ever worked for someone? What were your reasons for staying or leaving?

Photo by totalAldo

12 thoughts on “Pros and Cons of Long-Term Employment

  1. I have been with my current employer for 6 years. I stayed because it’s a great company to work for and I have a great department.

    The down side of staying is that your salary today depends largely on the salary you had when you started plus annual increases. The market may value your current skillset differently.

    At some point, with right education and growth, the market will value you more than your current employer by a margin that is wide enough for you to justify the move. I think the key is to know what this margin is and keep a finger on a pulse of what your “market” value is. Recruiters and benchmarking studies do a good job of assessing the market.

    1. I think I’ve had the opposite experience in my line of work. When I started, I would say my salary was average to below-average, but by creating great relationships at work and proving capabilities, it’s now above-average, especially considering how economic conditions impacted the design and construction industry.

      Now, that’s not to say my “worth” is not above-average and I couldn’t do better somewhere else, but I think part of my success in salary has to do with the level of trust I have at work.

      I completely agree with your assessment that you have to keep an eye on what’s going on elsewhere in your industry, no matter what.

  2. I also graduated college five years ago and since then, I’ve had FOUR full-time jobs (in two fields) and THREE part time jobs! Apparently I’m trying to get to that average fast! I do think a lot about my stays with each company and worry about how it looks on my resume. I don’t want to be pegged as a Gen Y who doesn’t like to work or is a selfish employee.

    I was at my first for two years and left because the corporate culture wasn’t a good fit, the next for a year and left because of a personal decision to move to a new state and the third I was also at for about a year and I left because it wasn’t a good corporate culture fit again and because I wanted to return to the field in which I got my degree.

    For me, happiness at work and having a good life balance is important in deciding to stay or go.

    I think they’re all legit and I think I can make myself a good candidate in an interview, but, as I said, I do worry about how it looks on paper, which maybe is why I had such a difficult time while I was hunting last fall.

    1. On an encouraging note, I think there are a lot of people in your shoes, so while staying at a employer long-term is a positive in terms of future job prospects, I don’t necessarily think that jumping around is a negative.

  3. I would love to stick with an employer for multiple years because of all the pros you listed. I’m still young, so the longest I stick with a job has been a year and a half, not long at all. I catch on pretty quickly, and have been able to network with a large amount of people because of my multiple jobs and internships, but the stability is really what I crave. Congratulations on 5 years!

  4. I graduated in ’93 – tough job market that year – but in 94 I landed my engineering job (at a very very low salary). I worked that job for 15 years. – I found that my pay increased quite a bit as I showed myself to be a useful part of the organization. Finally I departed that job for another opportunity (not much more money) but closer to family and friends. – Been here 3 years and hoping to stay here for quite some time. – I don’t have much of a passion for changing jobs – being a social invert and not great at networking – as well as a posible misplaced loyalty to “the man”. I would be quite happy to retire from the company I am at currently. All around me I see people changing positions and jobs every few years – I just don’t have any inclination in that direction.

    1. I didn’t consider personality as a factor, but I think you’re absolutely right–I’m an introvert like you and searching for a new job would be annoying, to say the least.

  5. I’ve been with my current job for almost 3 years. It was a really good move for me as my salary experienced a huge bump upon the transfer, and there have been 3 raises since then. The 401k situation is MUCH better, company puts in 12%, 3% is vested from day1, and the rest of it is vested based on length of time with the company. At this point, where I’m vested, I have twice as much in my 401K from working for this company as I did for 8 years with my prior company (0 matching there).

    I spent 8 years with my former company and it was about 6 years too long. Benefits kept decreasing and at one point, everyone took a salary cut. The super higher up was just plain rude to his employees about 75% of the time. Its a terrible thing to go to work every day with a stomache ache because the atmosphere stresses you out so much! I think I was just too timid at that point to go after anything else. But I’m glad I “grew up” a bit a made the change. It has helped tremendously!

    1. That’s an awesome benefits package to have given that many companies are scaling back on their benefits in a huge way. Glad you were able to make the jump!

  6. I was at a job for 24 years before moving on. The upside is a better salary and better benefits but the downside is that people tend to treat you like wallpaper. After looking back over my “career” I would say that if you can switch jobs or careers every 5 to 10 years it would be advantageous.

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