Rethinking job tenure

JULIE CHASE | MAY 5, 2021

I just read Adam Grant’s latest book, Think Again — full of great research and fascinating anecdotes. There are too many takeaways for me to recount, but the biggest key learning for me is to remain open, curious and humble. When we do that, we allow ourselves to try new things — ones that often improve our lives.

Adam’s books are great because he shares many practical steps that are easy to adopt. For example, he suggests blocking time on our calendars every 6 months to evaluate our careers. This way we can relax in between — knowing we have dedicated time to be self-reflective and ask ourselves what we want, set new goals and determine next steps.

While I’m not a researcher, I’ve talked to many people who are ready to leave their jobs and the common theme is they’ve reached a point of utter frustration. It’s not just their manager (which is the biggest reason to leave), but rather a combination of not feeling valued, lost interest/passion for the role and/or company, not the right culture fit and the biggest one — no growth opportunities.

And the longer people stay at a company, the stronger the negative feelings they have — often resentment, disappointment and anger. 

According to LinkedIn, the tech companies have the highest turnover compared to other major industries. The average tenure at major tech companies like Uber, Dropbox, Square, Facebook, Salesforce and Google range from 1.8 to 3.3 years.

Having spent 20 years in the tech industry, I’ve seen the tide change — from skepticism on short tenures to long tenures. 

It might surprise you that after 5 years or so, recruiters and interviewers want to know why you’ve stayed at the company for so long. [The exception is if you’ve had a progressive career and/or have made a career change.] They want to know if you can adapt quickly and be successful in a different culture with new people, processes, etc.

Of course there are many good reasons to stay at a company for a long period of time. But if the main reasons are for stability and a paycheck, then you’re selling yourself short. We constantly evolve — and have an innate desire to learn and grow. If we’re not growing, then we’re stagnating.

How do you know when it’s time to make a strategic career move to another company? 

Here’s a list of questions to help guide your decision: 

  • What’s my career vision / North Star? Does your current job align with your vision? If not, why? Is there an opportunity to move internally to get closer to your North Star? If not, what job and/or company would? 
  • What’s most important to me in a role and company? Is it important to have a wider scope of work, greater autonomy, more collaborative culture, inspiring leaders? List your criteria and then assess the level of alignment with your current job.
  • Do I have a career path and/or growth opportunities? Is there a clear path to the next level such as from Manager to Senior Manager? 

It can also be a lateral move. Is there something else you want to explore like customer success or sales operations? The best way to make a career change is within the company. Network internally to learn more about the roles, leaders, culture and opportunities within those groups.

  • Do I have limiting or false beliefs about making a change? The number one reason I hear about not leaving a job is because they want a flexible schedule and work-life balance. [This is especially funny coming from people who work 60+ hours.] Do they believe their company is the only one with flexibility?

Good companies (and those are the only ones I recommend joining) have trust-based cultures that care more about impact than work hours. They set you up for success. We should also thank Millennials for making work-life balance a standard.

Also, some people believe they can’t take a vacation or time off during their first year of work. You can ramp up quickly, make an impact, build a strong reputation and take time off. You can have it all!

  • How much of it is me? What can I change? It’s easier to look at what’s missing in your role and company, but the greatest insight is being aware of your part in your frustration and unhappiness. We are our biggest obstacle. Maybe you haven’t set healthy boundaries, avoid conflict and are negative at work. What does your best self look and act like? What changes and steps can you make to align to your best self?

We spend nearly one-third of our lives working — work affects every aspect of our lives. When we don’t love our job, we can’t live our best lives. Take the time to answer the questions above, assess where you’re at and see if you’re ready to make a strategic career move. I think you’ll find the exercise rewarding in itself.

P.S. Are you ready to uplevel your career and land a job where you’ll feel fulfilled, realize your potential and get the comp you deserve? If so, then watch our video and book a session with one of our job strategists. We’re excited to talk with you!