Does Switching Jobs Hurt Your Career?

“Stay at a company for at least two years.” I can’t even count the number of times I’ve been on the receiving end of this advice and heard the same advice passed on to others. Everyone from your colleagues to your family have an opinion on this topic, and as someone who has worked in recruitment for several years and receives detailed resume feedback on the regular from hiring teams, I can tell you that the answer to the question is complicated.

On one hand, there are clear benefits of job hopping. On the other hand, it can impact your reputation and the perception of you as an employee and a candidate.

THE GOOD

Career Advancement

When you job hop (change jobs every 1-2 years), you have the potential to go further faster, especially early in your career when you’re trying to build up a portfolio of skills, knowledge and experience to take on more responsibility. You’re not waiting for that ‘next job’ to come up in your current company and quickly taking on more senior titles.

Job Satisfaction

Switching jobs can help you to find the right company for you. One where you can see yourself staying for the longer term where you have a great team and growth opportunities. If you’re absolutely miserable in a job where there is no resolution, staying in it for years is going to be pretty painful.

Compensation

Changing jobs can be a very lucrative way to increase your salary. Studies have shown that employees who stick around in their current job and company can expect a 3% average annual raise, whereas changing your job/company will get you a 10-20% increase in your salary.

THE BAD

Perception

You may be dismissed by hiring managers. While many employers have become more accepting of shorter periods of employment, I would be lying if I hadn’t supported teams who dismissed resumes of candidates who changed companies every 1-3 years. Hiring managers may not want to invest their time and resources into someone they believe will only stay for a year or two. 

Have Reasoning

If you are a job hopper, it’s likely you’ll be asked about your frequent moves, even if they’re legitimate (maybe you relocated, were a contract worker, or your job was eliminated). Be prepared to explain the reasoning behind each of your moves and tell your story.

It’s Taxing

When you only spend a year or two at each organization, you’re constantly settling in and having to re-prove yourself which can be taxing and stressful.

All in all, changings jobs every few years has clear benefits and where it makes sense and you’re able to explain your reasoning, it can be the right move. But it can be taxing on you to do it frequently while also leaving some hiring managers with the perception that you’re not looking for something long term, even if you are.

If the goal of your next move is to find a place that you stay for the long term, make sure you do your research on the job, the company and the culture to learn as much as you can up front and increase your likelihood of staying. Ask questions and try to get a sense of what it would be like to really work at that company and what advancement and development looks like so that you can make an informed decision on an offer.

How to Answer: What Are Your Salary Expectations?

There is no trickier question in the interview process for most candidates. Believe me when I say that companies are not trying to trip you up when we ask this question and I often broach this topic in the initial phone interview. What we really want to know is, are you within our salary range? Many organizations have fixed salary ranges and we want to avoid getting too far down the line only to find that we can’t afford you, while also leaving you disappointed.

Why is this such a tricky question?

If you aim too high, you risk putting yourself out of the company’s range completely and thus, out of consideration. If you target too low, the company could lowball you leaving you dissatisfied. Depending on when this question is asked, it could also be difficult for you to gauge your salary expectations without fully knowing what the job entails.

It’s best to do your research ahead of time so that you feel confident going into the interview.

Research competitive market data

Going into the interview, you should have a clear idea of what someone in this role is earning. There are lots of resources available online including Payscale.com, Glassdoor.com, Salary.com, and LinkedIn which now provides salary insights. And be as specific as the data will allow you to; industry, location and any additional details will all provide more targeted and accurate results.

Tip: take the data with a grain of salt and when in doubt, go with your gut. The salary data from these sources should give you a rough idea to build on but they are not the be-all, end all.

Know your worth

While it’s good to be armed with competitive market data, you also need to know the worth of the skills, knowledge, and experience that you bring to the role and that differentiate you from other candidates. No one knows your skillset and its value in your industry better than you! While you do not need to communicate it, know what your bottom line is going into the conversation and be prepared to back it up by highlighting your skills.

Share a range, not a number

When answering the question, I always recommend providing a range (think 10-15k) rather than committing to a specific number that could be too high, could be too low, and could also limit your ability to negotiate later in the process. Never provide any numbers you wouldn’t be happy with, even the lowest end of your range should be a salary you’d be content with.

Be flexible

In addition to salary, there may be other monetary incentives, benefits or perks that you consider valuable, and you can use these as opportunities for negotiation. For example, if you have the salary conversation and find you’re slightly above what the company has budgeted, they may be willing to offer incentives to try to close the gap.

Example Responses:

“While I am flexible, I am looking for between $65,000 to $75,000 annually.”

“Based on market data I’d expect somewhere between $50,000 to $60,000 annually, but I’d like to learn more about the specific responsibilities of the role.”

“I’m open to discussion but based on my current salary and my knowledge of the industry, I’d expect a salary in the range of $80,000 to $95,000, depending on the total compensation package.”

“I would ideally be looking for a salary between $60,000 and $75,000 annually. It’s in line with the industry average and it reflects the skills and experience I would bring to the role. That said, I am flexible and open to hearing more about the company’s range for this position.”

Key Takeaways

  1. Do your research
  2. Know the value of the skills and experience you bring
  3. Express your flexibility
  4. Never provide any numbers you wouldn’t be happy with
  5. Provide a range and not a number
  6. Know your bottom line
  7. Be prepared to negotiate

Why You Should Never Accept the Counteroffer

There have been two instances in my career where I accepted a new job with a different company and when I walked into my managers office to provide my resignation, I was asked what salary I’d be looking for in order to stay. In both situations I was a very taken back, and with one it was downright offensive because I had already tried to negotiate a salary increase months before.

While it can be tempting (and flattering) to hear your manager and company try to bid you back with a higher salary, promise of more responsibility or something else of value to you, the best response is a very polite “no, thank you”, and here’s why.

There was a reason you decided to start a job search and that could have included salary, but probably wasn’t limited to it.

A 2018 study done by Korn Ferry of almost 5000 professionals found that 33% of employees started looking for a job because they were bored and no longer felt challenged in their role. 24% started looking because the company culture didn’t fit with their values, while a smaller percentage noted salary as the top reason to start looking for a new job. And my guess is that prior to starting your search, you had already tried to resolve your concerns, or, your concern was something fixed (like a rough commute).

When your manager comes to you with a counter offer you might wonder: between yesterday and today, what changed? Why are you now being offered the raise you asked for months ago? Why is there now an opportunity for you to lead that project? It isn’t that your value is suddenly apparent to your manager. It’s because your leaving not only causes a disruption in work and productivity, but it also means hiring and training someone new which is expensive and a large time commitment.

Bottom line: if you ever find yourself on the other end of a counteroffer, take stock of the reasons you started your job search in the first place and be honest with yourself. Would those issues go away or be resolved if you accepted? It’s unlikely.

How to Pivot into a Totally Different Job

Throughout my career, I’ve encountered many folks trying to pivot into totally different jobs and fields within their company. They might feel like there isn’t as much growth potential as they want in their field, they genuinely don’t enjoy their work anymore, or there’s a need to gain skills and experience in a totally different area in order to progress in their career. I can tell you that no matter what you’re doing, it might be difficult but it’s never impossible and there are a few key things you can do to make it happen.

Speak Up

This is crucial if you’re looking to make your move internally with your current company. If you have a performance development routine with your manager, bring it up and add it to your personal development plan with actionable steps. In many companies, your two key supporters will be your direct manager and your HR partner. Making your interests clear to both parties will help them to guide you effectively and champion you when a new role comes up.

Education

Pursue formal learning where required. Completing a certificate or a course is not only a good idea to get a base set of knowledge for certain fields (in some it’ll be required), but it also demonstrates your commitment to making a career change.

Find Ways to Get Experience

I recommend finding ways to get even small amounts of experience in the department you aspire to work in. There are lots of options here including but not limited to job shadowing, volunteering some of your time to help in a different department, short term experiences, short term assignments, the list goes on. Get creative and work with your manager to determine what makes sense based on your time capacity and your existing transferrable skills.

Build Relationships

The relationships and networks you build professionally can be key to helping you progress, especially when there is such a large hidden job market. Network by reaching out to associates or leaders in the department you’re interested in to learn more, express your interest and also get some direction and guidance.

Craft a Compelling Narrative

Hiring Managers are going to want to understand why you’re looking to make a change into a different role or career. Craft a compelling story that ties together your past experiences and interests and how they’ve brought you to where you are now, and why you believe this is the right move for you. Also be sure to include how your skills and knowledge would be of benefit in the new role.

Apply

When those jobs come up, apply! Make sure your resume reads as relevant as possible- have any relevant experience and education front and center so that the hiring manager can easily see your demonstrated commitment and interest, particularly if you’re coming from a different field. And keep at it – it can take time to make a change like this so try to not get discouraged if it doesn’t happen overnight.