Q: I’ve started increasing my professional networking activity over the past several months. I’ve been surprised to meet a few people who have been with one employer for more than 10 years. Does it strengthen or hurt my career prospects by staying with one organization for many years?
A: I’m always a bit surprised when I work with a new client who had been with one company for 10 to 15 years or longer. My Dad retired from AT&T after 37 years, which was much more common for his generation. The thinking of that generation was to secure a good role with a strong company, prove your worth and loyalty, work your way up the ladder and build a nice pension for retirement.
Wow, how things have changed in a very short time. Loyalty, both employee and employer, job security, even the idea of a “nice pension,” seem to have gone the way of the dinosaur.
The decision to stay with one employer for an extended period of time is a personal issue. It requires asking yourself how you feel about the way you are being treated by the employer (your role, compensation, benefits, autonomy, etc.) but also challenges you to determine if the organization truly meets your current career values.
Is this the industry and environment that you want to work in? Are these the type of people you want to work with? Are you being given choice projects and assignments? Do you like the way the organization is structured and agree with the management style? Do you enjoy your role within the organization? Career values—what is important to you about your work—often shift over time.
Here are several key questions to review and answer honestly as you evaluate whether or not your current employer represents a good fit for your career plans:
• Are there opportunities to take on new challenges, to enhance your skills and broaden the scope of your industry knowledge?
• Do my assignments and responsibilities offer enough depth to allow me to establish a strong professional profile (as an expert) in my field?
• Does my employer make significant investments in talent and professional development activity for valued staff?
• If you desire global experience, is my employer’s reach far too limited within the industry?
• Do I fit my employer’s profile for a leadership role within the company?
• Will key roles in other organizations allow me to achieve career goals and advance much sooner (by strengthening my list of achievements through involvement in leading edge projects)?
If you’re worried about how a lengthy tenure with one company will be perceived by hiring managers, do everything you can to strengthen your resume. If, when reading your materials, a recruiter gets the impression that you have a narrow role and limited skill set, that is a huge red flag.
Convey a clear progression of titles and responsibilities in your experience. Include strong examples of quantifiable achievements and contributions you made to the organization. With your content, tell the reader why you’ve been selected for key assignments and list any recognition (honors and awards) received for your talent and service.
It never hurts to check opportunities for growth and advancement, both inside and outside your current organization. And you might be pleasantly surprised at just how attractive your background is to potential employers.