Why You Should Never Stay in the Same Job for More Than Four Years

By Joe Issid, Monster Canada Contributing Writer

This is not your father’s job market. Long gone are the company lifers from yesteryear who spent their entire careers in a single position within a single company. Today, we’re living in an age of job promiscuity, where regularly changing jobs is not just tolerated, but encouraged.

This shift is a fairly recent phenomenon that can be traced back to the dot-com rise and fall of the late 1990s. Regardless of the reasons for the shift, the current employment climate requires job seekers to be more agile. As such, you’ll notice that fewer and fewer people stay in their jobs for longer than three or four years. Here are four reasons you should be one of these people.

1. Rapidly Evolving Skill Sets

It’s human nature to get comfortable and settle into a predictable routine. If you’re able to perform your job competently, you may have little motivation to improve or update your skills regularly. If this describes you, don’t worry -- you’re not alone. But you may want to check out what’s happening on the job market. Companies are always changing how they do business and how they staff their positions. A skill necessary today may not be required tomorrow -- and vice versa. If you’ve been at your job for a number of years, search Monster for jobs comparable to yours. Take a look at the requirements and see if they match your skill set. You may be surprised by what employers are currently looking for.

2. Technological Advancements

As technology evolves, so does the face of entire industries. If you have a technical job, keep your finger on the pulse of what’s happening in your industry. While your current employer may not be adopting new platforms or technologies, its competitors might be. If you’ve been with your company for several years as a Windows systems administrator, for example, entire lines of software and hardware may be completely foreign to you. If you haven’t been keeping up with these changes, you may have a hard time taking the next step in your career. You don’t want to become a dinosaur in your industry by staying at a job for too long.

3. Perception

Imagine you’re on a date and discover that your companion has just come out of a 12-year relationship. Think about how you would perceive that person and how he or she may relate to you. Unfair or not, you will make assumptions based on the longevity of your date’s previous relationship. Your reaction would not be unlike that of a hiring manager when evaluating the resume of a candidate who spent the past 12 years working for another company. Will this person be easy to train? Will he adapt well to a new environment? What made this person leave after so many years? Are his skills current? Is he motivated? The questions are endless and can be enough to put the employer off the candidate entirely.

4. Career Advancement

While you can remain with the same company for many years, holding the same position for more than four years can be problematic. If you aspire to evolve within your company, you should be looking to do so within two years of joining. If you have been in the same job for four years, you may want to consider other options.

For example, if you’re happy with your employer but stuck in a no-growth position, try branching out to other departments. Additionally, ask whether funds are available for you to take some courses that can help develop your skills. As always, consult with your manager since he’ll be in a great position to advise you. The key factor here is to keep moving forward.

A Word of Caution

Keep in mind that being a little too promiscuous with your career can also be damaging. Jumping from job to job can give the impression that you’re not reliable or dependable. Frequent job-hopping can also affect your seniority and leave you feeling that you’re taking a step backward whenever you join a new team.

As with anything in life, think carefully before making any major career decisions. Just don’t let yourself become stagnant where you are. Exploration is vital to keeping you excited and motivated about your work.

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