Employers would like you to believe that job-hoppers’ resumes are automatically delivered to the paper shredder. Why, how convenient. Looks like you’re going to have to work for them forever, accepting pay increments that can’t keep pace with inflation.
While running off to a new company every 6 months isn’t going to do you any favours, the employment landscape is changing. Gone are the days when people worked for a company all their lives. Beyond a certain point (every 2 to 3 years) it’s probably wise to change jobs.
Eunice, the CEO of recruitment firm Career Shine, says, “2 to 3 years would be a good time to leave. In the first year, most people are still adapting to the culture and learning new things. After 2 years, if you are still not progressing within the company, then it may be a good time to leave, since you are encountering stagnant growth.”
However, if you’ve stayed less than 2 years at both of your last two jobs, Eunice advises staying in your current job for at least 3 years to avoid being labelled a job hopper.
“People are changing jobs quite often nowadays, so even those who change jobs every 2 years are considered acceptable by employers and not really at a disadvantage. But those who stay less than 2 years in every job will be labelled job hoppers,” she says.
If you look like a serial job hopper on paper because you have been forced out of jobs due to circumstances out of your control, you might want to state your reasons for leaving on your resume, Eunice advises.
“Some acceptable reasons to put on your resume include being retrenched or taking up a 6 month contract job. A 6 month job looks bad on your resume but if you state that it was a contract position, most employers will not hold it against you.”
“In general, anyone who stays in one company for 5 years will be deemed by employers as one with a good employment history, and it wouldn’t be advisable to stay longer unless they really like the company,” she says.
Here are some reasons why it might be time for you to quit, too.
While workers in some industries get yearly salary hikes as generous as 10% to 30%, the average increment is between 3% to 6%. That’s just an average, though, and it means many workers are getting increments that fall short. In fact, I have friends who’ve gone years without an increment, slowly watching their earning capacity get eroded by inflation.
On the other hand, changing jobs can get you an increment of around 20%, earning you a salary you would have to work around 5 years to achieve if you stayed in the same company
Eunice says, “It is safe to say there will be at least a 10% to 15% increase in salary if you’re moving within the industry and your experience still counts. 20% is realistic and 30% is not unheard of.” In addition, she warns, “Some companies don’t have the policy of giving out annual increments, so it’s unwise to stay for too long in such workplaces.”
30-year-old bank executive Marissa has been working for foreign banks for 8 years. In that time, she has worked at three different banks. At one of the banks, she also had to send in an application for a 2-year-long overseas post, and then reapply to come back to Singapore, receiving a pay hike both times. In all, she has received 5 pay hikes just by changing jobs. “I usually will not move unless I am able to negotiate a 30% increment,” she says.
A promotion doesn’t always come with a significant increase in salary, but it can give you more bargaining power when you interview for your next job.
However, at some companies, promotions are few and far between. If you’ve been in the same post for years and your peers in other companies are all being promoted ahead of you, that’s a good sign you’ll be able to secure a promotion by changing jobs and making the move to another employer.
Yvette, a 37-year-old lawyer who worked at a particular firm for 5 years, laments that it was only in her 9th year of practice that she was promoted to senior associate. “The firm had a number of associates with more than 8 years of experience but they just couldn’t be bothered to promote any of us.” Law firms generally promote their associates to senior associate after 3-4 years.