Can You Stay at a Company Too Long?

It can be hard to leave the comfort of a long-term employer. But staying at the same company too long can be costly, especially if you aspire to advance your career faster and make more money sooner.

In response to my recent post about how long you should stay at your job, I received a question asking if it was possible to stay at a company too long. Here was my answer:

If you’re at a company you enjoy, working with people you enjoy, and able to learn, grow and make an impact year after year, then that sounds like a good place to stay for a while.

While I stand by my response (afterall, I stayed 10 years at a company for those very reasons), it doesn’t fully represent how I think about company longevity.

Clearly there are benefits of being a long-tenured employee—like a higher sense comfort and confidence that comes from knowing the ropes. Plus, you may accrue more vacation time than a newbie, or even qualify for paid sabbaticals 😁.

And staying at the same company to earn a succession of internal promotions increases your marketability, demonstrating you’re a high performer committed to your company’s long-term success.

But if you aspire to advance your career faster and make more money sooner, you can absolutely stay at a company too long. Which is why, after a strong 10-year run with the same employer, I chose to change companies.

I didn’t leave because of a bad boss or toxic work environment. Simply put, I left to make myself more marketable and advance my career. It paid off for me—and it can do the same for you.

Make More Money Sooner

As a corporate worker there are 3 primary ways you can bump your career earnings.

You can earn an annual merit increase, which is expected to average 3.4% this year—but that’s not nearly enough to keep up with the current rate of inflation at 8.3%.

You can also try to get recognized as a top performer (or get promoted) to earn a higher-than-average pay increase. But that still might not be enough to keep up with the rising cost of living.

Or, you can change companies and negotiate an even bigger pay increase (and maybe a signing bonus and equity grant too!). Nearly a third of workers who left their employer for another job during the pandemic increased their compensation by more than 30%. Another 20% of people who changed jobs received a 10%-20% increase.

And to add more fuel on the fire, your newly hired coworker doing the same work as you is likely earning 10-15% more than you.

Bottom line, staying too long at the same company limits your earning potential. It pays more to change companies!

Advance Your Career Faster

For those of you who work at large, global corporations, I get that opportunities for career growth can be limitless within the confines of your current employer. And even within different business units or functional groups, aspects of the company culture and working norms can vary significantly—requiring expert adaptability to successfully change roles.

But right or wrong, from an outsider perspective, working for the same company too long can send the wrong message to recruiters and potential new employers, giving the impression you lack adaptability and breadth of experience. Or worse, it could be misconstrued as complacency.

And to make matters worse, staying with the same company too long can also create an unfair stigma about your promotability within your existing company.

The longer you stay with your current company, the more your employer may take you for granted. Companies often have a bias for adding “new talent” to the organization. It can even get set as an HR success metric. Which means your company would rather hire from the outside than promote from within—and you get passed over for a new growth opportunity.

Changing Companies Can Be A Game Changer

If you aspire to get ahead at work faster, don’t rely on higher-ups to move you up. Know your career goals, get a game plan, and own your professional development.

Rather than wait for a promotion that may never come, take accountability and search for your next opportunity outside your company.

Changing companies was a game changer for me, accelerating my professional growth and opening doors to new opportunities to advance my career.

By working long enough to make an impact at a few different companies, it demonstrated a desire to advance my career, an openness to embrace new opportunities, and agility to thrive in new work environments.

In fact, shortly after leaving a long-term employer, my LinkedIn inbox began to blow up with recruiter messages. And each time I asked why they thought I could be a “great fit for this incredible new opportunity,” the response was always related to my diverse experience working at both my current and former employers.

In other words, the combination of my experience working for different companies suddenly made me an “in demand” job candidate.

I no longer needed to look for jobs—jobs came looking for me!

Leaving a Long-Tenure Employer Can Be Hard—But Worth It

If you’ve worked at the same company for many years, I get how it can be a very difficult decision to leave.

You’re not just walking away from a job, but you’re also leaving behind the comfort and security of an environment you know inside and out. Plus, some of your coworkers have likely turned into good friends.

And transitioning to a new company can be exhausting as you work to build new relationships, dig into the business, and deliver quick wins. The first year can be a whirlwind of challenging new experiences.

But it can also be the best move you can make to propel your professional growth and take your career journey and earnings to new heights.

You Can Always Return

And here’s the thing, you can always return to your former employer—and likely with a bigger role and fatter paycheck. Boomerang workers earn on average 25% more when they return!

In fact, two of my past employers (Avnet and Intel) are currently led by executives who followed this exact path.  



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