When It Comes to Working for the Same Company, How Long Is Too Long?

Years ago, a colleague of mine who had held the same title for a number of years went to HR to discuss why she wasn’t getting promoted.

“People really only have your job for two years, max,” she said, shrugging. “Then they leave and go somewhere else. You’ve been here, what six years? That’s too long. I don’t know what to tell you.”

Leaving aside for a moment the HR person’s possible skill deficit (or at least rusty diplomatic skills) was she right?

In this day and age, when people don’t retire after thirty years to a pension and a gold watch, it seems possible to overstay our welcome at a company, stagnating our careers and wrecking our resumes. Lifehacker highlighted the problem when it recently selected this comment thread as the Discussion of the Day:

ILoveMyWRX wrote: “Is it out of the ordinary that in 17 years of working I’ve only been at two places? I wonder what the average number of companies a person has worked is by age 40? I’ll probably still be at two when I hit 40.”

Answers ranged from, “Yes, it’s extremely odd,” to “It depends on the industry,” to “Is your company hiring?” (I made that last one up, but you get my drift.)

As I see it, this question, like all academic questions, could have every possible answer. The real crux of the problem is that it’s always going to be very personal. If you love your job, you obviously shouldn’t leave it just to make sure that your CV looks interesting. Beyond that, it depends on your career goals, your industry and your place in it, the company you’re working for, and whether you’re continuing to add new skills.

But what do you think?

Tell Us What You Think

We want to hear from you! Can you stay too long in one job? Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter, using the hashtag #MakeItHappen.

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(Photo Credit: Omer Unlu/Flickr)