Gone are the days when workers could hope to stay at one company for their entire career, retiring with a gold watch (and maybe even a pension). But that doesn’t mean that workers have become as fickle as employers — no matter what you’ve heard about millennials and their alleged job-hopping ways. In fact, as recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows, Americans may not be changing jobs often enough.
The Job Opening and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) for September 2017 showed little change for the number of quits and separations over the course of the month. In fact, the quits rate has remained essentially flat for the past two years.
That’s a big deal, because as Jon Talton points out at The Seattle Times, economists regard the JOLTS data — especially the quits rate — as “an important measure of the labor market’s health.”
The question is, why aren’t more American workers making the leap?
“Explanations for the change are largely guesswork until more serious scholarship is done,” Talton writes. “I suspect that fear leftover from the recession plays a significant role — better to keep the job you have than to take a leap into a venture that might not last.”
As sensible as that fear sounds, staying put can sometimes be the worst thing for workers’ careers. Here’s why:
1. Changing Jobs Is the Best Way to Get a Big Raise
When you’re offered a new job, you’re in an ideal position to negotiate salary. Most employers expect candidates to ask for more than they’re initially offered. Meanwhile, standard raises for loyal employees hover around 3 percent.
What’s more, even sticking around too long before making the leap can cost you.
“Staying employed at the same company for over two years, on average, will plummet your lifetime earnings by about 50%,” writes Cameron Keng at Forbes.
(Need help at the negotiation table? Check out PayScale’s Salary Negotiation Guide for lots of helpful tips.)
2. It’s Good for the Economy
Americans’ reluctance to up and switch jobs when the opportunity arises is actually harming the country’s economy as a whole.
“…longer term, economists worry that the lower turnover is an indication of stagnation, not stability,” writes Don Lee at the L.A. Times. “Workers are staying put because there are fewer better jobs to move to, or they face other barriers that are keeping them locked in their current positions. And with declining job movement may come slower gains in overall employment, wages, productivity and, ultimately, economic growth.”
3. Staying Too Long Can Be Bad for Your Career
When you hang out too long at one job, with one company, your skills and ability to learn new tricks can become stale. Starting a new position where you’re pushed to take on new ideas and get different experiences that can color your career a bit more vibrantly.
As author and entrepreneur Penelope Trunk tells Fast Company, “an employee who stays on the job and isn’t learning at a really high rate is not as engaged, so they’re not doing as good work.”
If you want to stay engaged at work, the best thing you can do, Trunk says, is look for a new job elsewhere every three years or so.
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