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[NEWS] Industry digest: how long should you stay in one job?

Industry digest: how long should you stay in one job?

McLaren factory worker installing bumper
Workers should stay in roles to make an impact, but not for too long

Loyalty is valuable, but so is moving around as often as possible - particularly in the automotive sector

The death of the Queen shone a spotlight on her remarkable record of public service – a job for life that brought stability to the UK and the Commonwealth over seven decades of momentous change.  

Of course, the Queen had no choice in the matter after dedicating herself as a young woman to a lifetime of public duty, but it gives cause to think about the pros and cons of longevity when it comes to professional career choices. 

As an employee, is it better to stay loyal to a company and climb the internal ladder, or should you chop and change to achieve your ambitions? Can you remain in a job or a company for too long? 

There are no hard and fast rules, but having run an automotive executive search company for the past 12 years, I've seen enough CVs and conducted enough interviews to know what to look for in a candidate and how to identify red flags.

Firstly, I wouldn't advise anybody to remain with a company for more than 15 years, and certainly not in the same job, if you want to fulfil your potential. Better to broaden your outlook with a range of career experiences and maybe different geographies, especially if you aspire to a leadership role. 

If you do stay in a company for a long period of time, you need to show progression. That doesn't necessarily mean progression upwards but could include horizontal movement across different departments to broaden your experience and build a solid base to the pyramid. If I see a CV where someone has had three sideways moves within a business and one move upwards, I'm immediately interested.

Secondly, it's incumbent on employers to invest in training and provide the right pathways to allow employees to develop their careers internally if they want to keep them and get the best out of them – although they mustn't overdo it. 

I can think of one automotive manufacturer that had a policy of moving people on its graduate scheme from one department to another every 18 months, before they had a chance to achieve anything tangible in a particular role and negating the whole point of trying to broaden their experience. I would suggest that two or three years in a role is the minimum needed to make an impact.

The same goes for people who choose to hop from company to company to advance their careers. I have no problem with people moving around, but switching organisations every year rings alarm bells about work ethic. Again, two to three years in a job seems reasonable. 

Having spoken to senior leaders across the automotive and mobility industry as part of a recent research project, it would seem the culture of job-surfing – moving from one company to another in quick succession – is gaining traction among younger employees. No sooner have they completed their apprenticeship or graduate trainee programme than they're off.

If so, my advice to companies is to embrace it rather than fight against it by rethinking your recruitment strategy and buying in skills as and when you need them though short-term contracts.  

Life is getting faster. Loyalty and length of service are no longer commonly held aspirations. In that respect, the passing of the Queen truly does mark the end of an era.

Lynda Ennis

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