Racking up decades working for one employer used to mean that you were a dedicated, loyal employee. A valued member of the family.
But these days, when I pick up a resume and see that a candidate has worked somewhere for 20 years, it’s not always a positive, not like it used to be.
For all its good aspects, job longevity can also have its drawbacks. It might mean that you’ve gotten comfortable. That you’ve possibly been holding yourself back from exploring what else might be out there.
Maybe you’ve been unsatisfied with your job for a while, but have chosen to settle for the status quo. Or, maybe you’ve held onto a notion that loyalty or tenure is the better path.
As a recruiter, when I see a jobseeker with a long tenure at one company, it makes me wonder:
- How much versatility will they have in a new job? And with a new employer?
- Can they bring innovative ideas to the table?
- Will this person be able to assimilate into a new organization?
To Hop—or Not to Hop
Leaving a long-term job does not qualify you as a job-hopper, but there are times when making a swift move is the right one to make. Let me tell you about an occasion when it made sense for a certain new hire to “hop.”
An industry professional had only been working somewhere for six months when a hiring manager from another company came knocking on their door. The job offer was perfect—a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Despite feeling unsatisfied in the new role, this person thought, I can’t have myself looking like a “job-hopper” on my resume.
At that point, their spouse gave them some good advice. “There’s nothing on your resume that indicates you’ve ‘job-hopped’ before,” the spouse said. “And if there’s good reason to do so, people will understand.”
Thankfully, this candidate ended up taking the new job. But the point is that they were not willing to let this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity pass them by.
At API, we often encounter candidates who demonstrate exceptional loyalty to their employers. But what happens if their loyalty gets in the way of their professional development goals? What if the employee is missing out on their true potential?
In these cases, if an employee’s goals aren’t aligned with their employer’s, my advice is to tell the employer about it! The responsibility for getting it cleared up is on the employee.
But if the employer doesn’t acknowledge the issue or offer a solution, then the employee is justified in moving on. After all, the employee-employer relationship works both ways.
Also: loyalty-bound employees take note: if you don’t exercise that communication, you may lose out on opportunities at your current company.
In a recent roundtable, I was remarking that we all know someone who isn’t entirely miserable in their job, but is merely in “acceptance mode.” That is, the person feels stuck and/or is staying put, but they cannot imagine working anywhere else. (As I was saying this, the other people at my roundtable began pointing to one of their colleagues, essentially proving my point.)
Loyal to a Fault
Often when tenured employees turn in their resignation, they’ll hope for a counter offer. But when they don’t get one, it can be disappointing. Even offensive. And that can be a jarring realization. Because, obviously, the loyalty factor was disproportionate.
It begs the question: should longtime professionals be looking at new job opportunities much earlier?
A good rule of thumb: there’s a time to be loyal and then there’s a time to look out for yourself. I do know that a good portion of the aviation workforce—maintenance people in particular—might not follow this rule.
Historically, and generally speaking, people working in the aircraft maintenance field are less inclined to move. They tend to plant themselves in one place and hope to grow from where they’re planted. The “loyalty gene” is very real.
In the current market, aviation professionals are changing their view of the employer/employee relationship. For one, younger generations have different expectations. Many expect their employers to be far more invested in their personal needs—i.e., their likes, dislikes, well-being, etc.
As an example, back when I was a working single mother, I did my personal best to ensure that I had everything lined up—daycare, primarily. It was a responsibility that I saw as mine alone. It never would have occurred to me to involve my employer.
Today, a younger person coming up in the industry might think it perfectly acceptable for his or her employer to help them figure out a solution. Even if it’s about personal issues. The candidate might see it as a negotiating item in the job discussion.
It might focus on an employee’s need to flex his or her hours, for example. The employee might think it’s well within their expectations to have a custom schedule to accommodate their needs.
So, in sum, it’s nothing less than a significant paradigm shift. And rather than judging the next generation, as we tend to do, let’s be modern in our thinking and remain open to change.
Are you a loyal, yet somewhat dissatisfied employee? If so, try to remember, too, that employee turnover is something employers plan and budget for. It won’t necessarily turn the company upside-down if you happen to find a better job and leave.
While there are organizations that demonstrate loyalty to their employees, it’s important to maintain perspective. It’s not worth sacrificing your happiness or growth to stay somewhere due to a sense of obligation. Times are changing. And while loyalty remains an important value, we should frequently reevaluate the balance of those values.
And remember: it is possible to leave an employer on good terms and still be among their “alumni,” those who are seen as a fantastic source of future talent.