Longevity In A Role – Valuable or Irrelevant?

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Do employers consider longevity in past roles as part of their overall recruitment considerations? When I say ‘longevity’, I’m referring to the length of time spent in a permanent role with a company.

What is regarded as a ‘valuable’ length of time in a role or with a company has changed over time. In your parents or grand parents time it was common to work for the same company for most, if not all, of your career. For the most part today, people tend to move around more and a ‘short term role’ is usually less than eighteen months with a role or company. 

Why is longevity valuable to employers?

Longevity demonstrates that you have ‘staying power’. You have successfully delivered enough to get through a probationary period. You can adapt to different work cultures and build new relationships. Most of all, it demonstrates that you can make a difference and are providing a return on investment to your employer. (Sorry if this sounds a little clinical but we are placed in a role to deliver outcomes and results).

Understanding ‘Return on investment’

In the early stages of a new role in a new company, there is a lot to learn. It is a phase of growth, where the business you work in is investing in you. You are learning new systems, meeting new people, absorbing the culture, learning the business and possibly a new industry. Your return on investment is low and the expectations from you by the business are in alignment with this. 

When you become more established within the company and your role, you begin to execute your work more quickly and to a better standard as you adapt and grow. This is a phase where you begin to ‘payback’ or return some of the investment the business has put your way. This usually begins around eight to twelve months in a role.

What drives longevity in a role or company?

The main reason we stay with a company or a role is generally because we are motivated and engaged. We enjoy the job, we work with great people, we feel challenged, we are learning and growing and we are being remunerated for our work. It’s pretty obvious when we are happy in our work. We get a sense of satisfaction, of contributing, of value. 

With the right company, this becomes a reciprocal relationship. The more you contribute, the more your company values you. The more they value you, the more responsibility they give you. With more responsibility comes growth and a greater sense of adding value. And the more you add value…. And so the cycle continues where you invest in the business and it invests in you.

How job changes are valuable to an employer

Moving between different roles and between different companies brings value. Each new experience brings a wealth of knowledge through exposure to new industries, ways of working, new cultures, all of which are growing your skills, responsibilities and capabilities. As your capability grows, you become more attractive to employers. They review what you will bring to their business and how that will add value. Staying with a business for a significant period of time can develop you as an expert in your field. However this must be weighed up against staying too long with the one company as this can be seen as a lack of diversity in experience. How long is ‘too long’ is completely subjective. It depends on many factors including: the industry you work in, the growth you have had within the business, the changes that have happened within that business. 

 

The risks of frequent job changes

Having very regular job changes may be seen as a risk by employers. Why? It takes time to move through the phases of return on investment within a new role and leaving a role within the first six months means it’s unlikely you will reach the phase where you begin to payback what the company has invested in you. 

With short stays in a role, it can be difficult to identify and action positive change, making it difficult to provide good examples of tangible improvements you have made within your role. This can become clear when you are interviewing for a new role.  You will often be asked questions that allow you to demonstrate the positive impact you have made in your past roles. You’ll recognise those questions that start with “Tell me about a time when you [insert companies problems they need this role to address]….”. This is where you demonstrate what you have done in this area and how well you have done it.

Moving roles regularly could make it difficult for you to provide several genuine examples of where you have provided payback, simply because it’s unlikely you will have had the time or opportunity to do so. The things you have been working on are still a work in progress: projects are unfinished, contracts with clients are still being negotiated, team members you are coaching are still developing.  It’s not realistic for a company to expect significant results from you and it’s not realistic to expect this from yourself. 

Reasons for regular job changes

I must stress this blog is not relevant to all industries or all roles or all people. Some industries thrive by short term contracts, some people have career paths that track faster and will move through roles more quickly.

  • Economic downturn: COVID has impacted the employment market. There are more people applying for fewer jobs and many of these jobs are contract roles. This is often the case during an economic downturn. We may see a short-term increase in contract roles hitting the market. This directly impacts your control over longevity in a new role. As this type of role becomes more common, having one or two contract roles during COVID can be explained by the economic downturn and will be understood by employers. As outlined in our blog “Popular Reasons for making a job change“, it’s a good idea to outline your reasons for leaving a role, even contract roles and definitely when there have been a few changes over a short period of time. Transparency here removes questions for the reader.
  • Contract roles: By their very nature contract roles remove longevity as as option. Six to twelve months is the most common but they can be longer. If you have a series of short-term contracts across different companies, and this is common in your industry, then regular job changes are the norm and will not impact your ability to secure future contract roles. However, if it is not common in your industry, or you are applying for a permanent position, regular changes in your career history may make a move more difficult. If you are in this position, I recommend providing an explanation around this, helping future potential employers understand your reasons for moving. Remember Hiring Managers are looking for staying power, so you want to demonstrate this where possible. 
  • Not settling into a role or company: Having one brief stint on your resume isn’t uncommon and isn’t something to worry about. Sometimes we move into a new role or company, only to find the role or the culture isn’t right for us. Often this doesn’t become apparent until we are in the job.  When that is the case, it’s important for our growth and mental health to leave and step into a role that is right for us. This is not seen as a ‘regular’ change and most often is not a concern. Just be ready to discuss the reasons behind this  change if asked in an interview. A tip that may help prevent you choosing the wrong role or company: Remember an interview is a two way process. As much as the company wants to learn about you, you also want to learn about the company. This is why research before the interview is crucial, as well as asking genuine questions in the interview about the job expectations and growth opportunities. With any roles filled by MetaRecruit, we provide a SuccessMap, which we build with the hiring manager in the companies we partner with. It is a transparent guide to the challenges, expectations and opportunities in the role. It targets those who fit the role requirements and attracts those who see opportunity for growth, reducing the risk of making a wrong decision.

Longevity – finding a good balance 

Staying in a role or company for two or three years provides an opportunity to practice and demonstrate your learnings. You can show how have worked through challenges to deliver positive outcomes, how you have made a difference and created achievements you are proud of. You have time to apply your skill until you master it and are ready to move on to a new challenge with confidence.

When possible, thoroughly review the companies and roles you plan to move into. Understand what you are expected to deliver, what you will learn and how you can build the reciprocal growth for both you and the company you work for. This way, you will find a good balance between how long you stay in a role and your growth that is  contributing to your career trajectory and reputation.  Employers actively seek people who will bring diversity as well staying power.  This is attractive because you have ‘the will’ and ‘the skill’ to make a difference.

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