When you meet people who have had a long tenure with their current employer and maybe their only employer so far what would be your first reaction? For me long tenure means in excess of 10 years’. Would the following be some of your expressions?
- Your employer is lucky!
- That’s some commitment man!
- I can’t do this for sure!
I would say
- Are you out of your mind?
- Are you out of your mind?
- Here is my card.
I say this with conflict of interests. I work for a recruitment firm and haven’t worked for any employer for more than 8.25 years 🙂 I say this with my own weird reasoning. Process the next two anecdotes and see how I crazily contradict myself.
One of my good friends was looking for a change after working for his only employer for 20 years. When I referred him for an active search to a top executive search firm, they refused to even accept his CV. I told the search firm to look at the merits of his profile, how he has grown from a fresher to a VP. That too, in a company which not only grew fast but also became a giant in its Industry. But in the world of sticking to client briefs the headhunter refused to budge, but he was not the only one, few employers gave him a tough time before he got recruited after a year of search. All the employers who rejected his CV felt
- his long tenure meant his adaptability could become an issue
- in a leadership role he might struggle to bring in change to a new atmosphere
- his thinking is rigid
On contrary, I felt he had grown with his employer, done multiple roles, promoted many times in an atmosphere where the company changed its ownership thrice. But somehow it seemed like the world which was recruiting him had other opinions.
We know that, when you stay for long periods in an organization you are likely to learn, contribute and grow. In some of the fast growing organizations, you tend to have a new role almost every year. Also, when you work longer you also get to experience the various phases the organization goes through like, turnaround, acquisition, JV, overseas expansion, IPO, new product launches & leadership changes.
In each of these phases an employee gets to learn something, contribute in a few places and also fail on some occasions. All these add to robust development which I believe is invaluable. Having said this, I would like to argue that there is nothing to beat a multiple employer experience. But then there is a twist here too…
I was once hiring a senior HR resource and the candidate’s I met were in the 15 years plus experience range. Some of them had worked with 7-10 companies by then, some of their employers were also marquee names.
As it had to happen I asked, so many changes? They did enlighten me that there were bad bosses, companies closing down, posted out of hometowns, M & As, better money opportunities, changing cultures and head hunted for larger roles.
I couldn’t convince myself on their well-knit tale for their frequent changes. I felt all these candidates were on skaters and unable to contribute and grow with their employers. I had this notion that when you hire senior people you look for professionals who have the intent to fight it out during tough circumstances, unreasonable bosses and paltry increments in a changing world. After all isn’t that what you expect from leaders? Nothing is guaranteed in a volatile world, so expecting to stay on isn’t a difficult ask. It was difficult to believe that anybody who did not have a stable past could give me a reasonable tenure in the future, which we desire most of the times.
The biggest gain to any of us when we work with multiple employers is that our ability to change gets better. Our confidence to work in ‘different cultures’ gets a huge boost. Our asset would be our own enhanced abilities compared to what we could expect from a single employer. I would like to believe that we would be ‘in charge of our career direction’ if we have multiple employer experiences. Now let me elaborate on my multiple employer definition, if you have worked with 3 employers in 4 years, I would call that crazy whatever might be the reason. For me a 3 year stint with any employer is a reasonable minimum tenure. As you progress to senior roles, you might need to stay a little longer than that to meaningfully contribute. But I don’t know if it’s appropriate and easy to give a formula like that.
In my view, a 20 year experience with 4-6 changes are ideal to get a good mix of different industries, culture & leadership exposures. But then there are aberrations all the time to my theory and I wish we could really plan it to perfection. If anybody’s tenure looks perfect it’s purely accidental and waiting to have uneven bumps.
Still, let me stick my neck out and say I believe that multiple employers in a long drawn career is desirable. In our formative years we may have a bit of instability as we figure out our strengths, the industry we need to belong to and the kind of companies we want to work for, it would be ideal to figure this out in the first 5 years to get on a steady course of our calling.
I took almost 7 years to figure out my calling, so take my contradictions today with a pinch of salt.
Shopping is good for health even though sometimes you get tired and you pay the price for excessive shopping. Trust me’ I say this after experiencing 4 employers.