This post was my final submission for the GoBankingRates Personal Finance Olympics. The contest ended a few weeks ago but the winners will not be announced until FinCon 2012. (I’m pretty certain I came in last place in the finals, but hey it was still nice to make it that far. Thanks to all of those who voted to get me there.)
You can say it any number of ways; I was given the boot, handed a pink slip, terminated, sacked, axed, canned or dismissed. On a warm summer afternoon I received notice of my fate and in the fall of last year I was officially laid off. Three-quarters of my entire department also received pink slips including my manager and all of his direct reports.
The people who chose to cut me didn’t know me. They couldn’t tell you if I was talented or incompetent, strong or weak. They had no knowledge of my skills or abilities. They had no idea that I started this job just after college or that I often worked twelve to fourteen hours learning my trade and proving my worth. I’m sure they didn’t know that I received stellar yearly reviews or that I was assigned complicated work.
What did they know? They knew that the recession dramatically altered the landscape of our business. In 2007 my company’s stock plummeted from $60 a share to less than a buck. My pension was frozen and my benefits were cut.
A series of layoffs moved swiftly through various divisions and departments. One-day security guards filed in and employees filed out. It was clear that layoffs would continue, but I thought my drive, determination and effort would save me from the cuts.
I thought 12 years of hard work for the same employer would pay off. While my friends switched companies every few years I stayed put. My company could have cared less about my loyalty; I was just a number. I was one of hundreds cut.
In interviews I quickly learned that loyalty is no longer an admirable quality. An HR representative said, “Wow, 12 years with the same company, that’s tough” and a career coach told me to “downplay the length of time I spent working there.” Some interviewers said I was not well rounded despite the fact that my technical background was quite diverse. When I pointed out my technical merits people said “Hmm, yes, but in your entire career you’ve only really worked at one place.”
These days it seems an employee is measured by the number of companies listed on their resume. While job-hopping isn’t necessarily the goal employers do want to see at least a few companies under one’s belt. If you stay in one place for too long you are seen as less adventurous, motivated and ambitious.
It’s easy to see why the perception has changed. There are a lot of employees who stay in the same job, performing the same tasks week after week. They have no desire to learn new things or expand their talents. This wasn’t the case for me, but perhaps those employees have given the rest of us, (loyal employees), a bad rap.
It seems the very nature of employee/employer relationships has changed. In a world where most companies offer 401(k)s rather than pensions there is simply no need to stick around in one place. Switching companies allows you to explore new opportunities and get faster pay raises. It can also help you learn new skills and broaden your network.
In this economy job-hopping might feel a bit like walking a tight rope. You don’t want to be viewed as someone who never moves around and you don’t want to be viewed as someone who moves around too much. It can be difficult to find the right balance. Employers are looking for individuals who aren’t afraid to try new things or learn new skills, but be aware that companies aren’t keen on hiring employees who never stay put.
I’m sure there is a magic formula for when to stay and when to go. I’ve read that you should wait at least two years before moving on to a new job and shouldn’t ever stay at one place for more than seven. There was a time when it was best to be loyal and a time when it was okay to job-hop. These days I think you have to walk the fine line. You also have to look carefully before you leap.
Interestingly enough it was my desire to look for new opportunities that cost me my job. I switched positions within my company just 90 days before I was laid off.