How to Know Whether You Should Switch Employers

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Is now a good time to switch employers? Or is it wiser to stick with your current job and make the best of it? The days in which workers could expect to have one long career at a single company are long gone. In more recent times, the assumption has been that the quickest way to advance was to hop from job to job and company to company. Then the recession hit, and people who had jobs tended to cling to them as best they could. Even if they were unhappy, resigning to start with a new company seemed especially risky while mass layoffs occurred every other day. Now that the jobs market has improved, though, what’s the smartest, most prudent approach for a successful, satisfying career?

It may take years for our economy to support those in job transition, and currently it’s a buyers market. The Department of Labor reports that the unemployment U6 rate, which tracks those without a job and those who have given up looking for work, was 14.5% in March after only 120,000 jobs were added to the economy. These figures have been decreasing (14.9% in February and 15.7% in March 2011), but are still alarmingly high.

Still, many working professionals aren’t satisfied merely with the fact that they have a job at all. They are always looking for better opportunities, and their job-searching and network efforts often take place during during work hours.

(MORE: Millennials vs. Baby Boomers: Who Would You Rather Hire?)

What may come as a surprise is that young workers and those who hope to join the workforce soon would actually prefer to stay with the same company for a fairly long time. Longer, in fact, than they typically wind up staying. The Class of 2012 survey of 7,944 college students across the country, by Achievers and, shows that the average length of time millennials want to stay with a company is 4.7 years. This number is more than double the time they are actually staying. My company recently released a report confirming this trend by showing that Gen-Y workers leave their first job in just over two years, on average. Not always by choice, of course.

Today, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the average American will have about nine jobs between the ages of 18 and 32. But when it comes to switching jobs, should you shoot to be above or below average when it comes to switching jobs? What’s the wisest strategy when it comes to plotting a career course? Here are some pros and cons to think about before deciding to make a jump or just stay put.

Why you should change employers:
You can move up faster and command a higher salary. Sometimes the best way to move up is to move out. In the study, 54% believe that career advancement opportunities are more important than salary. The number one reason they are changing employers is because they aren’t advancing fast enough. In addition, millennials expect their average annual salary at their first job to be between $50,000 to $75,000, a sum few entry-level employees can command. It could take at least a year to get a raise because you have to wait for annual performance reviews.

You want to change careers altogether. If you decide that you want to go back to school to pursue an entirely different career, then it makes sense to quit your job if you’re financially able to. This is especially important if your company doesn’t have open positions in your new field because you won’t have a future there if you make the change.

Your relationship with your boss is toxic. If you and your manager don’t get along and you’ve tried everything possible to create a strong working relationship, then it might be time to leave. This can happen if they are untrustworthy, are taking credit for your hard work or just don’t show you any respect. Your manager has a major impact on your career success at work so if you can’t get along after an extended period of time, it’s going to hurt you.

(MORE: The Jobless Generation)

Your life situation has changed. You could get married, have children, buy a house or want to start your own company. Your current salary and position at work might not support your life changes and aspirations any longer. For instance, your wife might have to move to a different state or country for work, and if you’re unable to do remote work, then you will be searching for a new job.

Why you should stay with your employer:
You need to give your employer and job a chance. It can take about six months for you to go through training in a new job. If you depart after a year, you haven’t received much experience at all. If you don’t give yourself enough time at your job, you’ll never be trusted with more important projects that can help build your career.

It looks bad to switch jobs every year. Companies won’t invest in you if they know that you’re going to be a job hopper. They are looking for loyal employees who could become the next generation of leaders. Employers look down on resumes that depict job hopping for this very reason. “Even in a focused search through recruiters I’m always looking to eliminate the job hopper,” says Mark Suster, a Partner at GRP Partners. “You’re probably disloyal. You don’t have staying power.”

It’s going to be very challenging finding a new job. Sometimes you just need to be happy with the job you have because so many people are unemployed. Many companies aren’t hiring now and the amount of time you spend job searching could be better utilized becoming a better and more valuable employee.

You will have to rebuild an internal network. When you work for a company for several years, you start to become well-known and highly connected there. You work with people in different departments, geographies, age brackets and positions. By formulating this network, you become more valuable and more productive. You learn about who inside your company can help you solve problems or accomplish projects. When you change employers, your network resets and you have to start investing time and energy in rebuilding it.

Schawbel is the managing partner of Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research-and-management-consulting firm. He speaks on the topic of personal branding, social media and Gen Y workforce management for companies such as Google, Time Warner, Symantec, CitiGroup and IBM. Subscribe to his updates at