Should you stay in your job for a long time? Or should you hop for another early on? While the market today might tell you to stay, it won’t be like that all the time and it wasn’t like that a year ago. Fear of missing out will impact you once again. What if you don’t change? Will you miss out on big salaries and great professional opportunities?
In this article, I’ll give you seven reasons why I think it’s worth staying in a job for a long time. It doesn’t mean that you should stay in a bad job for years, but staying in a reasonably good company for a longer than usual period can benefit your career in ways you haven’t thought about!
Want to have more opportunities?
Developers often switch jobs because they are looking for other opportunities. They want to try a different framework, they want new challenges and they feel they have no access to those unless they change jobs.
You don’t have to leave for new challenges. In fact, the more you stay at a company, the more challenges you will find, the more opportunities will show up on your way. Your biggest challenge will be to identify the ones worth taking on and reject the others.
After I spent a few years in my previous company, thanks to my growing network I constantly heard about various opportunities and when I decided to switch teams, it was not about looking for a place that would accept me but about choosing the best one for the next step in my career.
Want to have a wider network with less networking?
Networking is often a problem for developers. While we understand that it’s necessary, we despise it. Especially those of us who are introverts. While changing jobs seems like a good piece of advice to meet more people, it’s not the only way.
When you move to a new job, you will know barely anyone. And unless you are already well-known in the industry, barely anyone will know you. You have to start networking from scratch. Most often, you will meet people on your team who have a local scope of influence. If you stay at the same job, little by little, you’ll know more people with wider scope and influence.
In my previous job after 8 years I became a principal engineer. Thanks to my position and wide knowledge of the company, I started to get to know people from different areas, usually people with wide scope and high level of influence. Without putting much effort into networking. When I moved on to my next job, obviously I had to and wanted to get to know the people around me first. Going beyond team level required and still requires a real effort.
Want to see the long-term effects of your work?
The software lifecycle is not about a year or two, but often about decades. I agree that it’s unlikely that we would spend so much time in one job. But spending even just a few more years can significantly increase the understanding of the effects of your work.
When you move to your next position every two years or so, it’s hard to understand the long-term effects of your code. How easy is it to extend? How easy is it to understand for those who had to touch it? Are their tests brittle or are they robust and self-documenting? Most probably you will never know.
Staying for a longer time in a team might give you all this. You will write more code that will have to be touched again and again by you or your colleagues. In the end, you will see how the code that you wrote performed over the years. You will see how maintainable your code is and how people think about it while working.
Want to learn about your impact?
There are certain jobs, certain tasks where it’s easy to understand our impact. We might ship some features to popular apps that are used by many. Or we might solve some annoying bugs that impact the lives of thousands. But these cases are relatively rare. Even if you work for a company with successful software and millions of users.
You might put in place some new policies or guidelines that colleagues start using. You might work on the platform used by other colleagues. But will you see the effects? Probably you will understand some of the short-term effects, but most software and most of these changes are for the longer term.
You might have suggested something that was working well in the short term but would bring mayhem in the long term. How to know? How to figure it out? You know the answer! You have to stay longer to see it!
Want to write maintainable code?
Learning how to write maintainable code is not easy. There are many resources teaching how to write code that is easy to maintain. Just like teaching how to write performant code. But while you can use a profiler to measure the performance of your code, measuring maintainability is not so simple!
Maintaining a piece of software is the best way to understand if it’s maintainable. While we can and will for sure maintain others’ code, by maintaining yours, you will be able to see exactly what techniques that you tried actually works. It’s quite difficult to fasten up this process.
The first time I spent several years in one team was a humbling experience. I saw code that I couldn’t comprehend and I decided to rewrite. I wrote code that was so coupled with everything that people couldn’t comprehend a year later and they wanted me to explain. I couldn’t as I didn’t understand it either. Then I started to learn more about what is maintainable and started to write better code that I could explain anytime, but actually, I didn’t need to as it was understandable for others too.
Want to understand the bigger picture?
If you jump from one position to another, especially if it’s in different organizations or even companies, understanding the bigger picture, understanding how you contribute to the greater good of the business is challenging.
Not because a simple developer position is not substantial enough! The problem is that you’d be preoccupied so much with trying to understand your own immediate role that you might not have enough time to understand the deeper context unless you have a long experience in the industry where you already understood these things.
Stay in one position for several years and keep your eyes open. Once you are comfortable with your role, widen the aspects you pay attention to and think about your role in the context of a department, maybe in the context of the whole organization and the company. With that level of understanding, you will not only see your role more precisely, but you’ll also be able to sell your achievements better and will understand more what you should focus on.
Want to get your next job easier?
Job hopping is often a red flag for recruiters. They might think that there is no point in hiring you, there is no point in investing in you because you would be out pretty soon anyways. Why bother?
Spending too much time in a position can be also dangerous to your career. Spending a decade in one company might give a message that you’re not up to new challenges. At the same time, working for a few years in a position (and maybe several positions in one company) has just the right message: You are not afraid of new challenges, but you like to follow through on projects and reap the fruits of your work.
Spending about 3-4 years in one position was optimal for me. Each time I became full speed faster, and after 1-2 years, I started contributing way beyond my team’s level. Each time I understand better what is expected in the position and what is not unexpected but useful and welcome. Without spending enough time in one team in the first place and following through on some critical projects, I think I would have become an expert beginner.
Imagine that you can open up new opportunities in your career without changing jobs every other year. Imagine that you can widen your network without less sweaty networking while your scope and impact grow. Imagine that you understand the bigger picture more clearly and you deliver code that will make the life of future you easier.
Imagine that you don’t have to go through a stressing and sometimes depressing job search taking up almost a full-time job every other year. The good news is that you can push forward your career while you stay in your job and grow within your company.
Imagine that your next task will not be to learn how to find new opportunities, but how to turn them down in a graceful way. If it has not happened to you yet, I hope you will also find a job where it’s worth staying for a long time. A job where you won’t feel the FOMO and you can stay to experience all these benefits!
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