Boring Tenure versus Exciting Job Hopping
Growing your career and skills takes tenure and experience at a company. This runs counter to the oft repeated suggestion to job hop for improved compensation.
I'm about to head out on my annual summer vacation to visit family in Wisconsin for a few weeks. Very exciting! Considering writing is my hobby, I plan to continue writing my weekly articles while hanging around by the lake. However, it's possible I'll be a day or two late occasionally, in case something super fun is happening. I hope you all have a great week!
In the technology industry, people often recommend job hopping as a way to boost income. People will change jobs every 1-3 years, boasting of 20-30% increases in compensation with each hop.
Some job changes are a great idea. A better manager. A bigger opportunity. An exciting industry.
In the short term, job hopping can boost your income.
In the long term, I think it can impede your career.
Changing companies resets tribal knowledge
Yes, you still know how to program in Python.
Yes, you are great at designing UX.
However, being successful at a company means working within a new context. You'll need to use their tools, their planning processes, their approval processes, their technology of choice, the way they architect their systems, and so on.
The absolute value of what you contribute decreases when you change companies. Yes, you bring new value to the company with your prior experience, but your personal contribution drops significantly until you ramp up.
As your career progresses and your position becomes more senior, the importance of having tenure and tribal knowledge increases.
Why does tribal knowledge become more important?
Understanding what work is the most valuable to the business takes time to understand. When you're junior, you can rely on others to identify value. As you become more senior, that's your job.
A senior employee works with more complex systems, which takes more time to understand.
These complex systems inevitably have increased interdependencies on other systems. This takes yet more time to understand.
The most successful Principals and Senior Principals at Amazon often had 5+ years of tenure on their team. The depth of their work required them to have years of intimate knowledge of their systems.
Promotions and opportunities are given to employees who have proven themselves
People will call it playing political games. However, it's more rational than that.
If you have a critical job, you want your best people on it. If someone joined your company 6-months ago, are they the right person to assign to this task?
No, because they're too new. They can't possibly have enough context to do your most important work. Also, No, because you don't know them well enough. Even if they are skilled enough to do the job, you don't know that yet. You need to see them repeatedly delivering before you can trust their skills.
You earn trust with others by repeatedly demonstrating: Your abilities, your consistency in delivering, and how you work with other co-workers.
By building this bank of trust, you open the doors to opportunities. Big projects. Visible leadership.
Trust leads to opportunity. Opportunity leads to career growth, if you're skilled enough to take advantage of it.