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Job churn

December 06, 2010

Jack Ganssle-December 06, 2010

Lifetime employment died decades ago. How often do you change jobs?

How often do you change jobs?

That question came up recently in some discussions with a few of us engineers. The sample set was very small, but the variance huge, running from once to one hardy soul who rarely stays more than a year at any one company.

Since the early 70s I’ve worked for four companies, which averages about a decade each. The first, though, was the last time I worked for someone else so I’ve largely been able to set the working conditions and therefore job satisfaction. But the majority of us work for someone else, for better or for worse.

Most managers send resumes peppered with frequent job hops to the recycling bin. In some cases the candidate papers over the many changes with a bit of creative writing; other resumes seems to burst with pride at the great wealth of, uh, “experience” indicated.

Of course, since consultants proudly advertise long client lists, there may be some justification for the latter approach. But as one running small companies where every person is critical to success I’ve always stayed away from folks who frequently jump ship. It costs too much and takes too long to get a new hire up to speed, and it’s impossible to not suspect a pattern of behavior when a resume shows what looks like a pattern of behavior.

On the other hand, recessions happen, companies get in trouble, layoffs result from bad times and just bad management decisions. Further, being hired is almost trickier than getting married; at least there’s plenty of pre-nuptial time to get to know each other.

A new hire generally has a matter of a few hours of exposure to those he’ll be working with. Engineers may spend more time with their colleagues than their spouses… and we know how common divorce is.

During the dot-com nonsense even some in the embedded world succumbed to the temptation of extremely short stays, since then each move meant a bump in salary. Those times are long gone.

So, how often do you change jobs and why? Unfortunately this site no longer has the ability to run polls, so post a comment, brief or otherwise describing your experiences.

Jack G. Ganssle is a lecturer and consultant on embedded development issues. He conducts seminars on embedded systems and helps companies with their embedded challenges. Contact him at jack@ganssle.com. His website is www.ganssle.com.

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