How important is it in IT to stay in one role for a long time? Is it a problem if you’ve got lots of short-term roles on your CV? Is it only okay if you’re a contractor? And, how should you present all these short-term roles on your CV? So many questions… but hey I’m a recruiter that’s what I do.
First of all, let’s take a step back in time. A step back even before the IT industry.
In the days of your parents and certainly your grandparents it was very common to train yourself up for one job and stick with that one job for life. Yes, you might have become more senior in that job and more experienced, your pay would increase over time and you may even have managed some people towards the end of your career doing the role you’ve done all your life. But essentially, the majority would do the same thing in the same career with the same kind of skills for the entirety of their working life. And some may even have done that same role within the same company for their whole working life, like my Grandad, may he rest in peace. This was considered job security and it was the number one thing that employees craved.
Times have changed. We don’t look at employees in the same way. We don’t see them as our only option to a secure working life and financial stability. And, it’s now far more common, particularly in IT to regularly change jobs, change employers, and even change career path completely perhaps several times in your working life.
How do IT employers view this though, particularly when you have a number of short-term roles for 12 months or less while you’re growing your career? The short answer is some employers will see it as a large red flag and perhaps even avoid interviewing you because of it. They may think that they want someone in this role that’s going to stick at it for a long time and they don’t want to have to retrain someone regularly with all the associated costs. Other employers though will not be so worried and will look passed the short term roles to try and work out whether this person will be a fit for their organisation and role in the long term even though they have been in roles for short periods of time in the past.
When it comes to permanent roles, here is the thing. Progressive IT employers are looking for employees who can demonstrate skills growth. It can be seen as a positive if with each short-term role, you’ve demonstrated a step forward in your career. Let’s say you’ve been in a role for 8 months, you’re young in your career and you’re smart and you really want to drive your career forward but you find you’re not learning new skills and there is not a lot of career progression in your current company. Is it best for your career to look at other opportunities in other companies or to stay where you are for at least 2 years for the sake of showing tenure on your CV? In most cases I’d say, consider other opportunities. So long as new potential roles are a step up from what you’re doing now and offer considerably better growth prospects for the future then you’d be limiting yourself not to.
Continually changing from one Level 1 helpdesk role to another every 6 to 12 months particularly if you’re going sideways in permanent roles isn’t a great look if you are set on advancing your career. But, taking a helpdesk role for 12 months then moving to another company in a support or systems engineering type role or even junior systems administrator role and staying there for 12 months then moving on to a senior systems engineer role at another company and staying there for 12 months to 2 years shows fast career progression which is good. It shows that you’re smart and that you’re going places and that employers can see value in your skills and offer you jobs that are above your current level. Ultimately, most employers are looking for smart, career minded, and progressive, growth minded people. And, short term roles on a CV where the progression is visible prove that.
Remember, some employers for some roles simply want a body to fill a seat for a long period of time they don’t want the hassle of retraining someone year after year or the pressure of having to manage someone’s career growth just to keep them employed at the company. If you’re career minded though, you don’t want those roles.
If you do find a good company with good growth prospects for you, then tenure is a great thing. If every year or two you manage to get promoted and move up the chain and increase your skills and you’re given a variety of work that allows for that, then sticking around at one company for 2, 5 or 10 years can be a really good thing.
Tenure is not dead, it can show loyalty and persistence. But, don’t crave tenure over career advancement. The two can work against each other and cause you to stagnant in your career for a long, long time.