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How Many Times Should You Change Companies?

How Many Times Should You Change Companies?


By Shun McGhee
Contributor, Career Services

My parents are baby boomers. Their generation and those that preceded them believed in getting one job and working that job for the duration of their career. My mother has worked for the same company almost my entire life. My father had a slightly different story. He worked for a major corporation for over 20 years until he was riffed as part of a massive layoff that took place in the early 90s. Unfortunately, my father was one of the many Baby Boomers whose careers were shortened in this way. This caused members of my generation, Generation X, to revisit our career outlook.

We were taught the companies we worked for were sort of an extended family. You watched their backs and they watched yours. Watching a company’s back included doing a good job, working hard, showing up on time and only taking what you have earned. A company watching your back meant they provided a decent wage, paid on time and most of all, offered a pension plan. The layoffs caused my generation to re-evaluate what we had learned.

Most of us did not think the companies who laid people off were evil, but we realized they did not have our parents’ backs, at least not in the way they thought they would. In an instant, we discovered a company someone had been so loyal to could release them. It did not matter if they were in bad health or they had kids in college. They could be released and have to start all over again in the blink of an eye. It left us with the questions “Is it acceptable to change jobs?” and “How many times should we change jobs during the life span of our career?”

The answer to the question, “Is it acceptable to change jobs?” is a resounding “Yes!” We know the country’s economic landscape is changing. Industries have shifted and as a result, jobs that once commanded a livable wage may not anymore. This factor alone could cause one to set out to find another job. As it concerns how many times should a person change jobs, I say “As many times as necessary.”

Working your way up to get the experience you require and the salary you desire may mean finding a new employer five or six times. There was a time where changing jobs was taboo, but that idea is long gone. It is not the faux pas it used to be; just ask Nick Saban. He served as head football coach for the University of Toledo, Michigan State University, Louisiana State University and the Miami Dolphins. He is currently the head coach of the University of Alabama.

Ultimately, deciding to change companies is up to you. I do think you should determine your career goals and identify the organizations that can help you reach those goals the fastest. If you need some help figuring out your goals, you can always contact a career coach. American Public University System has several career coaches waiting to talk to you. Shoot us an email at careerservices@apus.edu and we will gladly assist you.

[Related article: Change Your Job Every 3 Years?]