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When It Comes to Working for the Same Company, How Long Is Too Long?


Years ago, a colleague of mine who had held the same title for a number of years went to HR to discuss why she wasn’t getting promoted.

“People really only have your job for two years, max,” she said, shrugging. “Then they leave and go somewhere else. You’ve been here, what six years? That’s too long. I don’t know what to tell you.”

Leaving aside for a moment the HR person’s possible skill deficit (or at least rusty diplomatic skills) was she right?

Do You Know What You're Worth?

In this day and age, when people don’t retire after thirty years to a pension and a gold watch, it seems possible to overstay our welcome at a company, stagnating our careers and wrecking our resumes. Lifehacker highlighted the problem when it recently selected this comment thread as the Discussion of the Day:

ILoveMyWRX wrote: “Is it out of the ordinary that in 17 years of working I’ve only been at two places? I wonder what the average number of companies a person has worked is by age 40? I’ll probably still be at two when I hit 40.”

Answers ranged from, “Yes, it’s extremely odd,” to “It depends on the industry,” to “Is your company hiring?” (I made that last one up, but you get my drift.)

As I see it, this question, like all academic questions, could have every possible answer. The real crux of the problem is that it’s always going to be very personal. If you love your job, you obviously shouldn’t leave it just to make sure that your CV looks interesting. Beyond that, it depends on your career goals, your industry and your place in it, the company you’re working for, and whether you’re continuing to add new skills.

But what do you think?

Tell Us What You Think

We want to hear from you! Can you stay too long in one job? Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter, using the hashtag #MakeItHappen.

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(Photo Credit: Omer Unlu/Flickr)

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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My first real professional gig lasted almost 14 years before NAFTA killed the company. I worked full time there and earned my BS and MA while working at this company. I left 2 months before the company announced they were closing. I loved it there and would probably still be there. I moved to a local government utility and was there almost 9 years and hated the place but it was a reliable place to work. I was making $6,000… Read more »


I think it is essential to change jobs regularly ( 2 – 3 years). This enables you to work with new topics, new people and new places. Every new experience enriches your ability to act on future challenges. It makes of you a more interesting person, and you can bring to new situations lessons learnt from previous places without having to combat the politics of people involved in those lessons. A fresh start is re-invigirating. You can also re-invent yourself.… Read more »


I’ve only had one job since I left the military and I’ve been there 14 years now. They seem to transfer me every couple years, I’m on my 5th transfer as a manager for them back to a failing department. Not sure if it’s good or bad right now. If all goes well, I could see myself working here for the next 20 years.


I have been at my job for 18 years and about to turn 40. Does that make me silly or a reliable employee? I have seen the company grow from small startup to medium player over that time. There have been times when everyone has left and it’s just me left. My Dad (retired now) only had 2 jobs his entire life, both for over 25 years.

What Am I Worth?

What your skills are worth in the job market is constantly changing.