I work for an organization that employs an inordinate amount of “lifers”. They are people who have worked at the company for their entire lives, and will continue to work at the company until retirement age, and possibly past that. Any individual that works for the same company for 15 years or more actually falls into my mental categorization of a “lifer”, because 15 years is an incredibly long time.
This used to be the norm; people would find a job right out of school and stay there for their entire careers. Now it’s practiced far less.
There are several reasons why people become lifers at their jobs, including the proverbial “golden handcuffs” (this is true particularly in government jobs in Canada) and lack of desire to move. Many people don’t feel they have the skill set to move on to another company or job.
In reality, being a lifer at your job isn’t all bad. There are some upsides to staying with the same company for your career, but there are also some bad things about it that you may want to consider before deciding to just stick with the same-old. Here are the pros and cons from my point of view:
In Canada, the longer you’ve been at a company, according to labour law, the more vacation time you get.
You start off with (depending on the province) around two weeks of paid vacation after a year of being with the company, and you gain some time after a threshold (usually around five years) every year; usually the time gained is about a day.
There are some people that work for the company that I work for that have over eight weeks of vacation a year. They could theoretically take the entire summer off.
If you stay in the same department the whole time you are with the company, you are likely going to become an expert on that department and subject matter. With expertise comes power. For instance, you may be in a position to negotiate a raise better, because the company won’t want to lose an expert.
Even if you don’t stay within the same department, you can become an expert on the industry and the company, which can be a good thing.
The US has much looser labour laws than Canada, but in Canada, if you are going to lay off an employee, the amount of severance pay and/or notice you must provide increases substantially with years of service. Many companies just wont lay off their more senior employees because it’s too costly.
If somebody has worked for 20 years at the same company, the organization isn’t going to want to drop 6 months of their wages on their severance package, so will be more likely to keep them around.
There are, of course, many cons to staying at your job for too long as well:
Loss of competency
If you never move out of the same company, you are losing your competency with other industries. Even if you stay in the same industries with different companies, it’s difficult to transfer to a different industry.
Not challenging yourself
Once you know all there is to know about a company, are you really challenging yourself? Chances are that even if you move up in the corporate ladder with the same organization, it’s not that much of a challenge for you. Feeling challenged is one of the most important factors when it comes to job satisfaction.
Not living up to your potential
If you have never worked for another company, how can you be sure that you’re living up to your potential? Maybe you’d rock at working in tech, or maybe you’d thrive working for a different organization. You just would never know.
There may be something that you’d be ]passionate about out there, but you aren’t giving yourself a chance to explore it
At the end of the day, how long you should stay at an organization is your choice and should be based on personal factors. It’s important to know the pros and cons before making any decisions. Are you a lifer at your company? How long do you think one should stay in the same job or with the same company before moving on?