Simple answer: Long enough.
Of course, that answer doesn’t help you very much does it? How long is long enough? Long enough for what? And how will you know when it has been long enough and it is time to look elsewhere? Allow me to try and help answer those questions with you.
Years ago when our grandparents and great grandparents roamed the earth it was not uncommon for a person to graduate high school (college may not have been needed) and to begin working for a company whom they would stay with their whole life. My wife’s grandfather worked for Hood Rubber his entire career, and when he retired collected a pension until the day he passed away at 100 year’s old. My own father worked for 1 company for virtually his whole life also.
But MOSTLY those days are gone. And so are pensions. And so is most job security. It is a different career-world we live in. And as such pharmacists, like other professionals, need to consider how long to stay with any one company.
This is a tough topic because opinions and experience will vary widely. I’m not a know-it-all. But I’m speaking as a pharmacist with 20+ years of experience and have had the opportunity to watch closely the careers of many other pharmacists in my generation, the previous generation and the upcoming generation as well.
Personally, I am convinced that it is USUALLY a career mistake to stay in the same position for too long.
Maybe the best way to discuss the issue of “how long” to stay at any one job is to discuss the “PROS” and “CONS” of keeping the same job for a long time.
PROS of keeping the same job a long time:
- It is easy. Once you know a job then all you have to do is maintain the status quo and everything is fine. You have to navigate the regular changes that go on in any organization – but all things being equal it is easier than learning a whole new job or set of skills.
- Benefit accumulation. The longer you are in any one job the more vacation time and other benefits you tend to accrue.
- People familiarity. You get to know your patients (depending on your setting you may or may not have regular “patients”). But at least you get to know your “work friends” and they get to know you. Leaving them is maybe the most emotionally difficult part of thinking about another job.
- Your resume will never run the risk of looking like you are an unstable employee. This, of course, has been the common objection to switching jobs too often: you will look like a risky hire because you can’t stay put very long.
That being said, there are certain risks and lost opportunities involved in staying in 1 job too long. Consider:
CONS of keeping the same job for a long time:
- Potential future employers know it is “easy” to stay at the same job a long time – and hiring someone who has taken the “easy” path for the last 20 years isn’t exactly what most employers want. When you DO want to find that next job…a long history with the same employer doesn’t necessarily mean “faithful” and “reliable.” You know the old adage about “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?” Well, that isn’t really true. But that is the impression. And if you have worked at XYZ company for a long time it is reasonable to wonder if you will be able to manage the change.
- Benefit accumulation risk. It might sound nice to keep building up benefits and vacation time…but you have to understand that this becomes a liability from the perspective of your employer. Every company is under tough financial constraints. Granting you twice or three times the benefits that they would have to give to a new graduate might eventually be more than they can bear. Many employees have admitted feeling targeted for layoffs due to their benefits.
- Lost income. Substantially less income tends to be made by employees who stay at the same job for a long time. This is because your current employer is likely to only give you a minimal cost of living raise every year, whereas changing jobs allows you the freedom to negotiate your salary upwards much more aggressively. Some studies suggest you will earn 50% less over your lifetime by staying even more than 2 years at the same job! Check out this article at Forbes for more information.
- No diversity. You will have 1 type of experience and that is it. Even though your list of responsibilities with that job may be long, that is frankly the case with every job. One job is still just one job. I heard someone describe a teacher who taught the same grade for 20 years this way: “You aren’t one teacher with 20 years’ experience. You are 20-year teacher with one year of real experience.” The same may be true in some sense of staying in the same pharmacy job for 20 years.
So that leaves us with the question we started with. How long should you stay at your current pharmacy job?
Of course, I can’t answer that question for you. But based on my own experience, what I have read and from my discussions with others, I think I can offer you some help answering it for yourself.
1) Do you like your job? If not, then you need to consider taking steps to improve it – and changing jobs may be the step you need to take.
2) Are you appreciated at your job? Does your boss and your company know and appreciate the contributions you are making to help promote the success of the business? Do they thank you? Or are you treated like an expired tablet that is good for nothing but the recycle bin? If you are not appreciated – then think about moving on. Unless of course you really are just causing trouble wherever you go (I have met such folks) you should think about looking elsewhere if your company does not recognize your contributions.
3) Are you pretty much as “high” as you WANT to go or CAN go in the company? If so, then you have really exhausted what this company can teach you and you may want to move on.
4) Have you been with the same company for 3-4 years? Ask yourself this: what has your average raise been over this time? 2%? 3%? Given that pattern, how much longer will it take you to earn, say, the 15-20% you might make if you start looking for a new job and find one that matches your skills and passions?
5) I personally think switching jobs every 2 years is too much, unless you are young in your career and making strategic moves each time toward your goal. But if I had to throw a number on the table, I would say 5-8 years with a single job is a good balance on the whole. By a “single job” I mean basically the same title and job description. The same rank. Same basic pay. I know the moment I throw out a number I will get emails telling me how wrong I am. That’s okay. This isn’t etched in stone. But I think it is a decent guide.
This article is not meant to suggest that long and happy careers with the same company no longer exist. They do. I know plenty of pharmacists who have been at the same pharmacy job for decades. It has worked for them. But I’m suggesting that is becoming more rare, and is almost certainly less financially rewarding. But does that mean there is anything wrong with it? Of course not.
Thinking about moving on? Allow me to review your resume for FREE! If I think it needs some improvements, I will suggest someone that will help you get it ready. Just email me. I’ll be happy to help you if I can.
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