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From a long-term goal setting and "hireability" perspective, is it more valuable to have gained significant experience in one company or to have a diverse portfolio of companies and hats on your resume?

Basically, should I be constantly on the move to different companies to gain a breadth of knowledge or focus on one company for depth in a specific methodology (not necessarily one specific skill, just one way of doing a specific hat)?

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    The question you are asking infers that one can be discarded for the other. You can get both. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Apr 11 '12 at 14:07
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    Unfortunately I don't think that you can answer this adequately for every situation. Perhaps the question can be revised to lead to a specific answer? – Nicole Apr 27 '12 at 5:59
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Basically, should I be constantly on the move to different companies

NO.

The idea of moving around a lot to get some diverse experience may sound like a good idea, but I've personally seen at least one candidate get rejected for the explicit reason that he hadn't stayed at one job for more than a year.

Ideally, try to find a good job that'll give you a good breadth of technical experience. If the job turns out to be a stinker, then by all means move on. Just don't think you'll ever be doing yourself a favor by frequently moving from job to job.

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  • True, although I've also seen the inverse be true and folks that have worked for 10 years (or longer) at one place as being looked at as 'lifers' who may not adapt well to a new/different place. It depends on the new place and the people. – Michael Durrant May 2 '12 at 20:07
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Less than a year at a job is a Bad Thing if it happens more than once or twice. On the other hand, doing what I've done and staying at one place for 9 years is also sub-optimum for a lot of companies.

No hiring function in the US places any value on 'loyalty' any more.

But really, it's your life, and life is very short. If you are happy in a position then you should stay until there is a good reason to leave. If you are unhappy, life is too short to stay just because some hypothetical person in the future might wonder why you didn't stay longer.

Don't let the next job tail wag the dog of the job you are in.

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    I agree - guesses about what will impress potential future employers shouldn't be the main reason to stay in a job or leave it. – weronika Apr 12 '12 at 2:33
  • I would suggest softening "No hiring function in the US places any value on 'loyalty' any more." to something like "When hiring in the US, less value is now placed on 'loyalty' then in previous decades." 'cos I don't think it's a 100% thing. – Michael Durrant May 2 '12 at 20:11
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The answer is "it depends".

It will probably be a red flag to a hiring manager if you have lots of short term jobs (unless the nature of your industry means that short term contracts are the norm). The last thing they want to do is have to train your replacement in 6 months time.

However, it might also be a red flag if you've stayed in one job for 10+ years (say). They might think that you don't show any drive or desire to "get on" and that might be just what they are looking for. Having had several jobs will widen your experience which is a good thing.

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First off: Loyalty is not depth. Good depth in a single problem of courses requires that you stick to one place and be loyal. But great number of times people do same repetitive work without learning anything new or enhancing new skills. Such things is NOT really better depth.

Many a times, I do find candidates who have been around for more than 5 or 7 years. This is indeed great. But then you look at the depth of his/her work. Has the person continued more projects, higher up in the responsibilities or has been stuck without any significant growth? Or has she/he been only stuck at a position.

On the other hand there are candidate has been almost always changing the job, say every 6 months or 1 year; If people jump too often it is a sign that they don't stick to some or most problems too long and or have severe problems with aligning the work place culture and hence cann't stick around. Such people might run away in the middle of the project keeping jeopardy. People who have left critical assignments just because of more money or bad days of company, it is a sign that you cann't quite trust that person to fight in a critical project.

Of course, of many changes, you might have took up one or two odd positions where you might find yourself misfit - but that's not that bad.

So - a right measure to judge whether jump that people took should be reasonable. In one of the books by Jack-Welch - Winning, he writes:

..why the candidate left his previous job, and the one before that." This "tells you more about them than almost any other piece of data." (p. 96 - Winning)

The essential answer he gives is that when people change because of desire the learn more and do more exciting challenging stuff - it is the right candidate.

If the candidate has continued growth and a long tenures (fewer jumps) it is really ideal hire. But all else depend on his individual performance on certain projects.

If the person has at least one or two great projects, it is a reason to believe that he will be willing to at least attack the work and finish things and will fight for challenging problems.

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It depends on what you do. If you're startup hopping it might not matter so much. Managerial folk, lead developers, and such, people who have serious responsibilities in companies, it may look better for them to stick around longer.

If you can rationalize your job history, long or short, then that is the key.

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