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Don’t work for the same company for too long

February 8th, 2010 · 1 Comment

Jimmy had been working for the same employer for almost a decade.

His employer was a recently funded start-up when he joined the company as a contractor. He performed well, and was soon hired as a professional service consultant.

Jimmy had great customer facing skills. Customers loved his work. He won an excellent employee award two years after he joined the company. He was doing great.

On the 3rd year, Jimmy then married and started a family. He didn’t want to travel as much as he used to be. So, he talked to his manager, and made a transition to in house software development. He was still working on the same product that he was implementing at client sites. He now worked on adding new features as well as maintaining the software.

On the 4th year, there was a disruptive change in the market. The product Jimmy has been working on started losing market share. It was still used by a sizable number of customers, but its growth was starting to level down.

On the 5th and 6th year, the product was becoming obsolete. It was clear to everyone that the company would soon end-of-life the product.

Jimmy was the only person who was working on this product. He felt threatened a little bit. But, he was waiting for his green card. If he moved to another company, he would have to apply green card again.

Jimmy could try to move into a different role. But, he had been settling nicely into his existing role — he was the expert in the product. He had a lot going on at home — with two little kids, he had to spend a lot of energy on the home front. He enjoyed the familiar work that he was doing everyday — it afforded him flexibility to balance work and life.

On the 7th and 8th year, the company kept losing customers. It’s apparent to everyone that in 12 to 18 month, the product would no longer be supported.

At that time, there was plenty of rumors that the company would be acquired by a large company. The employees might finally see an exit event. Although it wouldn’t make Jimmy a millionaire, it would still mean a healthy amount of cash.

Jimmy wanted to wait until the exit event took place. His plan was to cash out, and then looked for another job.

On the 9th year, the economy took a dive. None of the acquisition rumors became reality. The company had to raise another round of funding. Employee stock options were further diluted.

 

The good news was that Jimmy finally got his green card.

But, his product was no longer offered. His job was eliminated. He was laid off. He was very disheartened by what had happened to him. He had a lot of fears about what would happen next. He hadn’t looked for a job for 9 years. A lot of the stuff he worked on were very specific to the particular company and product — in other words, they’re not very transferable.

Don’t let yourself get into similar situation.

If you work in high tech industry, you should be ready to switch job every few years. The industry changes too fast.

Don’t let yourself get too comfortable.

You need to continue to renew your knowledge and skills.

It is very risky to place all of your bet on a single employer.

Until an exit event actual happens, it’s just a rumor. Expect the unexpected when you plan your career moves.

(Disclaimer: This post is based on a true story, but details have been changed slightly to protect confidentiality.)

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1 response so far ↓

  • 1 fjxx // Feb 13, 2010 at 11:59 pm

    Very true, especially for the IT industry, and I couldn't agree with you more on your advice. This is especially try for many bank IT staff which keep working with long outdated mainframe systems with little to no chance for getting a new job outside their own firm or industry. Some specific examples: I hear that Bloomberg has a lot of proprietary tools and languages that effectively renders most of their IT employees outdated and unable to switch jobs easily. The medical informatics firm Epic Systems is also similar, with a large number of its IT employees using a specialized and outdated CACHE programming language which very few other companies use. On second thought…could this be a ploy by these companies to hang onto their staff for a long time ?

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