While job-hopping can create concern among prospective employers, having worked for only one employer for a long time — say, 10 years — can also elicit a sense of alarm when a hiring manager looks at your resume.
Many of us have changed jobs several times in our careers, with career experts saying that the current younger generation of workers — Generation Y, or Millennials — will only accelerate that pace, making it seem as if they're constantly looking for the next opportunity.
So, while it's not common today for someone to have worked for only one company for a decade or longer (it was common among the largely retired parents of Baby Boomers), it may impede your career advancement just as much as having worked for an abnormally high number of companies could.
If you're one of these individuals and looking to go elsewhere, ask yourself the following five questions and consider the advice on how to answer each one:
Were you promoted, or did you hold different titles during your tenure? If so, separate each role on your resume as if it were a different job at a different company. And list your accomplishments in each role, as well as any relevant duties. Succeeding in a variety of roles would show an employer that you're flexible and adaptable, which is probably their chief concern if you've spent many years in a particular company culture.
Were you given increasing responsibility? If you weren't promoted or didn't hold different titles, did your employer give you more challenging work at which you were successful? For instance, if you held the same title but did the work of a project manager successfully (without the "project manager" title) after being an assistant in many projects, that's something you should emphasize on your resume and in an interview.
Do you have experience in more than one functional area? If you held different roles in different departments or divisions, make sure that's clear in your resume. If, for example, you spent five years as a sales representative, then moved over to distribution for another five years, that tells an employer that you understand two very critical parts of a business: how to boost revenue and how to save on costs. Don't forget to attach numbers to your accomplishments, such as: Boosted sales 25% among clients in first two years, or Reengineered a distribution process that saved the company 10% in distribution costs in spite of rising gasoline prices.
Did you thrive — or just survive — after a change in ownership? If your company was sold, were you able to adapt to any changes easily? Or did it hinder your career growth? If your would-be employer asks you about it, it's OK to say that you believe you can't grow anymore under the new owner, or that your company is going in a different direction that doesn't mesh with your long-term goals.
How would working for a different employer impact your career goals? (You DO have goals, don't you?) First, be able to articulate — in your cover letter and in an interview — where you are in your career and where you want to be. Be clear about your skills and experience and how they can help the employer. While they're more interested in what you can do for them, they would probably also be interested in finding out why you would want to leave "familiar territory" in favor of another company after many years. Before you answer that, research the company you're targeting and determine how it might help you reach your career goals. Then, be able to articulate that if the recruiter or hiring manager asks you.
Other Things That Could Help
To demonstrate that not all of your accomplishments are focused on just one employer, play up your roles elsewhere, such as volunteer work in the community or any active roles in professional associations.
It's not fatal to have only one employer listed on your resume in a long career. But don't be surprised if a hiring manager asks you why you haven't worked elsewhere. However, you can blunt any concerns from a would-be employer by being clear that you can handle such a drastic change, that your experience would be an asset, and - at least to yourself - that taking a job with the new employer would help your long-term career goals.
I welcome your thoughts and perspectives on this issue.