How Long Should You Stay At Your Job?

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By Andy Rachleff on June 12,2013

Over the years many people who have been granted options or RSUs have asked me for advice as to how long they should stay at their employer. As with most questions the answer is it depends.

It depends on your happiness, the company’s prospects and your career path. For many people, four years seems to be about the right span of time. It’s no coincidence vesting periods for most companies are four years, but your decision to stay at a job should not be driven by your vesting schedule.

Don’t job hop, but don’t be miserable, either

People who are interested in maximizing the diversification of their private company option or RSU portfolios tend to only stay at each company for 1 – 2 years.  The downside of such a strategy is future employers will regard you as a job hopper.

The highest quality startups want employees willing to commit to the company’s cause.

The highest quality startups tend to have their pick of the best talent, and they want employees willing to commit to the company’s cause. Therefore, the only people who will want to hire job hoppers will be the companies you shouldn’t want to work for. As a result you may get diversification, but a diversified portfolio of stock options that are not likely to be worth anything is a poor strategy.

That is not to say that you should stay at a company if you are unhappy.  I have often heard people advise their friends that they need to stay at a job for at least a year to avoid the job hopper label. More often than not I have seen unhappy people who stick around lose their motivation, which often leads to them being terminated. Being fired is far worse than having one job on your resume that lasted less than a year.

In fact, if at any point in your employment you are unhappy because of a job circumstance that is unlikely to change, my advice is to leave. People will respect you for it. I certainly respect people who do.

Vesting is four years for a reason

Stock option and RSU vesting is most often mandated at four years because, frankly, that is what companies have observed as the attention span of most employees. The character of the employer changes significantly over four years. People who like working at startups tend not to enjoy working for an established company as much, for instance. Four years is also a reasonable amount of time to devote to a particular challenge in your career. After four years, employees tend to get restless and want to look for something new.

Your initial grant shouldn’t be your final one

You shouldn’t necessarily leave just because the vesting on your original grant is up. Life is a series of tradeoffs, and option grants are no exceptions. Enlightened companies grant stock to existing employees for notable achievements, promotions and continued service. I recommend to every CEO on whose board I sit that they should grant additional shares (vesting over four years) to employees when they reach their 2 ½ to 3-year anniversaries.

Life is a series of tradeoffs, and option grants are no exceptions.

The size of the refresh grant is often 80 to 100% of what the employee in question would have received had they joined the company as a new employee. The grant can either be made once every four years or a quarter of my proposed grant can be made each year. The logic of the refresh grant after only 2 ½ years is you don’t want to wait until an employee is fully vested to reload them because their minds may turn elsewhere once they anticipate being fully vested.

If you receive additional shares from your current employer, you need to weigh the likely value of the additional grants against what you might earn from a new company grant over the same time period. Mature company grants are much smaller than earlier stage company grants (see our Startup compensation tool), but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are less valuable. A new employee grant from Facebook or LinkedIn when they had 1,000 employees would have been much more valuable than a typical new employee grant from a startup with only 50 employees.

Economics shouldn’t be your only consideration

All that being said, your decision should not solely be based on economics. You need to consider the certainty of knowing how happy you are with your current job’s environment and challenges against the uncertainty of what life will be like at your new company. On the flip side, you should consider the career risk of staying at a company too long. At a certain point, other companies won’t even try to recruit you because they believe you won’t leave.

If you are happy, staying at a company for an extended amount of time is a reasonable decision.

Some people worry about being typecast if they stay in a particular type of job too long. My observation is most people rise through the ranks because they are great at one thing (and hire to address their weaknesses) rather than being very good at a number of things.

If you are happy, staying at a company for an extended amount of time is a reasonable decision. However only in rare circumstances are an employer and an employee a good match for a really extended period of time. That being said, environment often trumps economics if you really enjoy where you work.

You may need a few at bats

One last thing to think about with regard to length of stay is your ability to afford to live in your particular geography.  As we explained in You Need Equity To Live In Silicon Valley, you have the greatest chance of being able to afford to live in an expensive geography if you work for at least a few private companies that award equity.


Giving Yourself Credit Isn’t Bragging!

Something I’ve been noticing more and more frequently is less and less description when looking through resumes and recruiting for specific skills.  Like many of my candidates, peers, and colleagues, I was often told to limit my personal resume to no more than one page when job-searching.  Although I completely understand the concept of organizing an outlined summary of one’s career accomplishments and proficiencies, now as a recruiter, it is becoming apparent of how truly limiting that could really be.  Less isn’t always more.  Straight and to-the-point relays the exact way it sounds: Simple and basic.

Your resume is ultimately a first impression- An impression to employers, to recruiters, and an impression of how you perceive and value yourself.  It needs to be just as unique as your individual personality.  Hence, it becomes your voice and single representation of everything you have done until a phone or face-to-face interview allows you to bring more creativity and self-expression to the table.  Therefore, what sense does it make to limit your single most effective resume?

I like to maintain strong relationships with those who I represent, and although I enjoy taking out the time to get to know my candidates on a personal level as well as their unique wants/needs, it makes my job a lot easier when they put in the effort to provide value to themselves as well.  If you know you’re talented in a particular area or skill set, don’t be afraid to share and shine!  My passion is turning “just another” company to work for into THE Company that you’ve been searching for and deserve to excel. As a recruiter, I am committed to optimizing your career opportunities and making sure that none of your efforts go unnoticed.  In order to do that, I need to be able to see that you are both capable and willing to perform daily career duties!  Having a thorough, detailed summary of how you directly use primary technologies is an extremely effective way to do that.  If this means running past a page, I do not view it negatively.  Instead, it tells me that your skills and sense of passion about the work you do can not be limited to one page.

On the other hand, there is also such a thing as an over-excessive resume.  I am a firm believer in detail, especially as I represent a wide range of extremely detail-oriented individuals.  However, this does not translate into adding “fluff” words merely to fill space.  The key is to stay as current, relevant, and specific as possible.

I hope this helps! Feel free to reach me with any questions or concerns- opinions are always welcome in my book.

By Jennifer Wheeler

Improving your resume and you

Getting a job is hard! Can you believe I didn’t think that a year ago?  I should have known, because I ran a special charity for my friends. I helped them write their resumes. I explained what a reference was and who might be able to give good ones. I told them to go to career day. I even prepped someone for a job interview! Six months later I was prepping real candidates, interviewing strangers and reading resumes at Ashley Ellis. Back in college, I did not realize I was technically “recruiting” for my friends. Most say I found the best career for me. It’s true!  I like matching people with jobs. I even like reading resumes!  I have noticed people have many unique ideas as to what a resume actually is supposed to say. Your resume should be direct and minimalistic. Here are a few tips to improving your resume and you!

Your resume may not be the deal breaker, but it is your first impression. If you can win there you are halfway to the interview and half way to closing! Your resume needs to look clean. Do not pollute valuable information with extra words, fancy borders, or unique fonts. The more concise you are the better your chances of reaching someone. You have value! Show it by looking professional. Your first paragraph should give the most value. For IT professionals, your best technologies and the amount of years you spent using them is absolutely vital. Hiring managers want honesty; they do not want to see JAVA when you only used it ten years ago for a project in college. You will be tested! At the same time, you should show off! (Without being ridiculous). Hiring managers want to know what you can do; never hold back. If you can include examples of your work or a short description you can show off your most marketable qualities.

Having a great resume is really important when you are on the job hunt. However, thinking outside of the box can definitely help your chances. Always look for new ways to improve your skills. Find out what your greatest weakness is as a professional. If you have bad communication skills find literature that helps or practice mock interviews with family. Find creative ways to get your name out there! Using LinkedIn and Social Media sites for advice is always helpful. Even writing specialized cover letters can help you stand out among everyone else. Hope this helps! Have a great week!

By Spencer Hill