As the economy gradually improves, many Technology salespeople will start to look for new jobs.
But when they review and update their CVs, it is possible that their employment with their current company has been longer than they had intended, probably as a result of fewer jobs being available during the economic downturn.
So how long is too long at one company – and how much does it matter?
Compared to a generation ago, people do not generally stay employed in one Technology company for extended periods, especially in sales roles; three or four years are considered normal.
The turnover rate for professional salespeople in the Technology sector is therefore increasing again as the economic climate improves; the average job tenure in the UK is among the lowest in the OECD (see CIPD Megatrends).
Staff turnover rates vary by industry, but in Technology, employment periods are shorter than most.
If your employment is on the long side, that need not be a problem. This can be attributed to the recession, which has reduced labour mobility. The important issue to consider is the progress you have made over your time at the organisation in question. If you have held different jobs and responsibilities, and each job has been a promotion, you are in good shape.
Another factor is the size and quality of the organisation. Large Technology corporations comprise many different ‘organisations within an organisation’, so a longer employment period at a global multinational need not be a handicap, especially if you have worked in different departments and/or spent time overseas.
Potential employers will be more impressed by 5-10 years working at a world-class company, as compared to shorter employment periods at ‘run of the mill’ organisations.
A long employment tenure at a small company may be seen less favourably, especially if the company has not grown significantly during your time there (remember you are in sales)!
Age is another consideration; between 20-30, employees are building sales expertise, technical skills and mastering business processes. Between 30-40, management skills are often being developed. Job mobility can therefore change as you age; a younger salesperson may want to be more mobile in order to gain experience of different companies or market sectors, but a more mature salesperson may see the benefit of staying in one company for longer. Job-hopping becomes a little more complicated after the mortgage and children arrive.
Your CV is the critical tool to position your employment and make it eye-catching and relevant to potential employers. The CV should be achievement-based and cite quantitative achievements, rather than just a list of your positions. “I was Sales Manager and reported into the Sales Director” does not describe your achievements, but “As Sales Manager I increased sales revenues by 65%.and opened 7 new accounts in 12 months” is compelling.
A long employment period at one company may give rise to other interview objections, such as adapting to a new culture, managing new people without strong networks, or a lack of ambition.
It is important to prepare convincing responses to these points. For example, for the cultural objection, you might explain that you were seconded to a client for three months, or that you’ve worked in China where the business culture is very different.
Of course, while you can stay too long at a company, a more common problem is that you may leave too quickly. In general, you will be allowed one mistake (i.e. short period of employment). However, multiple consecutive short employments (especially in sales) will alarm potential employers, and probably result in you being rejected from the recruitment process prior to reaching the interview.
Modern Technology companies are no longer concerned with long term employment for their workforce. They recognise that employee mobility is an increasing trend, and here to stay.
And young people today do not join a company with the expectation that they will spend the rest of their working life there. Part of that may be because of their age group demographics, but it may also be because of the lack of loyalty demonstrated by the companies themselves (many have released staff and restructured in the past 5 years).
Finally, it does not appear that Technology companies are complaining about the churn rate. If a young, motivated, bright hire stays for a couple of years and then leaves, it is likely that another motivated bright hire will replace them and leverage their experience from other organisations, helping to innovate and drive the business forward in different directions.