A recent Wharton study, “Shifts and Ladder: Comparing the Role of Internal and External Mobility in Executive Careers” by Bidwell and Mollick, showed that the biggest gains, over the course of a career are made by internal career moves, and that external career moves don’t add up to long term gains in responsibility or earnings. This runs counter to what many career coaches and experts have been saying for years, that the only way to make a significant salary or responsibility leap is with an external career move, meaning taking a job with a new employer. So, with this game-changing information, how do you know when to stay with your current employer and when you should search for a new job at a different company?
First, identify your goals. Are you looking for more compensation for the same job, or are you restless and looking to increase your skillset, or are you ready to take your career to the next level of responsibility?
Compensation. Do you have a scarcity of benefits in your current job? Are you happy in your position, but you want compensation commensurate with your worth on the open market? It may be time to change employers. When you have stayed in the same job for 8 or more years, your “step raises” probably won’t have kept pace with your value in the job market. If you are very satisfied with where you are in your career, and you can see longevity in your current job description (no sign of your skills or your title becoming obsolete), then placing yourself back into the job market may be your best bet to meet your compensation goals.
Improved skills. Are you looking for an increase in your skillset? Do you want to learn more in order to ready yourself for a move up the ladder? Have you lacked a sense of challenge in your current position? If you are looking to improve or expand your skills, or you are looking for a lateral move to prepare you for greater responsibility in the long run, then your career goals may be best served by staying at your current organization and looking for an internal move. Your organization may value the investment you represent, and invest again in your desire to increase in value. The Wharton study speaks to this, when one of the authors concludes that internal moves are more productive for employees because an organization which already knows your value and work ethic is more likely to take a risk and give you new or greater responsibilities, while a new employer is likely to be more interested in giving you the same job albeit with a greater salary.
Greater responsibility. If you’re looking to move into management, to increase your responsibilities, or take a major step up the career ladder, you’ll want to try to make an internal move, for much the same reason as the candidate wanting to broaden their skillset. Your current, happy employer is much more likely to take a risk and give you increases in responsibilities because they have seen you succeed in your current position.
Then, look objectively at your current organization. Does your company promote from within? Do they actively encourage adding new skills, growing your career and your value as an employee? If they do, your best bet for increasing skills and responsibility are probably internal rather than external. You may also have better luck negotiating a raise to meet current market value at a company like this. However, if your company is more conservative in its approach and doesn’t often promote from within or is rigid in adherence to their formula for raises, your best bet for an increase in salary, skills, or responsibility is to make an external move.
External factors. When and if you choose to make an external move, be sure to choose a company that does promote from within and encourage growth in employees, because the results of the Wharton study do show that internal moves are better, long term, for the growth of your career and your salary. During your job search, research potential employers, and ask questions about promotion from within during your interviews. Make opportunity for internal moves a must-have when shopping for your next employer.
It is YOUR responsibility to manage and grow your own career, not your employer’s. Identify and set goals for yourself and your career, and do some research to see if your goals can be met internally, or whether it is time to polish your resume, increase your networking, and enter the job market once again.