It’s been a rough two years to be a professional on this planet – from supply chain issues, chip shortages, a new work paradigm and massive economic slowdowns at every level – but it’s been especially rough for IT professionals. What’s more, the new normal in the post-COVID 19 workforce requires a stronger IT presence to handle increased reliance upon virtual team activities and collaboration tools. The IT talent gap was an issue before the pandemic, and now organizations are in a hiring frenzy. IT workers who are feeling underappreciated, overworked or undercompensated just might find 2022 to be the perfect time to consider an IT career switch.
According to a 2022 Robert Half survey, 52% of tech employers are adding new positions to their stable of IT professionals and almost half (49%) are offering signing bonuses to new employees.
With the hiring frenzy comes an increased respect for remote IT job seekers – over half the companies surveyed indicated that tech career compensation would reflect the base compensation on the company’s location rather than where the employee actually lived, leaving the door open for competitive opportunities for an IT pro ready to make a leap.
But how long should a tech practitioner stay in a position before looking elsewhere? Less time than you’d think.
Most IT professionals agree that an IT job seeker’s potential on the job market isn’t impacted if they leave a company after a few years. Some even say that knowing when to jump can be the tech career boost you need to get ahead.
When to Make an IT Career Switch
Omdia Principal Analyst Hansa Iyengar advises that IT job seekers can make the leap anytime after three years. “Anything less than that shows that the person is mostly after pay hikes,” Iyengar said, adding that a tenure under three years wouldn’t allow enough time to pick up skills and valuable career experience.
Three to five years at a single company is the tech industry standard, she says.
Victoria Mendoza crossed over to an IT management job three years ago, after several years in marketing and sales. “Ideally, an IT professional should at least change companies every two to five years. It's quite a fast turnaround because of the high demand for experienced and skilled IT professionals,” she says, citing the advantage of exposure to different IT architectures, technology specialties such as AI and machine learning, cloud automation and DevOps. Mendoza is now an IT expert and MediaPeanut CEO.
Isla Sibanda is an Australian cybersecurity specialist with a background in ethical hacking. She started her IT career in cybersecurity just a few years ago. “Try to create a balance between changing jobs at least once every four years,” Sibanda recommends. “This will give future employers a positive impression of your ability to be adjusted and make your resume more attractive.”
Sibanda stresses the importance of learning as much as possible when making an IT career switch. Mendoza agrees, seeing the decision to remain with a company for more than five years as a missed opportunity for IT career advancement.
“IT professionals should not only know how to make themselves presentable but also marketable and build their career in different companies,” says Mendoza.
Switching IT Careers for a Salary Increase
While IT career switches aren’t always triggered by an interest in padding a bank account, the statistics are undeniably positive that IT job seekers will increase their earning potential by switching careers. “You’re more likely to get a bigger salary increase if you leave your current job for another one. That’s when you can negotiate big jumps in income, like 10% to 20%,” says Ismat Mangla, senior content director for MagnifyMoney, citing a 2021 study done by the financial publication.
Surprisingly enough, switching companies might actually add to your value as an IT job seeker. Gary Taylor, a computer engineer with 25 years of industry experience under his belt, offers IT career switches as a demonstration of adaptability and collaboration. “It is important to transition from one company to the next after three to five years,” he recommends. Candidates can stay competitive by stressing their evolving team building skills.
“You learn from different environments and improve your skill set as well. You’re more likely to adapt quickly to a change in the industry compared to someone who doesn’t join other organizations,” Taylor says. Taylor is now the CEO of a marketing firm.
But don’t leap too quickly. Iyengar points out that a lot of quick stints in different companies can be a red flag for employers and could hurt upward mobility in highly competitive IT careers. “It highlights to employers that they would be wasting money in training that person and not get any return on their [training] investment.”