By Jason Lowenthal December 14, 2016

I Got a New Job

In October of this year, I started my fifth job. I made this decision because, after looking at all the factors, I knew it was the right move.

But what really kicked me over the edge was the knowledge that my last job may have been about to disappear, because the company is for sale.

Sometimes in our careers it may seem like keeping a familiar and comfortable position is the best bet, but in this case leaving my job behind really seemed self-explanatory.

Learning to Program, a Brief History

I started professional life as a college undergraduate. I call this the start of my professional life because the idea behind college is that it’s supposed to be professional preparation.

After that, I spent a short amount of time getting my feet wet as a “web programmer”
in an ASP.Net 2.0 / C# application at Bass Pro.

From there I went on to a Windows client/server shop that had a whole bunch of old VB6 code and some new C#/.Net Code at PaperWise.

Then it was on to REST with Java, Spring, Hibernate, and eventually Groovy at O'Reilly Auto Parts.

In my last job at Skyfactor I worked in the world of Object Oriented PHP.

And this brings us to now. Thanks for reading along.

5 Jobs in 8.5 Years

Averaging two years per job seems pretty crazy. However, in my experience, employee turnover in programming positions is high and two years seems like a pretty normal average.

In the past, I decided to change my job in order to improve my financial situation.

At Skyfactor, some negative environmental factors created a toxicity that dramatically increased my stress level and decreased my overall morale. Job security was also a concern for me, as Skyfactor is for sale.

Note: Toxicity can be worse than increased stress. An openly hostile work environment is much more toxic, and unfortunately they do exist.

All things considered, though, it’s important to think of yourself as a serial monogamist with your job, and not as a loyalist. Sure, pretty much every company gives nice perks for sticking around, like more vacation or higher 401k vesting. But I promise you that none of these perks come even close to the amount of financial compensation I’ve gained through changing jobs.

Compared to the start of my career, I’m earning 270% more.

I imagine that even sticking on a promotion path and getting raises, it’d be near impossible to end up with a salary 270% higher than it was eight years ago by being a loyalist. I can’t prove that, but I’m pretty sure people don’t get raises like that by sticking around.

In every case except for my most recent job change, salary and benefits were the primary motivators that drew my attention to new employment. By knowing my market value at any state in the game, I have been able to have honest and candid conversations about what my employment expectations are, and then make rational decisions about career changes accordingly.

Like I said above, it’s not just about the salary, though.

After interviewing with my current employer and doing a bit of investigative homework, it became abundantly clear that they take employee engagement and overall job satisfaction very seriously. By moving to Asynchrony, I feel as though I have left behind toxicity and entered a place where career growth can really take place.

My Mission, Should I Choose to Accept It

For the first time in my career, I feel as though my mission statement and that of my company really, truly, connect with one another.

Here's my mission statement for my career:

Through servant leadership, elevate to a higher standard of quality and productivity all professionals I engage with.

Servant leadership is the underlying theme threading through everything we do at my new job with Asynchronys. I finally found an employer that seems to have a very similar mission statement to mine.

This makes a big difference.

I don’t honestly know offhand what Skyfactor’s “mission” is. I probably should, but it wasn’t apparent even after working there for two years. And servant leadership certainly didn’t seem to fit their overall story well. The top-down chain-of-command made it difficult.

At O’Reilly Auto Parts, the mission is stated in their radio advertising: being the best aftermarket auto-parts dealer in the market. Again, this didn’t really help me with servant leadership and software quality because they’re more interested in selling parts than writing software.

At PaperWise, there was command-and-control chain-of-command again.

And at Bass Pro, things were pretty good except for the pay, so that’s why PaperWise won me over with a big raise.

Finding a New Gig

Knowing What You’re Looking For

My career mission statement sat prominently at the top of my resume during this most recent job hunt. I realize this goes against some of the other advice John gives on this blog, but if there's anything I know about John, he pushes people to do what’s best given their situation.

His advice is fantastic. But it's not one size fits all.

In every interview I had, I could immediately tell whether or not the job was going to fit well for me depending on whether or not the interviewer asked me how I define servant leadership.

If they care enough to ask about it, they probably care enough to encourage it, too. If they don't care enough to ask, they're probably not looking for servant leadership.

The best interview experiences I had didn't really put a huge emphasis on hard skills. Sure, they all put me through various technical challenges, but that was before I even got a chance to meet the hiring interviewers.

Once I started talking about myself as a fit for a role, I saw two trends emerging in terms of what employers want. Some employers want active, engaged, and well-rounded employees who will challenge the status quo to push the company to a new standard of excellence.

And some employers would be just as happy hiring robots to write code, if such things existed.

I tend to avoid the second kind of employer. It's perfectly fine if someone wants to earn a paycheck by working routinely on routine problems with routine solutions.

Someone else can have those jobs. They don't tend to play nicely with servant leadership.

My resume makes it pretty obvious that I care way more about soft skills than hard ones.

Don't get me wrong. My hard skills are solid enough to get the job done, and what I don't know, I learn very quickly.

However, I want my employer to depend on me as a person because at the end of the day, all of us have human needs.

Network Knowledge

My professional network reaches pretty far, which served me quite nicely as I began the process of hunting for a job.

Randomly applying for jobs just because they're “Springfield, MO” located and because Indeed.com posted them doesn't work.

Every single position I applied for, I had at least some kind of connection with people already working there.

Sure, my connection with Asynchrony was a little bit of a stretch, but hearing about it from a friend of a friend made it way easier to find. Even though I didn't really know anyone there personally, having that connection helped substantially.

Blog Boasting

Seriously. Blog. If there is absolutely nothing else you take away from this website, you should be writing about your skills and experiences.

Every successful interview I had included this phrase coming from the interviewer: “I read about ___ on your blog.”

Every. Single. One.

Having a blog separates me from almost all of my peers, even the ones I consider vastly superior from a hard skills perspective.

Though I don't have literal hard numbers, based on some prodding I feel like I'm earning more than people I know who have more experience than I do.

The blogging works. Period. It's the number one best investment of time I've ever made in my career.

The Moment of Clarity

For me, the hardest thing about deciding to change a job is the why part of it.

Honestly, I've never been in a place that treated me like yesterday's newsprint at the bottom of a birdcage.

In contrast, I've also never been anywhere that wanted to set me free and nourish me well enough that I could fly further than ever.

With my last employer, Skyfactor, things became clear when the executive management told us, “Skyfactor is for sale.”

While I respect the team responsible for making the sale happen, the risk and unpredictably that comes with a statement like that isn't something that a dad of three young children could tolerate.

Even if Skyfactor had the best reviews on the planet (which it doesn't), being in a position where I would have had to worry every day about my job getting sold out from under me didn't make sense.

Couple that with the fact that I was working for a company that left me feeling disrespected and underappreciated, and the markers became clear: moving on became necessary.

So to the job market I went, which brings me to now.

Is Loyalty Dead?

Gone are the jobs of yesteryear where people had 45+ years with the same employer, pension funds, and all of the other longevity perks that come with that kind of tenure.

As employees, we expect to have a big part in the future of our employment. We want mutual respect and investment.

We invest time in our employer. They invest resources in us.

I think with the right kind of culture and ideals, some jobs can definitely last more than two years.

I think that tools like the Glassdoor website will make employers more likely to concentrate heavily on a culture of retention because it will become more evident to employees when the grass is actually way greener somewhere else.

I think that the companies that care about employee well-being will do whatever they can to ensure cultures of longevity.

And those who don't will continue to employ serial job monogamists.

I look forward to working for someone with a much stronger longevity mindset.

Over the years as a serial career monogamist, it’s become apparent to me that employees really want to have an engaged employer who looks at each employee with an open mind and an open heart.

The best employers are the ones who know how their mission should inform and steer their employees, and also know how to make their employees feel like they’re a critical and crucial part of the company mission.

I’m looking forward to learning more about my new career. And as I do, I’m excited about the prospect of not having to write another article about job changing for a very long time.

About the author

Jason Lowenthal

Jason Lowenthal is an Architectural Software Engineer based in Springfield, MO. A graduate from Drury University, his past work includes stints with Bass Pro Shops, O’Reilly Automotive Inc. and Paperwise. When not contributing his time and talents to his employer, Asynchrony, Jason spends his free time raising his 3 girls, and learning about new technology. You can link up with him on Twitter, too: @lowenthal_jason