IT careers: How long should you stay in your job?

As paychecks grow, tenure shrinks among today’s top techies. And that trend is leaving many to wonder whether loyalty still pays

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Over the past eight years, Michelle Ufford has had five different jobs at Web hosting company GoDaddy, including her current role as engineering manager. There once was a time when Ufford would have been considered hazardous to the workplace — an IT professional with a penchant for tossing aside years of costly training for a technology du jour.

But gone are the days of retirement parties and gold-plated plaques. Rather, IT professionals like Ufford now switch jobs — and employers — faster than it takes ink to dry on a business card. In fact, Ufford says getting a taste of various positions — and technologies — has actually increased her chances of survival in today's cutthroat, highly competitive IT labor market.

"When you're in technology, you have to stay aware of the trends," she says. "If you have that awareness, you can make sure that you don't become obsolete, especially as technology changes over the years."

Ufford isn't alone in her nontraditional take on tenure. In a September 2015 Computerworld survey of 244 IT professionals, 46% of the respondents said that they feel more pressure to create some movement in their careers, either through a job change at their current company or by moving to a different employer. And 43% said that they believe the optimum job tenure for a technology professional — the amount of time needed to gain experience and remain attractive in the job market — is one to three years at the same company.

"The employee-employer relationship has absolutely changed," says John Reed, senior executive director at IT staffing firm Robert Half Technology. "The days of Dad going off to work for IBM for 40 years and getting the gold watch are behind us."

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