Why do software engineers change jobs so frequently? originally appeared on Quora, the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus.
I’ve had a few jobs/careers over the years: food service; secretary; typist/typesetter; day labor; and finally, software engineer.
The job where I’ve seen the most people passionate about their work is software engineering. Many of the people in the multi-nationals I’ve worked at are at the perfect confluence of talent, intelligence, and interest. They love what they do, they’re good at it, and they have the raw talent to excel. Passion is a big driver. So is recognition. And advancement.
When a software engineering job is great by most people’s standards, why would anyone move?
* Because they can. Demand is high for good people. Many get several requests a month to interview with other companies. What do you do when you’re having a crappy month and Facebook calls and says “we have a great job for you, will you come talk to us?” You might think it’s just for fun, but many moves start this way.
* Grass is greener. Your job is great, but you already know how to do it. Then you hear about the new hotness. Maybe from a friend, maybe from a recruiter flattering you, maybe in the trade rags. If you’re good and you get as far as investigating, you’re probably going to get an offer somewhere, and you’re probably going to move. Who wouldn’t move when offered more money to do something more interesting?
* Lack of recognition. There is high mobility in software engineering. Part of that mobility is paying higher rates to acquire new talent. This is, unfortunately, often at the expense of existing talent. It can be frustrating to feel like you’re keeping the business running, only to find yourself taken for granted, passed over for promotions. It happens.
* Higher rewards. People are generally given a raise when they move, to attract them. This trend means that people who stay in one spot earn less than those who move. There are exceptions, but this is the rule. One of the best programmers I’ve worked with joined the company I was at and did amazing things for ten years, with lots of recognition and praise. And yet, at the end of those ten years, despite making more than his peers, he was making less than the entry-level hires he was interviewing. I see similar things all the time, I experienced it myself. Staying in a position, 2% - 5% annual raise. Moving between companies, 10% - 50% raise. If the money matters to you (and it should, because it’s how much the company values you), it makes sense to keep moving.
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. If you have any interest in computers, software engineering is the best job in the world. Just make sure you take care of your career, because you’re the only person whose full time job is to do just that. And that will mean moving occasionally.
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