How Often Do Software Engineers Change Jobs? 16 Reasons Why

Changing jobs is often viewed as a way to take the next step in your career to learn new skills. Depending on what industry you are in, changing jobs often is not common and is oftentimes seen as a bad sign for employers when done frequently. Surprisingly, things are different for software engineers.

Although everyone is different and has different reasons why they want to change jobs, it is common for software engineers to change jobs every two to three years. It is not uncommon to see software engineers changing jobs after working for a company for six months, and uncommon to find engineers working for more than ten years in the same company.

The rate of changing jobs every year or couple of years seems abnormal, and almost dangerous for your career. However, software engineers find themselves in a unique and advantageous position when compared to most of the other professions. In this article, we are going to share the reasons why software engineers change jobs frequently

16 Reasons Why Software Engineers Change Jobs

There could be several reasons why software engineers change jobs and all of them are valid. Sometimes, it only takes one good reason to start thinking about switching jobs. You might wonder if the reasons change from one software engineer to another. Although this can be true, there are common patterns among not only software engineers but also anyone working in the tech industry.

After careful research, I decided to point out the most common reasons why software engineers look for new opportunities:

Better Salary

Most people are looking to get better compensation, regardless of whether they are software engineers or not. However, software engineers have an advantage as they know their pay is high in the tech industry. Tech companies are often in need of good talent and prefer to avoid training them as it cost them money.

Getting qualified software engineers enables companies to move much quicker in the development process and reduces the dependency that a developer could have from other team members to get the job done, which ends up paying dividends to the company as the amount of time spend per development compensates the value of a good engineer.

It is common to see engineers who are within the first five to six years of their career make an emphasis on increasing their compensation as they improve their skillset. However, that doesn’t mean that at a later point in their careers they would look for a better salary either.

Better Benefits

You might wonder about this since we just talk about salary. However, putting more cash in your pocket is not always something software engineers care about. It is not common for engineers to change jobs that pay them a similar salary but better benefits.

A good example of this is if an engineer started working for a company and was single at the time, but few years have passed by and life has changed. Now that engineer has a wife and is also expecting to have a baby. While certainly having a good salary helps, other aspects start playing a key role such as insurance benefits. The more your employer can cover those costs, the more you will be saving on money.

Other companies can provide retirement plans with interesting matching contributions ranging from 3% to 6%. In theory, you are not getting that extra cash in your pocket now, but having employers contribute to your retirement plan can set engineers for a comfortable retirement future.

Other companies provide other benefits such as unlimited vacation time or a decent amount of PTO for engineers to enjoy after putting in a lot of work coding. One unique benefit for some is being able to take pets to the office or getting annual company retreats where everyone flights to a vacation destination, oftentimes for team bonding, but also to have a good time.

Expanding your Network

Have you heard of the saying “It’s not what you know, but who you know,” This is true as it helps engineers to land new opportunities more easily than when trying to apply for a job without the help of anyone.

This is how it works: engineers look to work for several companies within a short period of time as they get to know other engineers. Once other coworkers move to different jobs, engineers look to get referrals from their past coworkers to join other companies.

This provides a sense of options as well as stability as it helps many engineers to make a smooth transition between companies. This is something typically interns, new graduates, and junior engineers do as they want to increase their chances of finding better opportunities with the help of previous coworkers.

Getting connections is not only critical for engineers but also for businesses as they prefer bringing the talent from their employees’ connections as they know if they can help a company reach their goal. This provides an incentive for employees to get referral bonuses for helping a company get qualified developers as it is challenging to find software engineers that are good for a company.

Learning New Technologies

Technology constantly changes and the same way happens with programming languages and frameworks. There is always something new out there for software engineers to learn, especially when there are innovative ways to accomplish the development.

Software engineers constantly need to update their skills and learning new technologies is the best way to keep themselves up to date, otherwise, their skillset could slowly become obsolete. Therefore, when engineers work for a long time with a company that hasn’t used newer technologies in their projects, it is a good sign for software engineers to start looking at new opportunities. Usually, after two years working for a company, software engineers learn most of what they needed to learn within a company.

We cannot blame only companies to not try on different technologies as trying something new can go beyond just learning as there are always costs companies have to pay. However, since software engineers can’t control a business, but offer advice at most, they rather put their efforts towards finding other jobs at other companies using the technologies engineers want to use.

Interestingly enough, software engineers enjoy learning new technologies as they find interesting new ways to accomplish development with improvements in efficiency and performance. Therefore, constantly learning and applying new knowledge is a way to keep them motivated.

Working with Smart People

Have you ever been the smartest guy in the room? If you have been in a situation where several coworkers come to you to ask for help with complex problems they cannot figure out, then chances are you are among the smartest people in the room.

One of the best ways to promote an environment of learning and growth is by working with smart people. You might think being the smartest in the room could be cool as it allows to produce output on a daily basis as wells as trying to make things work faster. In some ways, this is good, as engineers enjoy the feeling of being productive and helpful for a company.

However, being the smartest person in the room could decrease the learning curve as sometimes you get to learn more from your teammates. On the other hand, engineers enjoy working with smart people as they enjoy seeing new ways of thinking, which is reflected in how software is developed and how smart people impact the path of a company’s product.

Not Enjoying Their Job

Engineers who are not happy doing what they are doing at their jobs often lead to looking for new opportunities. This is not something that happens only for software engineers as any person in any industry and profession can face a lack of joy at their job.

Sometimes, people are able to make their dream come true and work for the company they always wanted to work for. However, once they are inside a company and see what it is really to work there, they realize it is not what they were visioning for their career.

Being unhappy in a different profession and attempting to make a change might be hard as there might be a lack of opportunities for a specific career. On the other hand, software engineers are lucky to have plenty of opportunities out there, and thinking about changing jobs because of unhappiness can come much easier than other professions.

Gaining Prestige

There are people who have worked for a while with a company as with a title of, .i.e., “Full Stack Software Engineer”, and they have taken their skills up and provide significant value to a company. They consider themselves to be at a seniority level, even though it is not part of their title.

Companies have different considerations to determine when an engineer is Senior at their company. For some, it could take an engineer a couple of years with good performance and results to become a senior engineer.

In other companies, it takes a specific number of years to become a senior engineer, regardless of how much outcome someone is able to produce. It is much easier to get a seniority level title at a different company rather than the company engineers are currently working for, as there are being compared to other engineers that can have more talent or experience.

However, talking about prestige is not about talking about the seniority level. It is also about where engineers work. An engineer working at Google will have better prestige than one who works at a company nobody has heard of, regardless of whether both have similar skills. Engineers who worked at Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google (FANG), and other big tech companies have an easy time finding new opportunities due to simply having worked for these companies.

Poor Work-Life Balance

There are many stories of engineers working crazy hours to meet project deadlines such as working sixty, seventy, eighty hours, and even more. I can share that as I’ve been working crazy hours up to the point where I wasn’t taking care of myself. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon to find companies forcing engineers to stay late at night putting code to satisfy their business needs. This is not sustainable for any person and leads to burnout.

People in the tech industry understand there could be times where more effort needs to be put such as the week prior to deploying a major release of a product, or whenever there are major bugs impacting the whole organization. Therefore, having here and there a few times of working extra hours might be reasonable. However, whenever engineers notice working overtime is a pattern, they start looking for opportunities in the job market more frequently.

Layoffs

There are unexpected things that can happen. One day you might have a job, the next day you might not have one even when you are doing your job well. For example, 400 employees were laid off by a scooter company via zoom call in about two minutes. Could you imagine being in that situation? I certainly wouldn’t want to experience it.

Massive layoffs happen and it is not uncommon in the tech industry as projects that seemed to have a good potential run out of budget or they turn out to be as good as people predicted.

Micromanagement and/or Bad Bosses

Micromanagement is a management style where a manager constantly monitors and reminds the work of the employees. Could you think of someone asking you every couple of hours whether you have finished your job? Have you ever being tracked every single minute such as leaving a couple of minutes early from the job even after you have finished what needed to be done?

Certainly, micromanagement puts employees in an uncomfortable position and negatively affects not only their jobs, but also their lives when managers intrude during vacation time, lunchtime, or after hours. This is a big no-no for software engineers as there needs to be space for them to concentrate and do their job rather than being reminded constantly what to do.

Have you heard of people saying “Choose a boss, not a job”. That is certainly true as a good boss can get the most out of your potential whenever you find support and a chance to succeed. A good boss will want to help you rather than keeping you down where you cannot progress. Unfortunately, that is not always the case, and engineers can tell when their boss doesn’t trust them to do the job.

Toxic Culture at Their Current Job

Software engineers working in a toxic culture don’t last long at a company. However, how do they tell the company has a toxic culture? Some of the common reasons are:

  • The morale of a team is low
  • Employees don’t believe in the product
  • Lack of good leadership
  • High turnover rate
  • There are no core values the company lives by
  • There is too much gossip and drama
  • Company is segmented in different groups creating division among coworkers
  • Employees constantly working late
  • Cannot grow your skills as you are constantly limited to do few things
  • Employees disagreeing with company decisions
  • There are dishonest employess

Uncertain Future of your Current Company

Depending on what kind of engineer you are, you are going to prefer more or less uncertainty. Engineers who prefer stability and are working in startups will always be watching out for newer opportunities, especially when things at the company become more uncertain on top of the uncertainty there is already of a typical startup.

Sometimes, when engineers work at small software shops and notice there haven’t been new projects coming for a while, they start concerning about the financial stability of the company and their ability to pay their employees.

Miss Coding

Did you think software engineers are coding all the time? Actually, that’s only part of their job. However, when engineers have a major impact on an organization and get promoted to more managerial level positions, or tech lead positions, the amount of time they spent coding is reduced. Engineers can go quickly from coding 80% of the time to only 30% or even almost no time for coding.

In other cases, software engineers are interrupted by too many meetings. Too many meetings can take a lot the coding time, which is where most engineers feel the most productive.

Although everyone is different, generally, happy software engineers like programming. In my personal case, I enjoy a lot my work when I’m programming and building new things.

Conmute Time, Not Flexible Work, Not Remote Work

Have you had to drive forty minutes every day to go to work? Without realizing this forces people to wake up earlier and have less time with their families as a good time spent is in front of the steering wheel. Certainly, software engineers can do their job as long as they have a computer and internet access.

More and more companies are implementing more flexible work by letting employees work from home. Companies not willing to adapt and provide more flexibility will end up losing a lot of engineers. For example, when I started my career, I used to go to an office. However, after a found my second job, I work remotely and don’t have to drive at all to do my job. Ever since I’ve decided to not accept another job that is not remote. Just like me, there are many software engineers who love that idea.

Working on Legacy Systems

Have you worked on a project who hasn’t been updated for more than ten years? These kinds of projects are often dreaded by many engineers as they often come with a lack of documentation and nobody knows what is happening behind the scenes.

It is correct software engineers are problem solvers and look to tackle challenges. However, working on legacy projects is challenge engineers don’t always enjoy, especially if there are no attempts to improving those legacy systems by updating them using more modern technologies. Working on legacy systems with old technologies will quickly make engineers run to look for other jobs.

Because They Can

In some cases, there is not a big reason why software engineers change jobs frequently. There will always be a reason to change as not everything will be perfect for a company, even when working at a dream job.

The reality is software engineers are in demand, and there are plenty of opportunities out there. Software engineers know it and take advantage of it whenever there is a small reason to justify a change in jobs such as getting tired of working on the same project, or rather tired of constantly working on different projects without finishing one.

Conclusion

All in all, software engineers often change jobs in their careers usually every two or three years. This oftentimes happens more frequently during the first five or six years of an engineer’s career. There will always be reasons that make engineers consider changing jobs whether it is because of monetary reasons, job satisfaction, better benefits, getting away from toxic culture, and many others. The reality is software engineers have the privilege to have opportunities available giving them job security, especially those who are at seniority level.

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