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…So this morning I read the following passage from a piece written by HR exec Kris Dunn:

I’m on the record as saying that if I repped a high potential in their 20’s, I’d teach them to give themselves a 20% pay hike ever 2-3 years by switching companies. That’s how the market works – high performers that are willing to risk get rewarded.

By the way, everyone thinks they’re a high performer, but this approach only works with 10% of the employee base in your company.

…Oh dear. You can read the full piece here (and it’s compliment here), but Dunn essentially goes on to make the case that if you’re really a high performer (and most people by definition aren’t), the best play early in your career is to jump companies every 2-3 years to max your comp. The argument goes that according to recent market data, high-performers staying put can expect 5% or so increases, wear as Dunn points out that a 20% increase is more in line with what a top talent can get by switching companies at any given time, finding the top of the market after 3-4 such moves. Let’s explore this idea: Starting from the place that maximizing lifetime earnings is the biggest (or one of the biggest) measures of career success, is frequent job-hopping the way to get there? To this I would say that as a practical matter, setting aside for a moment the powerful benefit of compounding returns bestowed upon those that quickly find the top of the market earlier, the surest way to maximize lifetime earnings is to create meaningful separation from peers in the form of skills and competencies. And I think to do this there should be a focus not so much on company movement as targeted career development. …Perhaps career development and company movement (which affords one new experiences) are strongly correlated, though. I mean, this certainly sounds right… but conversely writing as someone whose biggest (and perhaps only) professional goal is to maximize the practically applicable knowledge I possess within my functional space and identify opportunities wherein I can use it, it’s critical to understand an organization and find a place in it before it’s possible to make an impact. Because it’s only after you understand an organization that you’re able to move it forward… and I think this is the point where real growth happens; after all, we learn from doing… by transforming. …Of course, one of the big differences between the top 10% Dunn talks about in his piece and the 90% that only thinks they belong in that group is how much faster the former group figures out how to make an impact in a new situation. For such a person, perhaps success is defined by diversity of experiences above all else, as their learning curve is so short that the trade-offs most people experience from having to re-learn an organization are comparatively negligible. What do you think? Should high performers be looking to switch companies every 2-3 years? Is this the way to maximize lifetime earnings? As always, please share your thoughts in the comments section below. Best, Rory

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