Do Employers Value Seniority Anymore?

Posted November 25, 2013


There are few worse feelings than watching a newcomer come in and take over a position that you were working toward for a while.

What about your experience, the relationships you built and loyalty to your company? In today’s highly competitive job market, the value of seniority is slowly changing.

“Seniority used to imply bringing expertise to the boardroom that could only come from years of experience,” says Diane Garnick, CEO of Clear Alternatives, a global asset management firm. “Today seniority simply means years clocked within an industry.”

We spoke with several hiring managers about the state of the traditional career ladder and asked how much they value seniority in this day and age.

We found some interesting changes that you should be aware of while mapping out your game plan:

Younger Professionals are Zooming into Higher Positions

“Thirty-four percent of U.S. workers say they are older than their bosses, and 15 percent say they work for someone who is at least 10 years younger, noting a shift in the correlation between seniority and leadership,” according to a report by AOL Jobs.

For instance, Aaron Basko, assistant vice president for Enrollment Management and career services officer at Salisbury University, has seen tons of young graduates launch into positions beyond what you might expect for their age. “Instead of focusing on moving up in the job titles that currently exist, they have worked hard to collect skills that they knew would have value in the marketplace,” he says.

Again--it’s about skills and results, not time spent in an office chair.

The Emphasis is Shifting from Seniority to Skills for Promotions

The age of rapidly evolving technology has brought on so many in-demand skills that weren’t around five years ago. Someone with seven years of experience isn't necessarily more qualified than someone with just five years of experience who has demonstrated stronger technical skills and soft skills, especially leadership, adaptability and communication skills.

Plus, “Generation X managers who are moving into higher leadership positions, as a group, have always had less respect for time-on-task than for ability to get results,” Basko says. Those who take risks, learn new skills and put in the legwork to prove they’re worthy of the promotion have the opportunity to score the job before the guy who’s been there the longest.

And Job Hopping is On the Rise Overall

Job hopping is on the rise! If done strategically, you can negotiate a much higher salary and job title in a brand new company than your existing one.

A Spherion’s Emerging Workforce Study found that 57 percent of Gen X and 54 percent of Gen Y said they increased their career potential by job hopping.

Another study by Matthew Bidwell, an assistant management professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, supports Spherion’s findings. Wharton found that external hires, on average, make around 18 percent higher salary than internal employees with similar positions. (So, that newcomer who snagged that promotion you were eyeing is likely going to get paid more to do it!).

Why? Employers are often willing to pay more for a fresh set of skills, perspective, network and credibility. So you see, with so many people job hopping in and out of companies, climbing the corporate ladder through company seniority can be harder than it has been in the past. In fact, in some rapidly evolving industries, you can risk being pigeonholed in your role if you stay too long. Changing jobs keeps you on your toes!

Of Course, Some Traditional Industries Still Consider Seniority

The established, traditional financial services industry, for instance, still looks to seniority as a factor and often retains professionals for decades.

"It’s common for people to start working there right out of high school or college and stay there for most or all of their career,” says Laurie Battaglia, who has worked in banking for over 35 years. In these traditional cultures, your precious wisdom from years of experience definitely count for a lot of brownie points.

Still, it's hard to ignore that--with the growing trend of job hopping and constantly evolving skills--the best way to climb the corporate ladder today is no longer a simple straight shot. Depending on how fast your industry is moving, it's crucial to stay relevant by mastering in-demand skills and showcasing awesome achievements in your industry.

photo of The CareerBliss Team

The CareerBliss Team

CareerBliss cares about your career happiness. That's why we offer a variety of great tools and resources to help you make better-informed career decisions. We believe that if you're happier at work, you'll be happier in life! Check out company reviews, salary information, career advice and, of course, millions of jobs on CareerBliss and choose happy today!

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