Explaining Reasons for Staying So Long $$$

Hello, looking for some thoughts on an issue I will be running into as I look to change industries. This topic isn’t necessarily design related but since I am an industrial designer, figured this would be a good place to ask. You all seem to be very generous with your advice which is great! Much appreciated!

So I have been working for a small company for close to 6 years. Its the first and only professional design job I have had besides a handful of freelance projects (mostly rendering and some design/build stuff). The company is far from known or prestigious and the work is not interesting. Maybe I am over thinking this but I am afraid that having stayed there for 6 years shows a lack of motivation on my end. The main reason I have been there for so long is because I was promoted to creative director (more like a lead designer) after my first year and have been getting big salary increases each year. Yes, MONEY! …money to pay off $90k in student loans; which I will have paid off around the end of this year.

Obviously there are aspects of the job that keep me interested like the creative problem solving, occasional graphic design and general designing of things that work and look good. I also know that I have been very fortunate in my position but at this point I am burnt out and my soul grows dimmer by the day.

So how might I handle this in my cover letters and interviews in a concise and graceful way? My thought is to be honest, toot my own horn a bit, and speak to the side work that is more related to the industry I am trying to get into.


I feel like because you were promoted to that position being it your first job, you can definetly error on the side of “I knew there was alot of potential and I felt the need to keep going to get the job done.” I think if you can show a way that you helped transform something you will be good.

I would never judge someones resume for staying at a job too long.

You can describe why you are looking for new opportunities, none of those will impact why you are sticking with your current opportunity. I was at my first job for 9 years. I enjoyed the people I worked with, learned a ton, and it afforded me a career pivot (ID->UX) that I would not have been able to make or afford by jumping to a new job as a Jr. UI designer.

The best advice I think I ever got was from Cooper Woodring at an IDSA conference very early on in my career was “Stay at a job until you stop learning”. As long as you can justifiably say you had been learning more year over year whether it was design skills, management skills, communication or leadership, theres no other reason why you would have to stay you stuck with a job IMO.

I had a guy in an interview once (he was a VP of marketing ) say, “boy, you’ve moved around a lot”. My reply was, “you must not have met a lot of industrial designers…” and told him that compared to my 4 previous jobs, there are many designers I know who’ve moved quite a bit more than I have.

I didn’t get a call back, but that might have been my smart a** reply to him :slight_smile: . I think it’s fine to be at a company for a long time as long as it’s still working for you.

First, congratulations on nearing paying off your student loans. doing that in 6 years is amazing. I paid for mine and my wife’s grad school, and the day I wrote that last check was fantastic, like getting a pay raise!

Now, looking forward, begin by determining what you want to do. Understand that the title of creative director might not be transferable. Certainly if you were to go to a bigger company like Nike you would loose that instantly. With 6 years experience you would probably be classified as a design 2, 3 levels below CD… and that is ok. When I was at a small firm I rocketed to senior designer within a few years. When I left after 4 years I took a step back to design 2 at Nike, only to go to design director 5 years later. What matters is working where you want to work, doing the kind of work you are proud of, continuing to learn and grow, and getting paid appropriately. Titles are just gravy on the Thanksgiving Turkey… but gravy isn’t the meal (bonus points to me for working in a seasonally appropriate metaphor… however forced! :wink: )

Hi Jordan,
I would say turn your thinking around and look it in terms of positive attributes.

  • 6 years would be a positive to an employer. It shows you don’t “jump around” and provided the work, pay, environment is good you will stick around at the new company

  • Explain you were promoted quickly and given additional responsibility - shows your current employer saw potential in you and valued your work.

  • Maybe explain you have reached the top level at that company or learning or growing has stalled and you are ready for a new challenge.

  • If the company is looking for somebody with experience in multiple companies in short time frame then you can’t compete no matter what you do. If that’s common in the industry then you better get moving. Take a lower position/salary and gain the right experience.

Be true and honest to yourself. Portray that to the new employers and hope that it aligns with what they are looking for. If you try to spin your situation to match “the industry standard” you may be changing it often not knowing what they are really looking for. Play up your attributes and don’t focus what you perceive as being lacking in.

Good luck.

I usually have the opposite problem, I have to explain why I didn’t last long at some of my jobs. :blush:

Thank you all for your thorough responses! Glad to hear that everyone feels its likely more of a positive than a negative. I am definitely prepared to take a few steps down in a new company/industry as well as a big pay cut, but seeing as how a lot of my pay has been going to debt I really wont see too much of a difference. I do not have kids or a mortgage at this point in my life either. And yes, I do have plenty of examples of adding value to my company over the years; implementing new work flows, changing the office layouts, bringing in more automation on the production side, etc. I have learned so much over the years and continue to try and challenge myself and learn more everyday. At this point though I need to move on.

Hold on there Hoss. Huh?

I understand a change in title (mostly meaningless, at least from my viewpoint). But depending on your actual capabilities, with 6 years, I could consider you a Senior Designer/Developer/Engineer/Whatever. And in my neck of the woods, that’s $70-$90K + full bennys + bonus.

How much do you get paid and after you leave, where do I apply?

Agreed, even though I took a tittle cut, it was still a pay raise… but really depends on how much your current employer lined your pockets as well as your tittle.

have you ever head of the term “transferable experience”? I might have made it up, but I use it a lot when talking to people in similar situations. Ask yourself can you get paid the same amount (or more) with the same title (or higher) at another company… if so you have transferable experience. Sometimes you have to prove it, going from Nike to frog wasn’t easy. I had to prove that I could transfer that experience at a director level from a footwear brand to an innovation consultancy. But I was able to show how the experience mapped.

Short version, think of this as a design project. Create a target, where do you want to work? At what level? For how much? … then asses what you have and what you have done and do a gap analysis.

Agreed that if you’re still doing design work, you should not be taking any substantial pay cut unless you’re moving from the Bay Area to Oklahoma, or making it up in some other arena (amazing company you’re dying to work for, large equity stake, bonus, PTO etc).

It’s one thing if you’re making $100K and you find a job you love that has a cap at $90K, but in general avoid taking back steps as they will take years to recover from. Especially since opportunities for promotions and raises in a new job likely won’t come for a year+ into your tenure. Your career trajectory should be something you can play out in your mind so you can track your progress on how and where you’d like to be.

I do think I have a lot of transferrable experience. I am just wondering though, how and when did you prove to frog that you could transfer your experience? Was this before you were hired? After you were hired by “doing the work”? In either of those cases, how did you manage to prove it?

Thanks for the advice! Definitely looking at this as a design project. More topics/questions to come.

I did a few things to prove the transferable value of my experience:

  1. I showed I could do the work. I did 3 conceptual smartphone projects with user personas, use cases, storyboards, design language, ID/UI concepts and accessories. I then sent them to a bunch of blogs. Gizmodo published one, core77 published the other… I then presented these in my interview along with the press coverage. Their response was “this is basically what we do”… not surprisingly I worked on 4 smart phone projects in 2 years there.

  2. I didn’t over present. I asked to get into the room 30 minutes early. I brought a duffle bag full of shoes, watches and other products I had worked on. Arrayed them on the table nicely and instead of presenting, I asked them what product they wanted to hear a story about. This got them engaged right away and showed how I could guide a conversation. I had 4 or 5 bullet points predetermined that I wanted to work into the conversation no matter what they picked.

  3. I defended my value. One of the interviewers came in with a scowl on his face and said “oh, a shoe guy…”. I quickly nipped it in the bud by saying “nope, not a shoe guy, a designer who has been working for almost 10 years on one of the most recognized global brands, creating industry leading products and experience designed for very targeted alpha users that spread down to mass. If frog design is not interested in a design leader with that kind of experience, let me know and we can end this meeting without wasting anymore of each other’s time”… it was a ballsy response, but calculated. He was so set that being a “shoe guy” was not relevant that I had to shake him out of that opinion as quickly as possible. That got him in the seat with full attention. I then spent the next 45 minutes proving my statement… bu I gave him the conclusion in the opening minute of the interview.

It goes without saying, all three of those things are hard and anxiety producing. #1 requires a lot of extra work and it is always risky walking in the door and saying “I can do what you do”. #2 is scary because you give up a lot of control of the presentation to make it a conversation. #3 is just scary, but no more scary than not doing it and leaving with nothing.

I should also say that I applied for that job 6 months prior and got a pretty mean rejection letter. Later that year a recruiter approached me about another job, I noticed the frog position was still open and I told the recruiter that is the job I want. He got me the interview. At the end of the process after I had negotiated the salary and signed the offer letter I let them know they had rejected me 6 months prior, and had they hired me based on that I would not have been able to negotiate as well nor would they have had to pay the recruiter.

Also note, all of these tactics (part of the strategy of proving I could do the job) were tailored to what works for me and my personality. That is not dissimilar to how I operate on a daily basis. However you prove your value, it has to be authentic to you.

That’s really great to hear those stories Yo. Thanks for sharing.

That is some bad ass comment to say to Frog. I think I’ll use that for my next interview.

What Yo wrote is the best thing I’ve read all year. I’ve experienced a lot of failures this year in the job search field, and just received my last rejection notice yesterday. It’s not over until I give up, and I’m not giving up. Looking forward to new opportunities in 2018.

uh, oh, I better go back and read what I wrote :slight_smile:

I hope something in there is helpful Chris and I hope 2018 brings it all together for you! I took a spin through your portfolio and I see some good work in there.

Yep, after working at the same job for 7 years, I’ve just signed a new job offer and submitted my resignation letter - with lots of thanks to my current employer! I’m really looking forward to my new job and they definitely did not care that I had been working so long in a single niche!

Fantastic! Congratulations! A nice way to start the year right there.

to the OP jordantheperson: any update?