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by Liz Ryan
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A lot of working people and job-seekers worry about looking like “job hoppers.” They force themselves to stick it out at jobs they hate, because they’re afraid that employers might spurn them if they have too many short-term jobs on their resumes.

Here’s the problem with that logic. The employers who can grow your flame the fastest, value you the most and give you the best learning experiences are the ones who value real accomplishments over old-fashioned notions of “stability” based on long tenure in one job.

The more an employer likes to hires people who have spent years in each job over people who have changed jobs more frequently, the less good that employer can do for your career!

There are two speeds in the business world: slow, and fast. Some companies are slow, and others are fast.

You want to work for the fast kind! All a slow-moving, hidebound company can do for you is pay you until you can find a better job.

You can tell in a heartbeat as you walk into a building or step out of the elevator whether a company is fast or slow. You have to keep moving ahead and keep learning just to keep up with the rapid changes in the business world, if you want to survive and thrive in the new-millennium workplace.

Slow organizations are encumbered by excessive bureaucracy, forty-year-old policies and pointless rules. Fast companies are the ones where people are set free to do their jobs and act on their ideas.

No organization is perfect — the same way no community is perfect — but fast organizations at least understand that the energy inside an organization is the whole ballgame.They understand that every business idea is powered by the team’s energy to fulfill the mission.

Slow-moving organizations pretend that the team’s energy is not a factor. Their leaders delude themselves. Who can grow their flame in a place like that? Certainly not you!

If employees don’t care, then nothing good can happen. If the team is charged up and feeling good, the an organization will hit or surpass every one of its goals.

This is an obvious correlation to make, but the majority of medium-sized and large employers run their businesses as though the human element is completely removed from their business results.

You can’t afford to let your career languish in a place like that! Back in the old days, job security was the key. People wanted to graduate from college and disappear into a huge corporation that would keep them employed until retirement.

Those days are gone. No one can guarantee you lifelong employment. Your job security is not something your employer controls anymore. You control it. You build your own marketability and then you carry it around with you. If a given job disappears, you’ll be fine, because you will know what sort of Business Pain you solve and which organizations are most likely to experience that kind of Business Pain.

You’ll know what the pain costs an organization until they get you or someone else to fix the problem. You’ll run your career the way every CEO runs their business — from a high altitude, and always looking ahead to the horizon!

Here are 10 reasons to change jobs often — at least every three to five years — if you want to grow your flame high and advance as fast as possible in your career.

1. When you stay in the same organization, you gradually lose touch with the outside world. Your field of vision constricts and you begin to focus on internal priorities (who’s up and who’s down politically, your next position, and your current goals) rather than focusing on the larger world outside your company’s walls. One of the biggest dangers of staying a job too long is that you fall behind what is happening in your industry and the wide world beyond it.

2. Unless your company is growing very fast — experiencing thirty percent annual growth or more — it is difficult or impossible to give yourself the new experiences, new challenges and range of muscle-building activities you will naturally encounter by changing jobs. We have to work much harder to learn as much as fast in a company we are familiar with as we will learn by entering new organizations frequently.

3. It can feel uncomfortable to be incompetent. It is easy to forget that we learn the most when we are least competent. As soon as we know a job, part of our brain goes to sleep. We don’t have to stay open and curious. When you change jobs often, you never get out of open-and-curious mode. You’ll accumulate new learning (and just as important, a comfort level with “incompetence”) much faster by throwing yourself into new-job territory more often.

4. Every time you change jobs, you get to (and have to) re-establish your value. Every time you change jobs you get to redefine yourself on your own terms. If you learned a ton at your last job and were ready to become Manager of Inventory Control but you couldn’t do that at your last job because the Manager of Inventory Control was your boss, you can step up to a new altitude by moving to a new company. You can rationalize the decision to stay in your previous role any number of ways, but the truth is that the only thing you will ever have to sell to an employer or client is your expertise, and the only way to grow that is to grab every new learning opportunity you see.

5. The more often you change jobs, the more comfortable you will become interviewing, probing for Business Pain, telling Dragon-Slaying stories and negotiating to get paid what you’re worth. You won’t grow those muscles by staying put at one job!

6. When you change jobs more frequently, your spidey sense will get stronger. You’ll learn to evaluate employers as much as they evaluate you. You won’t waste your time working for people who don’t have a clue or won’t give you latitude to put your stamp on your job. You’ll pass them by and work with people who have vision and courage, instead!

7. When you stay put in one job for a long time, you can begin to perform your job mechanically. Your supply of new ideas will begin to diminish and then die out. You need fresh “glasses” to keep a channel open to the collective consciousness or wherever your best ideas come from. If you are asleep in your job, you won’t be as creative or energized about trying new things.

8. There are companies that won’t hire people who have short-term jobs (even jobs that lasted two or three years) on their resumes. If that includes you, don’t panic! If a company like that rejects you, you will have dodged a bullet. There’s too much fear in an organization that turns away job-seekers because they don’t stay stuck in their jobs for five or ten years. There’s no way your brilliance could shine forth in a place like that. Be grateful for the “no thank you” letter those people sent you, and thank Mother Nature for sending you signs and signals to keep you on your path.

9. The more companies you work for, the more your reputation in your business community can grow. The more companies you work for, the more people you will know. The more companies you work for, the more comfortable you will be walking into new business situations and figuring out what’s important. Nothing but experience can help you grow those muscles!

10. The longer you stay in one company — even if you change jobs internally — the more set and solid your box will become. The more often and more fearlessly you step out of your comfort zone, the more your comfort zone will expand. If you don’t actively enlarge your comfort zone all the time, you will become your own worst enemy. You will start to believe that you are your job title. You won’t see your own vast possibilities. Changing jobs often will make it easier to see that there are no boxes around you.  You are capable of doing whatever you want to do, regardless of the job titles you’ve held so far.

You wouldn’t give anyone else permission to limit you. Don’t give your employer the right to limit you, either. Instead, take the wheel and drive your own career — wherever it wants to go!

Liz Ryan is CEO/founder of Human Workplace and author of Reinvention Roadmap. Follow her on Twitter and read Forbes columns.

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