How long should you stay in a job?

by | 10.03.23

On average people stay in jobs for around four years, but younger people typically have shorter stays. Job hopping though is becoming more common although we would still recommend you stay at your job for at least a year if you can. It’s generally okay through to leave a job after a short period of time if something better comes along, but we really don’t recommend leaving a job, unless you absolutely hate it, without something else to go to. So the question is how long should you stay in a job, here is some guidelines:

Would leaving help your career?

If you feel that moving job will help your career and allow you to gain new skills and experience provided you have been in the job for at least one year maybe it is time to move on. In some cases staying in a job for too long can actually hurt your career because potential employers may think you just aren’t interested in moving your career forward:

Can’t you progress in your current role?

If you are ambitious and you don’t believe there are prospects available with your current employer then maybe you need to move on. But before you do this you need to stay in your current role for at least two years. The reason you need to do this is to have creditability with any potential employer. You’ll be laughed out the door if you give your reason for leaving a role after 12 months as “to move my career forward”. You need to give your current employer at least two years to a) recognise all your abilities and b) for the right job to materialise.

Have you built up enough experience?

Take a look at job descriptions for positions that interest you to see if you have enough experience for these roles. If you are at the start of your career unless you have made a huge mistake in your choice of first job, then you need to stay in this role for at least a year. Make sure before you leave a role that you have the skills and experience needed to obtain a position you want and that you will stay in.

Could you improve your current job?

Do you think that you can make your current job more interesting? If you do why leave at all! Talk to your boss about expanding your role or taking on more responsibilities. You could also try volunteering to support other teams in order to get more experience and make your current role more interesting. If this is the case stay where you are.

Could you get a promotion?

If there is the chance of being promoted from your current position either upwards in the department you are working in or laterally and you have been with your employer for at least a year or two then talk to your boss. There really is no reason to leave a job if you have the chance of moving upwards and onwards so stick with it.

Is it normal in your industry chop and change roles?

Each industry has its own standards in relation to length of employment and for how long you’re expected to stay in a job. Some jobs have a more frequent turnover than others. As long as you’re in line with industry expectations it’s okay to leave your job whenever if you feel that it’s the right time for you.

Is your CV sketchy?

If leaving a job is going to make you look like a job hopper you need to grin and bear it for at least a year, preferably two. Employers really don’t like candidates who chop and change their jobs all the time. Three jobs in five years should be the maximum on your CV. No employer wants to invest in someone who appears unreliable and unable to settle into positions.

Have you got a valid reason for leaving?

If you are happy in your role, you have a decent boss, are receiving a good salary and you can see a future with your employer why are you thinking about leaving? I know we all think there could be something better out there but in most cases there is not a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow – just another job which you may not be as happy in. Never leave a job on a whim only leave a job if you have a good reason.

Always leave a job on good terms?

Never leave a job because your boss has really irritated you one day, or you’ve been reprimanded for not doing a job properly or not reaching a deadline. Loosing your temper and storming out of a job is not going to help your career. Remember you are going to have to explain why you left your last role in an interview and you don’t want to appear volatile. Always leave a job when the time is right and you feel you are not going to be happy or develop if you stay there.

Are you just ready for a change?

If you feel your life is stagnate and you want to make it more exciting maybe it is time to change jobs. Normally this feeling comes on when you have been in your current role for three years plus and everyday seems the same. Change can be exciting! Sometimes you need a big jolt to feel excited about life. Moving jobs won’t just change your work load, you’ll have a different commute, new work mates and new routines. But before you apply for new jobs make sure you are ready for such a big change.

So to summarize there is not a set time period that you should stay  in a job but you should only leave a job if you feel you need to, be it to further your career, gain more experience, earn more money or because you need a new challenge. Don’t ruin your CV by chopping and changing jobs all the time because there is a risk you could make yourself unemployable.

Good Luck!

Angela Burton