How do you know when it’s time to make a career change?
Gone are the days of staying at one job for your entire career. It’s not uncommon for professionals to hold several positions throughout their careers. But how long should you stay at a job, and how do you know when it’s time to go? This article will cover how long to stay at a job, questions to ask before leaving, and how to put a positive spin on those short job stays.
How long does the average employee stay at their job?
In 2020, the Bureau of Labour Statistics reported that the average employee sticks around for 4.1 years, a slight decrease from 4.2 years in 2018.
Four years can fly by; however, it can feel like an eternity when working a job where you might be undervalued, underpaid, or unfulfilled. The average stay might be four years, but this isn’t a hard-and-fast rule.
Your entire career won’t be devastated if you have to leave a job within the first year. But if you have a consistent track record of short tenures, you might stand out like a sore thumb to employers. Turnover is extremely costly, and if a hiring manager sees you as a flight risk, they might not want to take a chance on you.
How long should you stay at your job?
Unfortunately, there’s no exact answer to this question, as it all depends on your workplace and your career aspirations. If you find yourself stagnant in your skills and with no opportunities to move up, it’s probably time for you to say goodbye. But while switching jobs can boost your career, there has to be a balance to avoid being labelled a job hopper.
Job hopping doesn’t exactly carry around the same stigma as it did in the past, but that doesn’t mean it’s a title to be proud of. Layoffs and other unexpected obstacles can happen that might shorten your stay. But if you can help it be sure you’ve considered every factor and gotten the most of your experience before jumping ship.
Can you stay at a job for too long?
Yes! Working the same job for too long can hamper your prospects as an employee. Staying in one place for too long can make employers think you aren’t interested in growing your career. It also might give off the impression that you aren’t flexible or open-minded enough to succeed in a new position.
Questions to ask before quitting
Are you leaving for the right reasons? Consider your reasons for leaving and determine if they’ll still be valid come the long term. Think of the bigger picture. Thinking about all aspects that make up your job (the benefits, pay, work environment, career development opportunities etc.) and decide if it’s all worth leaving.
How does this fit in with my career plan? Depending on your career goals, specific jobs will act as lateral or sequential moves to get you to your dream job. Review your career plan (or create one) and assess if you’ve met the milestones you need to achieve your goals.
Can I make improvements to my current job? Instead of quitting right away, ask yourself if there’s anything you can do to improve your current position. For example, you might love your company and co-workers but want to take on a leadership role. In this case, approach your boss to discuss your career goals and ask what can be done to reach this goal. If you’ve taken the steps and see no improvements, you can confidently put in your notice.
What does the rest of my job history look like? If you have a history of job-hopping, you might need to re-evaluate why you want to leave your current job. If this is the first or second time, there’s no need to worry. Think like an employer. Looking at your resume, would you want to hire you?
Do you have job prospects? We all want what we can’t have, and you may be seen as a more attractive candidate when still employed. To be in a stronger negotiating position, it’s preferable to have secured another job before leaving your current one.
Putting a positive spin on a short job stay
If you have a history of short-term jobs and are worried about landing a job, there’s still hope. It shouldn’t be surprising for an interviewer to bring up your seemingly flighty job history, but there are a few ways you can explain your situation to help them better understand.
If the topic comes up, here are a few tips to get you prepared:
Share the skills and experiences you gained
Before you find a new role, make sure you’ve gained new knowledge and skills in your current one. Share your training and any relevant projects you worked on that can demonstrate these new abilities. Instead of focusing on duration, highlight how each role has prepared and helped you progress in your career.
Employers value honesty and transparency. You won’t be a Debbie Downer for sharing the downsides of your past jobs. Just don’t sound too bitter about it. Keep it positive and close the discussion with what you valued from your experiences. For example, you might not have meshed well with the work culture and atmosphere, but going forward, you now have a better understanding of which environments work best for you.
Explain your career goals
Don’t avoid the question but redirect the conversation to focus on your career goals. Explain what about the company and position drew you in
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