FAQ: How Long Should You Stay in a Job? (With Helpful Tips)
Updated 11 April 2023
People change jobs for several reasons, but for many, it can be difficult to determine how long to stay in their current role. If a current job provides you with career growth opportunities, such as promotions, raises and access to challenging projects, it might be worthwhile to stay with the employer for the long term. Knowing the ideal time to spend in a position can help you make better decisions for your career.
In this article, we answer the question 'How long should you stay in a job?' so you know the right time to move to another role.
Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.
How long should you stay in a job?
Knowing whether to stay in your current job or leave to another role is important for achieving your career objectives. In some organisations, management recruits for leadership and managerial positions internally. If you're skilled and can deliver results, you're likely going to have a clear pathway to roles that offer more pay and higher responsibility. These types of organisations typically enjoy high employee loyalty and low turnover.
If your employer doesn't provide growth opportunities when you qualify for such benefits, consider a new role that rewards your experience and skills. Before changing jobs, acquire enough skills and experience to demonstrate to other employers you can deliver results in the roles. Staying on a job for at least two years can help you gather experience and also prove to potential employers you can stay committed to their role if hired.
How long do people stay in their jobs?
A typical employee stays at their job for an average of two years, although several factors can affect labour mobility. The most important factor people consider when changing jobs is the salary. Other considerations include job security, with people staying for longer in jobs that are more secure. Many people now also consider work-life balance when deciding whether to stay at a job or leave.
Data from the Ministry of Manpower suggests that people change jobs more quickly during times of economic growth, judging from the higher number of recruitments during such periods. Job hopping decreases considerably when the economy grows at a slower pace because many businesses don't recruit new employees to cut costs. In the ministry's Labour Market Report Fourth Quarter 2022, the recruitment rate was 2.5% and the resignation rate was 1.5%, showing a decline in labour turnover. The data suggests people are working at their current jobs for longer periods.
How does staying in a job affect your career?
Staying at a job for a long time may not affect your career negatively if you can show potential employers you acquired new skills and achieved your professional goals. When recruiting new employees, many employers evaluate candidates based on their tenure and career progression. If you spend less than two years in each position, the employer might view you as a job hopper. Even if you have the skills and experience to perform the company's job functions, there's a risk that the employer may not get returns on investment for training you because of your habitual job hopping.
Employers might assume you lack motivation or can't adapt to change if you stay long on a job. If you show a vertical progression in terms of your skills, responsibilities and achievements, a long tenure at the same job can be a desirable quality for employers that value loyalty and commitment. If you've spent a long time at the same job and you now want to move to another company, demonstrate how you've built your expertise in your current position and show that you can adapt and function in a new work environment.
Can staying at a job for less than a year hurt your career?
Staying at a job for less than a year isn't necessarily bad, but it can affect how employers view your candidacy. There's now less stigma around changing jobs quickly, especially as people now want more than just monetary compensation from work. Job hopping is a fast way to achieve career goals, but there are situations where it can affect your employability. If a role requires extensive on-the-job training, it might not be in the best interest of a company to spend a lot of money to develop an employee that's going to leave after a few months.
If a role requires working with a company's trade secrets, such as patents and inventions, you might not be an ideal fit candidate if employers see you spend an average of one year or less on jobs. The peculiarities of each industry and specific employer, and other prevailing circumstances, may determine whether staying at a job for less than one year can have an adverse effect on your employability.
How to explain short tenure
Here are some tips on how to explain a short tenure on your resume to potential employers:
1. Talk about the skills and experience you acquired
Before changing roles, make sure you've gained knowledge and skills that you can take with you to a new position. Talk about your training and any projects you were in charge of that can showcase your ability. Discuss how each role has prepared you for where you want to be in your career.
2. Be honest and positive
You can talk about the downsides of a past position because employers value honesty, but be positive when you do so. For example, you can explain that the culture didn't reflect your work values as you hoped or that the job responsibilities didn't align with the job description that compelled you to apply for the job in the first place. End the discussion of the job experience with what you learnt.
3. Talk about your career goals instead
During the interview, turn the focus onto your career goals and explain what you can bring to the workplace based on your past experience. Let the hiring manager know what you see in the company that convinced you to apply for the role. Connect your experience and skills to your ability to perform the company's job duties.
Questions to ask before deciding to find a new job
Here are some questions to ask yourself before deciding to find a new job:
1. Is moving on to another job going to help my career?
The answer to this question can depend on your current employer and the new job prospect you have. Think about if your current company is giving you the opportunities you want and if they have the kind of training programme you can benefit from. Evaluate what you're truly looking for in a career and base your next decisions on this.
2. Can I improve my current job instead?
Instead of immediately changing jobs, think about your current role and ask yourself if you can improve it. For example, maybe you love your job and work with great people, but you want to take on a leadership role. Make sure you've discussed your goals with your manager during your review and asked what else you can do or what projects you can take on to establish yourself as a leader in the workplace.
3. What are the standards for my industry?
Some industries, such as information technology, experience more career change than others. Before leaving your current role, research what is standard in your field. If your industry is one that's constantly changing, you may notice that more people switch employers so they can make sure they're staying up-to-date with emerging trends and the skills necessary for the job.
4. How can I explain my desire to make a job or career change to a new employer?
During the interview process for any new role, your hiring manager may ask why you're looking to make a job change. The reason for this is they want to make sure you're leaving your current role for the right reasons and that they can provide something a little different to you, ensuring a mutually beneficial working relationship for the future. Think about if you're able to adequately explain your desire for a new role.
5. Am I leaving for the right reasons?
Think about your reasons for leaving and determine if they're valid for the long term. Perhaps your manager selected a coworker of yours for a promotion instead of you and now you want to accept a role with a new employer because of it. Instead, think about all the factors that make up a place to work, such as the benefits package, culture, training opportunities and more, to determine if this is the right place for you to remain.
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