Insights from 17 professionals across various industries, including CEOs, HR directors, and career coaches.
[Source Photo: Kampus Productions/Pexels]
BY BRETT FARMILOELONG READ
To help you make an informed decision about how long to stay at a job, we gathered insights from 17 professionals across various industries, including CEOs, HR directors, and career coaches.
From evaluating goals and needs regularly to considering a two- or three- to five-year tenure, these experts share their experiences and advice on finding the right balance in your career journey. ANALYZE GOALS AND NEEDS REGULARLY I recently left a position at a company I’d been with since 1998—nearly 25 years. I stayed because of the variety of opportunities. My mentors and leaders advised me, pushed me, and identified opportunities for growth and development. During that period, I held at least 10 very different roles, each of them a terrific learning experience. Of equal importance was the leadership’s commitment to values, culture, and a mission that I felt was important. Deciding how long to stay at a job involves one’s risk tolerance, personal goals, cultural alignment, and desire for growth. No one cares more about your career than you, and you are the driver, not a passenger. Take a look at your goals and needs every six months. Decide how well your current role satisfies them. Evaluate the opportunity for growth and also how the culture is shifting in the face of industry trends, the needs of the market, and changes in leadership. When you are staying only for comfort, it’s likely time to move.
Jimmy Rose, Employee experience, culture and talent REMAIN WHERE YOU CAN FLOURISH I left a job after starting a little over a year and I stayed at a job for almost 10 years. While we all have bills to pay, it’s never been about the money but rather the mission and continued professional development. I stayed for nearly 10 years because I was continually challenged, loved my colleagues and team, and was given opportunities that not only nurtured my development but expanded it. Stay because you’re thriving and leave when your learning and growth opportunities have been stunted.
For anyone out there deciding whether to stay or go, I say stay at an organization where you can flourish. Leave when the company and or opportunities are waning. Nakeisha Martinez, Talent acquisition manager, Zendesk FOCUS ON RESULTS-ORIENTED GROWTH I’ve been at my job for one and a half years, a small amount of what I’d like to spend. This is my first job out of graduate school and I really enjoy it, particularly my coworkers and the amount I learn each day. But this is rare. Many have bad relationships with poor management, problematic co-workers, or lack a pathway for growth.
As an executive recruiter, I analyze career histories all day. If you plan to leave with less than a year in a job, have a very good reason for doing so. Beyond that, what matters is to account for what you’ve accomplished and articulate why any one time was a good time to leave. If you stayed 15 to 25 years, account for how you’ve retained a capacity to learn and employ good judgment. Ultimately, it’s best to emphasize what you’re seeking to achieve rather than avoid. The idea of a “successful career path” is rapidly changing and will continue to do so. A career that showcases a results orientation and the ability to find degrees of fulfillment is most vital. Tony Topoleski, Project manager, ECA Partners
ASSESS FULFILLMENT AND VALUES ALIGNMENT As a therapist and coach with over a decade of experience in HR, my advice on job tenure is to assess personal fulfillment, growth, and values alignment. Reflect on whether the job aligns with your values, offers opportunities for advancement, and provides an inclusive environment. Prioritize your overall well-being and life satisfaction. If the job lacks fulfillment or growth, explore better-fitting options. Your mental health and happiness should always remain your top priorities in career decisions. Evaluate the impact on well-being and life satisfaction. If the job lacks fulfillment or growth, explore options that better meet your needs. Also, consider a company’s commitment to diversity, inclusion, and equity. Seek environments that align with your values for a positive and supportive experience.
Strike a balance between professional growth, fulfillment, and well-being. Assess needs and goals, and remain open to new opportunities that contribute to your happiness and success. Manuel Schlothauer, Founder, HeyManuel.com DON’T STAY IN A WRONG-FIT JOB The longest I stayed with the same employer was four years, but I should have left earlier. I stayed in many work environments that were not the right fit for me for fear of finding the same situation elsewhere. I didn’t believe in my ability to change and find a healthier work environment. I don’t believe in staying in a job for a year or two if you know it’s not the right place for you. You are delaying your career development and opportunities to grow.
When people say you should stay in a job for two years, I recommend reflecting on your circumstances before you make any decision. If you are in a toxic environment, enduring two years is unsustainable. If you are not seen and heard at work, staying for two years can impact your mental health. You can still acquire skills and discuss your career goals in a job interview even if you stayed in a job for eight months. No job is secure. Continue to advocate for your career and take your skills, knowledge, and experience with you anywhere. Ana Goehner, Bilingual career strategist and instructor, Digital Butterfly Communications, LLC
CONDUCT ANNUAL CAREER WELLNESS CHECK-INS As a career coach with 15 years of experience helping people decide when to stay or leave, I have a lot to say. My advice is that paying attention to the why is more important than just the when or how long to stay. My tip is that everyone should do an annual career wellness check-in to zoom out and see how their job is, or isn’t, serving them. Just like an annual physical at the doctor, we can create space to see how we’re feeling about work. Do you ever get into a flow state? What lights you up and feels good? What parts of your job drain you? What are your values and how do they align with this job now?
Using this check-in, you can get a clearer sense of whether or not you like what you do or if you’re out of alignment. Sometimes we have room to bring this into a conversation at our current employer to job craft and ask if there is room to integrate more of what we want where we are. Other times, it’s clear it’s time to go. Aileen Axtmayer, Career coach and corporate wellness speaker, Aspire with Aileen FACTOR IN GROWTH, OPPORTUNITY, AND COMMUNICATION I’ve been with my company for over three years, and the high amount of opportunity, variety, and communication are the main factors that have kept me there.
My company boasts an open-door policy for team members to share suggestions or concerns with management, and they’ve repeatedly proven to me that it’s not lip service. Management actively engages with its employees, encouraging team member participation by quickly responding to questions and incorporating ideas for improvement. They also recognize and reward team members who excel via a bonus system and promote from within. Thanks to my company’s management style, I’ve received several bonuses and raises, helped improve processes, and greatly expanded my knowledge by participating in new opportunities offered to me.
When considering how long to stay at a job, remain onboard as long as your job offers growth and your company engages in two-way communication. Michelle Robbins, Licensed insurance agent, Clearsurance.com ASSESS CAREER SATISFACTION AND ALIGNMENT When I made the decision to work for Target Corporation, I had planned to stay for five years to demonstrate a commitment to my career. However, I ended up staying for seven years due to personal circumstances. My husband and I agreed that I should wait until our oldest child was in Kindergarten before pursuing my dream of starting a business.
As a talent advisor, I strongly believe that career satisfaction is essential for everyone. Each person’s career path is unique, and it’s crucial to find a position, company, and leader that align with their values and career goals. When there is a misalignment, it may be time to consider other opportunities and take the leap to pursue career happiness. At a minimum, stay one year if possible. Renee Frey, President, TalentQ, Inc EMBRACE PORTFOLIO CAREER ADVANTAGES I’m a Gen Xer, but for most of my career, I moved jobs every 18 months. I call it a “portfolio career,” working a variety of roles and industries. My father’s generation thought this was crazy—he had stayed in his Defense Department job for 30 years—but they also moved him to a new challenge every two years. Most companies now make you do the work of managing your career advancement. I found that jumping around the corporate world was the best way to keep learning and growing, the fastest way to get promoted, and the only way to get a salary bump. So I jumped to get bumped. What kept me happy was an empowering boss, a collaborative team, and challenging projects. Millennials average 2.75 years in a job. As a sustainability career coach and ESG recruiter, I like to see at least three years on the resume. This is because it can take a year to get settled, a year to build your internal reputation and influence, and a year to create a measurable impact. Shannon Houde, MBA, PCC, Career and leadership coach, Walk of Life Consulting, Ltd. CONSIDER NEEDS AND COMPENSATION A person should stay in a job for as long as the job and the company meet their needs. A person should not stay just for the sake of tenure. I loathe the phrase job hopper. This assumes every organization is perfect and the onus falls on the employees only. In reality, not every job and every employee is going to be a perfect match. Companies have flaws in the same way that people do. Life is too short for someone to stay in a position they are miserable in. Compensation also has to be taken into consideration here. The fact is that employees earn more over the course of their careers by changing jobs and companies. The average pay increases given today barely cover inflation, let alone allow for someone to build a nest egg. People have to take care of themselves and their families, and no one should feel guilty for doing so. For someone considering a move, they should weigh the pros and cons. Make a list or talk it out with someone they trust. Christie Engler, Director of people and culture, Willory PRIORITIZE WORK-LIFE BALANCE I have been at my current job for over three years. I have stayed at this job because the company is the best place I have worked when it comes to work-life balance and career growth. This company has no issues allowing employees to take days off, has a schedule that fits around important family situations, and allows for flexible start and end times so employees work when they are most productive. Your work should allow you to live life, spend time with your family, and maintain a healthy work-life balance. There may be jobs that pay more than others, but sometimes the paycheck is not all that will make you happy. Take into consideration the employer’s policies on vacation time, the flexibility of your schedule, and how easy it is to have work-life balance. In the long run, having the time to spend with family and friends will become more important than ever. Liz Hogan, Digital partnerships CPRW, Find My Profession SELF-EVALUATE AND PLAN This question isn’t answered that easily. It should not be a minimum or maximum amount of time. But a good barometer is to ask yourself the following questions (in any order, as everyone’s priorities are different!) and decide how long you are willing to put up with the status quo. First, am I growing at the company and am I learning something new? Second, are there internal opportunities or opportunities to work on exciting projects or initiatives? Third, does my manager support my career development, or does s/he coach, teach or invest in my growth? Fourth, does the company’s culture and mission align with my values? Fifth, is the financial reward I am getting for my worth still worth it, or could I increase my compensation by moving? After you’ve asked yourself these questions, you can create a plan to a) stay at your company but ask for more growth b) have an exit plan on finding a better opportunity, and your own timing on leaving your current employer. Magda Cheang, Founder and CEO, MC Coaching STAY AT LEAST TWO YEARS The days of having to stay at a company for life are long gone, but at the same time, job hopping is a surefire way to have your resume thrown to the side. There seems to be a magic number that talent acquisition and recruiters agree is the acceptable length of time to stay at a job. That length is no less than two years. It seems two years is long enough to make you seem dedicated and not flighty, and it is long enough to truly learn a business unit and gain some experience that will be transferable to other companies. Suzanne Ricci, Chief success officer, Computer Coach Training Center SEEK OPPORTUNITIES AND BE TRANSPARENT I have been at my current job for a little over a year now, and during this time, I have had the pleasure of working with an incredible team, experiencing a strong company culture, and engaging in meaningful work aligned with my values. However, I came to realize that there was a lack of growth opportunities available at this company. While tenure within an organization holds its significance, finding an environment where one can truly thrive is equally, if not more, important. I recently accepted a new position that not only offers professional growth but also serves as a promotional opportunity for me. I believe in open and transparent communication with your manager. When the time comes to move on, it is important to have an honest conversation about your aspirations and work together to develop a plan, whether it involves growth within the same organization or exploring opportunities outside. It is important to take an active role in creating the career you want. Be intentional. Brittney Simpson, HR director, CallRevu EVALUATE GROWTH AND SATISFACTION When considering how long to stay at a job, several factors come into play. Firstly, it’s important to evaluate your personal and professional growth within the role. If you’re continuously learning, developing new skills, and advancing in your career, it may be beneficial to stay longer. Additionally, consider the alignment between your values, goals, and the company’s culture and mission. A positive work environment and shared values can contribute to job satisfaction. However, it’s also essential to assess if you’re feeling stagnant, unchallenged, or unfulfilled in your current position. If there’s limited room for growth, a lack of opportunities, or you’re no longer motivated, it might be worth exploring new opportunities. Ultimately, there isn’t a specific timeframe that applies universally. It’s a personal decision based on individual circumstances. It’s advisable to periodically reassess your situation, set career goals, and evaluate if your current job aligns with those goals. Sai Blackbyrn, CEO, Coach Foundation USE THE FOUR FS FRAMEWORK I have stayed at one job for 14 years and another for 14 months. Wherever I’ve worked, I evaluated whether I should stay or leave based on these four Fs: Fit, Function, Finance, and Forward. Fit is how well you align with the organization’s culture, mission, and vision. Function is about how much you enjoy the work you do each day. Finance is how much you are compensated, and Forward is how strongly your path within that organization sets you up for learning new skills and advancing within the company. I know from my experience and my clients that when one of the Fs is off, it’s not a dealbreaker. But when two or more Fs aren’t aligning for you, it’s an excellent opportunity to question why you are staying at that job and whether or not it’s time to make a change. John Neral, Owner, John Neral Coaching, LLC CONSIDER A THREE- TO FIVE-YEAR TENURE A mentor told me early on in my career to stay in a position for a minimum of three years, but not more than five if I haven’t gotten a raise. I’ve seen firsthand that there is a bias against people who job hop. If you don’t stay where you are for three years, it might prevent you from getting your dream job because you are thought to lack stickability and loyalty. If you have been in a role for five years and have not gotten a raise, you should probably start job hunting because the company is overlooking your contributions rather than rewarding you for them. Heather Eason, Founder, president, and CEO, SELECT Power Systems