How long should you stay in a job?
In past eras, it was commonplace for employees to stick with one company for decades on end, working in more or less the same job. These days, however, graduates can expect to work in around 17 jobs and go through five career changes in their lifetime. The notion of a single career, let alone a single job, has all but evaporated.
Amid this overwhelming change in the world of work, one might wonder what the ideal length of time is to stay in a job.
But the truth is that there’s no magic number, says Cara Vanzini, a Careers Advisor with Australian Catholic University (ACU) Careers and Employability in the Student Support Services Directorate.
“I don’t subscribe to the idea that there’s a set amount of time that you should stay in a job,” says Cara, downplaying the unwritten rule that you should hold onto a new role for at least a year.
“We spend so much of our time at work, and so it’s really important that your job gives you purpose, satisfaction and a level of enjoyment. If you’ve entered a new job and you find that it’s not what you thought it would be, or it’s not what it was pitched to you as, I think it’s okay to reassess and look for a role that does give you those things.”
But what if you’ve just started a new job and quickly realise it’s not a good fit? Is it okay to move on before you’ve found your feet?
In most circumstances, says Cara, seeing out your probation period would be a wise choice. Showing the openness and commitment to give it a chance might see you find your place in an organisation.
“Realistically, it’s hard to know within two months whether the job is right or wrong for you,” she says. “Given time, you might find a level of comfort that is not immediately apparent. You might get to know the workplace and your colleagues better, and learn the ins and outs of the job to a level that you’re given the space to thrive.”
When seriously considering leaving a new job, Cara suggests carefully considering your options before making any big decisions.
“I would always advise people to speak to their direct manager about their concerns or why it is that they’re unhappy, to see if a solution can be found,” she says. “You should never suffer in silence when things don’t feel right at work – you need to approach people and have those conversations.”
If you do decide to move on, what might future potential employers think when they view your previous experience? Could a short stint be seen as a red flag?
The short answer is, ‘it depends’. While nobody wants to be labelled a ‘job hopper’ who moves from position to another, a single short stint shouldn’t be a deal-breaker.
These days, most businesses and hiring managers are understanding about brief stints and employment gaps. In some industries, like the fast-moving tech sector, it might even be seen as beneficial to change roles regularly.
At the other end of the spectrum, those who’ve stayed with one company for an extended period might fear that it looks like their career has stagnated.
Indeed, if your work has started to lack meaning and purpose, it might be time for a new challenge. But if you’re still feeling fulfilled and valued, there are many advantages to sticking with one employer for a longer period of time.
“I think the rule of thumb is that if you’re regularly waking up in the morning and dreading the fact that you’ve got to go to work, or if you’re not feeling challenged in your job, then it’s time to start exploring other options,” says Cara, who has worked in higher education for a decade.
“But if you’re still getting that job satisfaction, with opportunities to progress your career and your skillset, I don’t think there’s a time to say, ‘You might be happy but you need to move on to make it look better on your CV’. Most employers would see a long tenure in a positive sense, that you’re dependable employee who has been very dedicated to your workplace and continues to enjoy all that it offers.”
Both new employees and old ones can feel like they’re thriving or languishing in their work. How long you’ve been in your job might matter less than your feelings of happiness, achievement, success, and legacy in your career path.
“We all want to feel like we belong to something, to feel connected. For some people, experiencing a range of different workplaces and careers might be a good way of doing that; for others, they’re able to achieve professional and personal growth within one company or career path,” Cara says.
“We really need to think about what work gives us for our wellbeing, and that’s about joy and satisfaction in our working lives, feeling like we’ve got purpose, and a reason for getting out of bed in the morning.”
Ready to find a career with purpose and meaning? Explore the courses on offer at ACU or contact our team.