How long do people generally stay in jobs?
On average, people stay in jobs for around 4.1 years according to the Bureau of Labour Statistics. However, the amount of time someone stays in a role will all depend on their situation.
Four years can seem like a lifetime if you’re spending every workday feeling underpaid and unappreciated. Whereas to someone who loves their workplace, colleagues and management, four years will simply fly by.
Changing Jobs Regularly
Sometimes there is a stigma associated with 'job hopping' (when someone consistently changes jobs every one or two years). If a person has never held the same job for longer than a few years, companies will question their ability to commit. Obviously, you shouldn’t stay in a job you dislike just because you think it might affect your prospects. But, if you leave multiple jobs that never last longer than a year, it can be a bad sign.
As turnover is one of the biggest expenses a company faces, when they recruit, they are less likely to choose candidates who have a track record of not sticking it out.
Never Changing Jobs
Just as not staying in a job long enough can affect your CV, staying in a job for too long also doesn’t look great. Job clinging is when a person works in the same role at the same company for over five years with little or no change in job title, responsibility or salary.
Staying with one company for years can give the impression that you aren't interested in growing your career. Employers may think that you don’t have the flexibility or open-mindedness for success in a new role.
How long should you stay at a job?
As a very general overview, you should try to stay in each job for a minimum of two years with continued career progression.
If you have a horrible boss, severe workplace stress, or simply a change of heart, there’s no harm getting out of there. But remember that staying just three months in one role before moving on wouldn't look very good. There are special circumstances, for example, during difficult economic times, employers realize that employees may be forced to leave a job within their first year through no fault of their own.
Years ago, people secured a job after leaving education and just stayed there. Nowadays it’s not as common for people to stick with one employer for decades. Make sure you continue to progress in your career!
Questions to Ask Before Leaving a Job
What does the rest of your job history look like?
Employers want to see that you’ve stayed in one job for at least three to five years. It’ll give them proof that you’re somewhat stable. Is this the first time that you’re unhappy at a job? Or is this the fifth time you’ve left a job too quickly? Think before you hop!
What is acceptable in your industry?
Different industries view job-hopping differently. Some industries such as hospitality or sales find it more acceptable to move around more frequently. In certain sectors, regular change is not only desirable but a necessity. What industry are you in? Would it be acceptable to move on so quickly?
How old are you?
Employers are more forgiving of professionals who jump from job to job early on in their careers. They believe that when younger, employees are still discovering the right path. If you’ve been working for 5+ years, you’re expected to have at least one stable job role on your CV.
Are you leaving for the right reasons?
Maybe you’re leaving for a better job, more money, or more flexibility. These are all valid reasons to move on from a role. Think about what you’d say if your next potential employer asks “What was the reason for leaving your last role?”.
Is there anything you can do to improve the situation at your current job?
Speak to your manager to discuss your concerns with the role. They may be able to change things in order to make you feel more appreciated. Maybe you want a salary raise, maybe you need more support, it’s always worth asking.
Will changing jobs now impact your chances of securing a new job later?
As we stated above, consider what your CV looks like to potential employers. If you’ve been too job hoppy beforehand, maybe think twice about quitting so soon.
Put a Positive Spin on It
If you still want to leave you job but are worried about your prospects, there’s always the ability to turn it into a positive. It doesn’t have to mean your job hunt is doomed.
You need to focus on the upsides. Describe what you’ve learned from your job experiences. Explain your career goals and let them know exactly what you’re looking for in a company. Emphasize your desire to find somewhere to truly grow.
You could also say “I felt misled about what the position entailed” or “I realized early on that it wasn’t a good fit since their values didn’t align with mine.” If the interviewer persists.