There’s plenty of data to suggest job-hopping is detrimental to people’s career growth. I’ve written in the past that when people move jobs frequently, it often signals that the thrill of something new excites them, which doesn’t bode well for expectations of longevity. This matters because companies know that replacing an employee is costly in both time and resources.
There are obviously some nuances to this, as my colleague Scott Beardsley pointed out in his post comparing job leapers to job hoppers. But for the majority of hiring managers, they view frequent job switching as a red flag.
Understanding that the only way for some people to grow their careers (or in some cases keep their sanity) is by switching jobs, and that “gold watch” jobs that people kept for decades are now just a myth, the question becomes: “How do you know the right amount of time to stay in a job?”
There isn’t one clean answer for every situation, but here are four things to keep in mind as you consider staying or leaving a job.
Ideal Minimum Time to Stay – Two Years
Barring any unusual circumstances, if you’ve been at a job for two years, few people will accuse you of jumping ship too soon if you leave. Two years is an important milestone because it signals that you don’t flee at the first sign of trouble. Also, you’ve gained a good amount of experience because you’ve seen more than a single business cycle.
A Clear Indicator of Having Added Value – Job Promotion
If you’ve worked at a company that has promoted you, that’s an excellent sign that you’ve added value. This also gives you the benefit of the doubt when you leave that job, because hiring managers will know that you were valued by your employer enough to move up within the company. It wasn’t a bad marriage, so to speak.
Too many people change jobs for a promotion elsewhere versus earning the promotion where they currently work. So if you were promoted internally, that provides some important context if you depart for a new role.
You Made it Count – Personal Growth
A lot of people leave jobs prematurely before they are able to grow. Let’s put resumes aside for a moment. There’s plenty to gain at a job that doesn’t show up on your C.V. – i.e. personal relationships, emotional intelligence, management skills, or industry knowledge. You may not love your job, but think of the ulterior benefits of sticking it out. Be intentionally aware of the skills you can gain that are right in front of you, as they may pay dividends later in your career.
You Made the Decision – Take Ownership
If you accept a job that doesn’t make sense for you, then you must be accountable for your decisions. Quitting and then pointing the finger at the old company when you speak to prospective employers is not a wise decision. Sour grapes don’t pass the sniff test in an interview setting. So make sure you have done what you can to reconcile the situation before you make the decision final; you may be surprised by the outcome. Whatever the outcome, it will only increase your confidence in your final decision.
And remember, it’s up to you to do your own due diligence during the hiring process. It’s a two-way street, and no matter how badly you need a job, avoid the temptation of making an impulsive decision.