How Long to Stay at a Job

If you currently have a job you dislike, you may be tempted to quit and seek other employment right away. However, doing so could be problematic, especially if you have already done so several times before.

A long list of short-term jobs may not look good on your resume. ‘Job hopping,’ as it is often called, can indicate to hiring managers you are an employment risk. To develop a strong resume, it is important to show you have a work history demonstrating your reliability as an employee.

Determining how long to stay at a job you dislike so you can show reliability will help you strengthen your resume, while allowing you to change jobs as quickly as possible. There is no set formula for making the decision, because your situation is unique to you and your career. However, following some of the popular recommended guidelines may help you make a decision regarding how long you must stay within your current career outpost to develop a strong resume.

Stay at Your Job for a Minimum of One or Two Years

One reason it can be difficult to determine how long to keep a job to make your resume look good is that standards are different in each industry. Also, your job level within the industry can impact the expectations hiring managers will have when they inspect your resume. For example, if you intend to apply for senior-level jobs, potential employers will not like seeing a history of jobs being held for less than two years. They will be looking for proof you are willing to stay and help their companies grow.

If you plan on applying for lower-level positions, many experts recommend staying at your current job for at least one year. Staying for less than one year is typically considered job hopping in most industries. You do have the option of quitting a job you dislike before you meet the one-year mark and leaving it off your resume. However, doing so is not always recommended. Showing a total lack of employment during that time period may be worse than listing the job. Also, you may be asked to explain the employment gap on your resume to hiring managers anyway.

Stay at Your Job Through a Review Cycle

Although many hiring managers look for a one-year work history, or two years for high-level positions, review cycles are equally important. Most workplace managers give performance reviews at regular intervals. However, your performance will not be reviewed on the day you start work. Typically, you will be called in for your first review after six months. Twelve months later, after 18 months total, you will receive your next review. Your second review is typically considered more meaningful than the first review. Getting through a full review cycle is likely to be perceived positively when you apply for new jobs. However, not all reviews follow the same schedules. Some are performed at the same time each calendar year, or according to other schedules set by members of management. Therefore, indications of performance review that hiring managers look for can include:

  • Having at least an 18-month work history at a job.
  • Working at a job for most of two calendar years.
  • Maintaining your job for a time period spanning three calendar years, even if you only had the
    job during one or two months of the first and third years.

Base Your Decision on Averages

Another way to determine if you have been working at a job long enough for it to reflect well on your resume is to use national averages as guidelines. For example, according to data compiled by the United States Bureau of Labor and Statistics in 2016, the average amount of time Americans stayed at one job was approximately 4.6 years. However, considering the national average for all workers is not enough. You must also consider averages relating to your personal traits. For example, the same BLS report indicated workers in management positions held jobs for an average of 5.5 years. Therefore, if you have been working in such a position, your resume may not look good if you leave sooner. Conversely, service positions held the lowest average job retention position at 3.2 years. Therefore, if you are working in a service industry and leave your current job at or near the 3.2 year mark, your job length may be seen as a strong point by hiring managers.

Your age may also influence the expectations hiring managers have when viewing the job lengths listed on your resume. If you are relatively young, most hiring managers will understand you may need to try a few different jobs before you find the right one. However, if you are older, and your resume reflects a tendency to switch jobs often, it may be seen as a bad sign. The difference in how age can impact job length is outlined by the following January 2016, BLS data:

  • Thirteen percent of workers between 30 and 34 years of age were at their current place of employment for at least 10 years
  • Fifty-five percent of workers between 55 and 64 years of age were at their current place of employment for at least 10 years

Base Your Decision on Your Previous Work History

It is important to think about how leaving your job too soon, or staying at the same job too long, can impact your work history. However, your present feelings are equally important. Often, the strategies described above can – and should – be ignored when circumstances demand a different approach. For example, you may have been at your current workplace for less than six months and hate your new job. If so, leaving early is fine, as long as you already have acceptably long work histories at previous jobs to list on your resume. Even if you also list your current, short-work period, hiring managers will understand that job hopping is not your normal pattern.

Beware of Staying at a Job Longer Than You Should

Staying at the same job for a long period of time can be as detrimental as leaving too soon, if not more so. By doing so, you can severely limit your chances for growth, development and higher pay. Also, if you finally do decide to leave, listing a single, long stint at one job can actually look bad on your resume ,because it shows you may:

  • Have outdated skills.
  • Lack sufficient experience dealing with new situations.
  • Have little ambition.
  • Lack self-confidence.

When considering whether you have been at a job too long, you must also make the distinction between a job and a company. Staying at the same company for a long time can be lucrative, as long as you receive frequent raises and occasional promotions. When you finally leave the company, your resume will reflect your growth, development and loyalty. However, your company may not provide you with those opportunities for growth. If you keep the same job within a company for several years, you may be cheating yourself out of a lot of money, and not meeting your potential. Also, your length of time in the same position can be perceived poorly by hiring managers when you finally choose to make a career change.

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