Recently, a few close colleagues, supervisors, and managers have accepted positions elsewhere or promoted to higher positions within the organization. While some were only in their positions for as little as a year, others had been at the same company for much longer. This captured my attention, and I began to ponder when it’s okay to safely move onto a new position. I state “safely” because there are two sides to this debate we should keep in mind. First, short periods of employment may raise eyebrows to future employers and secondly, obtaining additional skills aside from your current career roadmap is imperative to career development and future career progression. We will discuss these two views in more detail later. I would like to discuss statistics, personal insights, and my recommendation of when it is the best opportunity to seek new employment.
There is no secret mathematical equation to determine the number of years a person should be employed with a company. Surely every person has his or her unique circumstances that may alter this number as well. According to the 2018 Economic News Release by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median number of years that wage and salary workers stay with their current employer was 4.2 years. This number is a little shocking because I remember distinctly as a child when working relatives would tout their longevity with a company and some worked 10, 15, or even 20 plus years with the same organization. Today I find myself at a conundrum because I’ve discovered new labor market information that throws a positive light on changing jobs more frequently.
Remember that there are two sides to this argument we should keep in mind. First, employment history in short periods, typically one year or less, may a cause of concern to future employers. It can raise questions about your longevity with an organization even though that may not be the case. An employer may pass on you as a job candidate if the investment outweighs the benefits. Would you invest in training, time, effort, and salary to recruit an individual if there is a high probability of him/her leaving within a year?
The other side of the coin is when you stay with a job too long. You may ask why is this bad? It’s not, necessarily; however, it can inhibit the development of your skillset as you continue your employment. Recent research indicates that most successful leaders in their fields have been the employees willing to take on additional duties or apply their skills in other careers. Key ingredients to a successful career include challenging yourself, improving your skills, and thereby expanding your boundaries. Fortunately, in this day and age with more access to information, employees can access a wide variety of educational opportunities to improve.
So, this leads us back to my original question of when is it okay to safely move on to a new career opportunity? Four to six years. Allow me to explain my rationale. I believe this is ample time to become deeply invested with a position and to learn the details and skills necessary to complete all job duties and tasks efficiently and effectively for the position. This allows you the opportunity to improve upon the core competencies without future hiring managers giving you the side-eye about your work history. Also, you still have the opportunity to challenge yourself with additional duties and responsibilities to expand the position. I say if the opportunity presents itself, then take it; however, just be mindful of how it may affect your career goals. Nevertheless, I believe my recommendation is a win-win for both you and your employer.
If you would like additional labor market information, please visit Workforce Solutions.
Daniel Mabry is a former member of the Workforce Solutions Regional Navigator team in the Houston-Galveston region. After serving in the United States Marine Corps for over nine years, he connected with Workforce Solutions for career guidance and shortly afterward became an employee. Daniel has utilized his training and personal experience to help people experiencing homelessness and has recently moved into the role of Manager at one of the Workforce Solutions Career Offices.