In the old days, the answer to the question, "how long should I stay at my company?" was basically "forever." Today it is a much different question and answer. And with the economy still shaky, it is important to really think this through.
Because today with so many people out of work your career history will get a lot more scrutiny. And if your resume suggests “instability” or “poor judgment”, you become more of a risk to hiring managers -- especially when compared to someone with longer stints at fewer jobs.
Of course that’s not the case with everyone, but “job hopping” is still a resume killer for many recruiters and hiring managers. There will always be a crowd that will never forgive your career spontaneity.
Interestingly though, in the next few years, this question of “how long should I stay” will become highly relevant for the working population. At some point the focus will shift from the unemployed to the under-employed and the "unhappily-employed."
You see, as soon as it is safe to get in the water, there is a crowd of working people who would like to change jobs. To get the money and title they feel they deserve. And to work in a company that better supports and fulfills their career strategy.
And as jobs open up, get ready for the beach to get crowded as a slew of passive job seekers start dipping their toes.
Here are six questions to help you answer this question...
Are you doing something you enjoy?
Sorry if this sounds like a self-help question, but it matters. And what you do eight to ten hours a day should especially matter. If there is absolutely no link between the real you and your day job, then it is probably not a place to spend your next five to ten years. If you are enjoying the job, perhaps best to let others fight it out for now.
How do you learn?
In my first 22 working years, I was with five companies. That’s an average of 4.4 years at each one. But look closer at my first job and it was split into four. Two years each at four different divisions. I grew up in my career with change as my best friend. It led me to great new experiences and taught me to live with a constant and sharp learning curve. I never spent more than two years in any one position. If you like change, look for companies that will move you around. Or leave when you can to find one that will.
How do you like the industry
I think this is an important measure. Are you naturally inclined to participate in the community of your industry? Are you going to trade shows looking to make new friends or looking instead to hide in the closest Starbucks until the show is over? While not company specific, your ability to engage your customers or consumers relies upon your having a base appreciation for their problem. Since companies are largely there to provide solutions to problems.
How many friends do you have at your current company?
Not everybody needs friends. If you are a person that completely separates work life from home life, then this one may be of less value. But for those who do value them, friendships can contribute to happiness on the job. And if you are feeling good about the people you work with, you should consider sticking around. (EDITOR'S NOTE: Jobacle believes friends are NOT a reason to stay at a job).
What’s happened with your fellow co-workers? Up, in or out?
Are people within your department or division getting opportunities to grow and build new skills? Sometimes companies and their executives embrace the employee population. And sometimes they just use them up. You can learn a lot about your potential growth opportunity by paying attention to the path of those who were hired before you.
What are your long-term career goals?
Some companies are really good with training and personnel development. Others can be a vast wasteland. What is your company offering you as a way to build a career? Is there a clear path ahead if you want it? And if you are new in your career, your answer regarding career goals might be: I don’t know. And that’s OK. But if you do have clear goals for the future, share them during review time with your manager and get a sense for their reaction.
Of course there is no universal answer to “how long.” It depends on how you answer the questions above. And what tolerance you have for change.
So if you know yourself. And know what you want. Then look for the types of companies that can deliver both.
Until then, I’m going to suggest a range of 3-6 years at a single company. You won’t look like an obvious job hopper and you’ll have a short enough window to make an impact without things getting stale.
How about you? How many years would you suggest and what factors should be considered?