I’m below average—when it comes to job tenure, that is. According to a January 2022 employee tenure report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median tenure in a role was 3.8 years for women and 4.3 years for men. For workers ages 25 to 34, the medium tenure dropped to 2.8 years.
"This razor gave me the silkiest, smoothest shave I've ever had! I never get any cuts or scrapes, even on those hard-to-shave places."
In my almost ten years in the workforce, my average tenure at a company is two years. I’ve stayed at a company as short as six months and as long as three and a half years in my current role. My tenure is shorter than average because, throughout the first ten years of my career, I’ve transitioned from a role in public accounting, where I aspired to be a Certified Public Accountant to a career in communications. This career transition has occurred through various roles at different companies by leveraging transferable skills. All of this to say, I’m a proponent of switching careers, as long as you have a compelling story to tell.
The average American will hold around 12 jobs during their lifetime. Assuming most people will work around 40 years, that comes down to holding a new job every three to three and a half years. While changing jobs has been historically seen as a taboo topic, it’s starting to be seen as common and beneficial when it’s done right, which leads me back to storytelling. We all have stories to tell. As human beings, our interests change as we progress through our careers. We desire to learn new skills and develop as professionals, thus leading to switching jobs, changing companies, and sometimes even changing our entire career path. But what is the “right” amount of time to stay at a job without raising red flags and damaging your career, we’re about to dig in.
How Often Should You Change Jobs
The amount of time a person should stay at a job can be debated, but the general consensus is to aim to stay at a job for the absolute minimum of a year. Switching jobs too soon too often can get you labeled a job hopper. It usually takes at least one year to really get your bearings at a new job. So if you’re focused on just understanding your role for the first year, it doesn’t give you as much opportunity for creating success stories around overcoming challenges or honing new skills. Think about it from a hiring manager’s perspective: would you rather hire someone who’s been at five companies in five years and can be seen as a flight risk, or would you rather hire someone who’s been at one or two jobs in five years? In most situations (but not always!), the person with more longevity at companies seems like a more attractive candidate.
Ideally, if you can hold out at a new job for at least two to three years, that would be the preference. By getting a couple of years under your belt, you can gain more tangible results to measure and stories to tell about your accomplishments in the role that you can leverage in your next interview or cover letter. It’s also enough time to determine if you see a future at the company and opportunities for advancement. If you’ve knocked your responsibilities out of the park and are now you’re bored after only three years, that could be a sign that it’s time to make a move.
Staying longer than three years is gravy because it shows longevity and loyalty and can build a fulfilling career if you’ve found a role and a company you love working for. The most important thing, no matter how long you stay at a company, is crafting a compelling story to tell. If you have a few short stints on your resume, but during a networking event or interview, you can eloquently walk someone through your experience and highlight the skills you’ve learned and why you’ve made those changes, it’s likely that any red flags start to become less concerning.
For example, I’ve been at five companies in about ten years of my professional career, which in theory looks like two years, six months, three years, six months, and three and a half years at different roles. Weaved throughout are also side hustles that were crucial to developing my skills. The reason for the shorter roles? I was making a career change. It may not seem as obvious to the outside eye, but when I walk someone through my resume, I can see the dots start to connect for them. Without knowing my story, I may seem like an indecisive job hopper, but once I highlight my experience and skill set compellingly, I become a professional with diverse expertise whose skills can be leveraged in a variety of unique ways.
For some, switching jobs every few years can sound exhausting and like a lot of work, but for others, it sounds like an exciting opportunity to grow and meet their career goals. No matter which camp you fall into, there are a lot of benefits to switching jobs. So if you find yourself looking for a change, there are many positives to consider before you write off rewriting your resume.
Benefits Of Switching Jobs
The reasons for making a career move are personal to each individual. At the end of the day, only you know what’s the best thing for you. Trust your gut to know when it’s time to find a new job or if staying put is the better option. While you’re trying to decide if you’re ready to reenter the job market, here are a few of the benefits to consider of switching jobs.
- Better compensation package: Your potential employer can offer you more money, better benefits, an opportunity for a bonus, or other perks when you step into a new role at a new company.
- Opportunity to learn: If you’re feeling stagnated in your role, a new job can help provide learning opportunities and challenge you in exciting new ways.
- Improved working conditions: If you’re in a toxic work environment or if you don’t see eye to eye with your manager, a benefit of a new job could be a better working experience and a better company culture.
- A new career path: Once you’ve tried a few jobs in your field, you may realize you want to try a new career path or a new industry. Switching roles will allow you to gain the skills you need to transition careers and step into a new career entirely.
- Potential for advancement: If there’s limited upward mobility in your current job, a new job may allow you the opportunity to get promoted and progress upward in your career.
- Diversify your experience: Sometimes, the value of switching jobs is the benefit of gaining new experience and encountering new challenges, both of which will help you diversify your career experience in the long run.
- Alignment with values: It’s important to find a company that aligns with your personal values so you feel proud calling them your employer. Finding a new job that aligns with your values and beliefs can benefit you both in the short term, but also for long-term job satisfaction.
- Better well-being: If your current role is negatively impacting your mental health, your happiness, or overall well-being, switching jobs, regardless of how long you’ve been working there, is often the best thing to do for you. Life is too short to be unhappy at work.
How To Change Jobs
If you’re trying to decide if it’s time for you to change jobs or if you want to and don’t know how, look no further. We’re going to walk through a few key tips for changing jobs so you can meet the goals you set for yourself at work, no matter what they are.
How To Know When To Change Jobs
I’m a big proponent of trusting your gut when it comes to deciding if it’s the right time to make a career move. If you get more than the Sunday scaries and your job is negatively impacting your life, trust that and make plans to make a move. But if you want to back your gutting feeling up with facts, here are a few reasons to change jobs that will help you know when it’s time to go:
- You feel stagnation in your current role and feel bored or not challenged
- You’re in a toxic work environment
- You’re not getting paid your worth (even after asking for a raise)
- You want to change your career path
- You’re not passionate about your work or company
- They are no opportunities for advancement
- You don’t feel supported, recognized, or like you belong
- Your company benefits are lacking
- You want a job that better aligns with the life you want.
The list can go on and on, but when you know you know. And if you don’t know for sure and need to arm yourself with more information before making a decision, you can set up informational interviews with people in your desired field or company to learn more. You can also work with a career coach to help you navigate your career and decision-making process. It may feel out of your comfort zone to reach out to others for help, but I promise, people are nicer and more willing to help than you think.
How To Gain New Skills To Change Jobs
If you’ve decided you want to change jobs, but you don’t have the skills to get into a new role, it’s time to take action. There are so many ways to gain marketable skills either in your current role or in your own free time to make yourself the best candidate for a new job. If there are job-specific skills you can learn while still at your current job, make that ask of your manager. If you’re already one foot out the door and want to take it upon yourself to identify learning opportunities, try attending online courses or taking a certification course, starting a side hustle to dabble in a new skill set, or even taking up part-time work. Find things you can use to learn that you can include on your resume to show you have the required skills for the job you want.
For example, if you want to get into a career in social media, start with your own social media presence. Use your Instagram or TikTok account as an opportunity to learn, test your skills, and showcase your ability. Then, you can use it as a talking point in interviews when you share the work you’ve put in and the growth you’ve made on your accounts.
How Much of a Raise To Ask for When Switching Jobs
A lot of people change jobs as a way to make more money and it’s a strategy that can work. If you’ve already landed the interview and are left wondering how much you can ask for and what are realistic salary expectations, it’s important to prioritize two things: do your research and know your worth. Research websites and apps like Glassdoor, Payscale, FishBowl to make sure you have a realistic salary range to work from and more concrete facts than pulling a number out of thin air. Make sure to also compare and weigh salaries based on location as this can play a major factor in salary fluctuation.
Then, and most importantly, know your worth. Only you know the value you can bring to a new job and how much impact you can make based on the job responsibilities. Find a number that is in line with both your research and your expectations.
How To Answer Why You’re Switching Jobs
Usually without fail, you can expect to be asked why you’re looking for a new role in an interview. So always, always, always be prepared. This is your chance to shine and tell your story. You are the best person to articulate your skills, experiences, expertise, and desires. Take the time to write out your career journey, from why you’ve changed roles previously, what skills you’ve gained along the way, and why you’re looking to make a change again. Live it, breathe it, say it out loud. This is your opportunity to wow a hiring manager and convince them why you’re the best person for the job. Without a compelling and thoughtful story, others may not see your worth. So, know your response like the back of your hand.